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A Taste of Irish Tales

A Taste of Irish Tales

Jerry Adesewo

Niall de Búrca is one of Ireland’s finest traditional storytellers, or scéalaí, as they are called in Gaelic. He was born and raised in Galway, a city in the west of Ireland that is rich in culture and history. He grew up listening to stories from his family and community, and developed a passion for narrative from a young age.

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Niall has travelled the world, sharing the Irish storytelling tradition with audiences of all ages and backgrounds. He has performed in countries as diverse as Korea, Latvia, and South Africa, as well as in many festivals, theatres, and radio shows. He also lived in New Zealand for several years, where he learned from the Maori and Pacific Island cultures and incorporated their influences into his work.

Last night, Niall, treated a carefully selected members of the Abuja art community, comprising of theatre makers, as represented by myself, and the artistic director of 2MG Theatre, Chidi Ukwu, writers and publishers, Barrister Ahmed Maiwada of Mazariyya Books, and Dr. MS. Abubakar of Sprezzaturra Publishers; poet and literary essayist, Paul Liam; the Director, Institute of Strategic Development Communication (Nasarawa State University, Keffi), Prof. Emmanuel Dandaura; Ujenyu Joy Sani of the Abuja Literary Festival and Braz9ja festival; and the Managing Director, African Independent Television, Mrs Tosin Dokpesi, and a host of others.

We had a delightful evening of Irish storytelling at the Ambassador’s residence, thanks to the gracious hospitality of His Excellency, Mr. Peter Ryan and his wife, Teresa Ryan. De Burca, a skilled storyteller, enchanted us with his Irish themed folk tales, that were both educational and entertaining. The stories resonated with us, as they touched on universal themes and values. De Burca’s energy, expressions, and theatrics were superb. He engaged his audience with his charm and wit. He was truly a master of his art.

Niall’s stories range from ancient myths and legends to contemporary tales of everyday life, including his own personal experiences, some of which are on the spot experiences. He combines humor, drama, and emotion in his storytelling, and engages his listeners with his expressive voice and gestures. He also uses music and songs to enhance his performance.

Niall is not only a storyteller, but also an educator and a curator. He has created and delivered storytelling workshops for schools, libraries, and museums, using stories as a tool for learning and creativity. He has also interpreted and performed stories based on various exhibitions, such as the life and works of Max Ernst, the Vikings, and World War One.

Earlier, before the evening session, Nail had performed to a crop of students at the American International, Abuja (AISA), and later at the Nike Arts Gallery, Lugbe Abuja, where he also performed, and engaged in a mini workshop and interactive session with the students.

Niall de BúrcaNiall de Búrca is a scéalaí who honors the tradition of his ancestors, but also adapts and innovates his art for the modern world. He is a storyteller who can make you laugh, cry, and think, and who can transport you to another time and place with his work.

In the interactive session that followed his performance, Nail explained that he was drawn into the art of storytelling, after watching an old storyteller performed. “That’s me! I said to myself. And here I am. Storytelling is an art I chose, and have practised for many years now,” he explained, adding that storytelling is a huge medium of artistic expression, that is well supported in by the Irish government. “government has been very supportive, personally, I have been supported severally to do what I do. While there are different forms of storytelling. I chose traditional storytelling because I believe we have a culture, and a history that must be thought.”

Responding to a question by Chidi Ukwu of 2MG Theatre, De Burca shocked the audience when he explained that his stories are never written. “My stories, my performances are never scripted. They come from the inside. Whether I am performing a historical piece, or contemporary, the process is the same. I read up about the theme, topic, or whatever I am expected to do, after which I sleep over it, and allow the story to develop organically.”

Again, responding to my question, Nial, who is billed to perform on Thursday, February 29, to Lagos audience, courtesy of the Lagos Theatre Festival 2024, revealed that storytelling has always been a big attraction in Ireland. “I started when I was very young. And in Ireland, you have very young people, who like me have chosen storytelling as their medium of artistic expression.”

Curtain was not called on this informal evening, until Mr. & Mrs. Ryan had treated their guests to some delicacies as we wined, dined and dialogued further into the evening, allowing the guests to network, as we effectively underscore the significance of cultural exchange, as a soft tool for cultural diplomacy.

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