The multimedia effort embraces the Pacific storytelling heritage and brings it into the internet age, the website storytellers.prel.org, says.
The goal is to encourage the next generation of young Pacific islanders to take up the mantle of storytelling.
“This project seeks to find the nexus between oral traditions of our island communities and present-day modalities of communication, especially among youth of the Pacific,” said project founder and director Dan Lin, a senior research and policy specialist at PREL.
“Storytelling is a very embedded part of Pacific culture and indigenous cultures generally.
“We want to encourage the younger generations to take up the mantle of telling stories and to take advantage of greater levels of connectivity and improved technical capacity, which exists even in remote places.”
Indigenous Pacific islanders have been asked to submit any form of storytelling – including written stories, photos, videos, and poetry to Pacific Storytellers.
A group of volunteers from across the region will serve as content curators and submissions will be edited for clarity and length.
“As long as someone is willing to tell a story, we’re willing to help them be heard,” Lin said.
The project began when Lin, who is a regular contributor to National Geographic and the Associated Press, as well as a crew member on the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokulea’s Worldwide Voyage, saw a need for an accessible and inclusive digital storytelling platform.
“Within the Pacific, indigenous communities are too used to someone else telling stories on their behalf,” he observed. “It’s time to reclaim the role of tellers of our own stories, which is critical for bridging the gaps between generations.
“The best people to tell those stories and share those stories are the communities themselves,” he said.
“Too often we see journalists and ‘experts’ as they call them coming from the outside, listening to a story and then reporting that story to a global audience.
“In a way I wanted to cut out the middle man. The people that deserve to tell the people the most are the people that live out that story.”
Renowned Marshallese poet, activist, and Pacific Storytellers Cooperative collaborator Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner agreed with the cooperative’s importance in an email statement.
“This project sees the value in the art form, as well as in other mediums such as using film and social media, and I’m excited that we’ve been able to reach youth in the Marshall Islands, Guam and Saipan so far.
“I’m really looking forward to getting this project to other parts of the Pacific as well,” she said.
When storytellers submit material to the Pacific Storytellers Cooperative, they provide full permission for Pacific Resources for Education and Learning to share their story in different types of media today and in the future.
The goal of the Cooperative is to provide a global platform for these important, place-based stories and we aim to be a good steward of that which is shared with us.
The Pacific Storytellers Cooperative is currently supported by a grant from the US National Science Foundation to PREL.
The Cooperative anticipates seeking additional funding sources within the coming year.
- PNC sources