Week 37: Stars and Kamishibai – Group 3

Week 37: Stars and Kamishibai

This Week’s main subject were myths around stars and a form of Japanese storytelling called Kamishibai. On Tuesday we learned a lot about zodiac signs, myths around them from different cultures and discussed their place in today’s world. On Wednesday we got to know the history and practice of Kamishibai

Myths and science of stars 

Mankind has always been fascinated by stars. Many stories and myths in several cultures involved star signs. For example is the “Corona Borealis” also known as the “Northern Crown” pattern of stars resembling a half-circle.  

  • The Greeks believed that it represents a crown given by Dionysus to Ariadne, the daughter of Minos of Crete. 
  • In Welsh myths it was called “the Castle of the Silver Circle”. 
  • The Arabs saw a loose string of jewels or a bowl for poor people in the star pattern. 
  • Native Americans saw the stars representing a council of stars, who came together to discuss important issues. 
  • The Australian Aboriginal called the star constellation boomerang due to its shape. 

Not only were stars used for myths, but rather also in early science. The Babylonians were the first creating a map of the visible stars. The Greek used those findings too and Eratosthenes the first person to calculate the circumference of the Earth, which was quite accurate, especially for that time. 

We also discussed in our groups, if and why faith around stars is still relevant today. 

Pro-Arguments: 

  • If someone really believes in a prophecy, it could calm them down, because the think to know, what is going to happen and therefore feel safer. 
  • It can be a spiritual or esoteric experience, that makes them happy. 
  • It can give meaning to life, because they see in everything a purpose and a destiny. 
  • It’s a kind of entertainment. 
  • To understand different cultures, it’s helpful to understand and respect there believes. 

Contra-Arguments: 

  • If someone really believes in a prophecy, they only see, what they want to see (self-fulfilling prophecy). 
  • It’s extremely unfair to give a child evil characteristic, just because it was born in a particular time of the year and therefore treat it like it’s cursed. When a child is treated bad and as an outcast of society, it will grow up frustrated and angry and probably do some evil things (self-fulfilling prophecy). 
  • There are fictional stories that oppress the freedom of an individual or discriminate against minorities. So fictional stories should be told in the right context. 
  • There are other characteristics like social-economic background (how you act, speak etc.) that tell more about a person… or even personality test on the internet are more accurately describing a person than a zodiac sign. 

Kamishibai  

Meaning and history 

Kamishibai is a Japanese form of storytelling through images and language. The word “Kamishibai” means paper and play. In the early 20th century sweets-seller needed to find a new way to make money due to the ongoing recession. They rented artwork from painters, made some noise with wood sticks (hyoshigi) to attract children, sold sweets to them and told the stories with the help of the images. They did this the whole day and drove with their bicycle from street corner to street corner (Dym 2007). Unfortunately, it became the most widely used propaganda medium in the WWII (Horner 2005). Nevertheless, today it’s still a popular form of storytelling for children not only in Asia, but also in western countries. 

Analysis and Methods 

On Wednesday we observed different Kamishibai masters doing their presentations. We discovered that clapping, making sounds (e.g. animals), strong body language, distinct facial expressions, language and voice variation can help to mesmerize the audience. 

Thereafter we practiced story telling in groups with emphasis on different story telling elements (voice, detailed words, gestures, facial expressions, humor and dramaturgy) that are beneficial. 

Fazit and my opinion 

Kamishibai seemed to me to be at first glance an old and outdated method to tell stories. Why should I use a frame and loose images if I can use a book or a comic? Why should I use my own voice in real time if I can show a video with a recorded voice? Why should I drive around on a bicycle if I can send a video in seconds on the internet? 

Compared to a children’s book or a comic the Kamishibai shows only one image at the time, thereby it focuses stronger at the moment in the image and the verbal story told by the narrator. A story told in a video is definite and fixed, whereby the Kamishibai can be changed spontaneous and also let the audience participate in the story. And it’s easier for small children to create their own Kamishibai than shoot a video, so as a role model and inspiration would it be preferable to also use the Kamishibai

Of course, the internet is very fast and convenient, but for children’s development it is important, that they train their fine-motor skills and learn to communicate directly with other children or even a bigger audience. 

Therefore is Kamishibai in my opinion an interesting and fascinating form of storytelling. 

Self-made Kamishibai 

This is a self-made Kamishiabi telling the Greek myth of the star sign “The Northern Crown” also known as “Corona Borealis”. 

Literature 

Dym, Jeffrey A. “KAMISHIBAI, WHAT IS IT? SOME PRELIMINARY FINDINGS” (2007): Accessed September 12, 2020. http://www.kamishibai.com/resources/Docs/jeff%27skpaper.pdf 

Horner, Emily. “Kamishibai” as Propaganda in Wartime Japan.” Storytelling, Self, Society 2, no. 1 (2005): 21-31. Accessed September 12, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41948951

Wikipedia contributors, “Kamishibai,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Kamishibai&oldid=973239611 (accessed September 12, 2020).  

Wikipedia contributors, “Corona Borealis,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Corona_Borealis&oldid=977718929 (accessed September 12, 2020).

by Camilia, Julia, Yanneck, Zineb

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