Giving back the stories

Giving back ceremony February 6 2016, Benin

The corpus of Verbal art of the Fon gives insight in a culture, its language, its social fabric, and its religion. However, Verbal Art stories are undoubtedly Intangible Cultural Heritage as defined by the UNESCO.The Fon people and the families of the storytellers should know about these stories, even when they are history by now.

The author Marjolijn Grool at the giving back ceremony February 6 2015

On Friday February the 6th of 2015, Dr Marjolijn Grool handed over a copy of her book “The stories of the Fon (Benin)” to the representatives of the Government of Benin and to the Dean of the Faculty of Human Sciences in an overloaded Auditorium of the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin. She also made the original data accessible for scholarly research by Beninese researchers. The Verbal Art Foundation donated 20 copies of the 700-page book to various institutions and individual linguists and anthropologists in Benin.

However an encounter a week later was equally satisfactory for Marjolijn Grool. Listen what she wrote about that meeting:

“Merci Madame. Merci beaucoup. Vous nous avez rapporté les contes de ma famille”, ‘Madam, thank you. Thank you very much. You brought our family’s stories back home.’ “Je vais donner le livre à l’aîné de notre clan. Merci encore. Merci beaucoup.” ‘I will hand the book to the eldest of our clan. Thank you again. Thank you very much.’

Giving back the stories to the family of the storytellers in Abomey

Those were the words of Vividemeh Tokoudagba when Marjolijn Grool met her in Abomey, Friday 13 February 2015, late at night, after 10 PM. Vividemeh was the daughter of Julien Tokoudagba, the language consultant who assisted her in Abomey. In 1976, he introduced her to his mother Nageh as well as to his sister Vividemeh, who both had performed several stories. Now she met his daughter. Her mission,  the restitution of the corpus to Benin and its inhabitants, had been completed.