The Read Me a Story exhibition at the Roundhouse Community Centre will showcase books with 1,200 folktales and fairy tales from 120 countries. Thirty story murals created by a diverse array of artists will bring some of these tales to life. Read Me a Story is being presented by the Soka Gakkai International Association of Canada from Dec. 8–16.
The folklore and fairy tales shared at each Read Me a Story exhibition span many different cultures and countries. In their country of origin, these tales are passed down year after year to the next generation of children. Many of the stories have been shared and altered across borders, cultures and time. Though the exhibition itself is not an annual event, Read Me a Story shares these tales from around the world with the community the next exhibition is held in:
“The exhibition was originally created and toured in Japan, in the 1990s. It was also shown in Toronto in 2002,” says Megan Ashbury.
Ashbury is a member of the Soka Gakkai International Association of Canada (SGI Canada) and a member of the Read Me a Story steering committee, a team of SGI Canada members in the Lower Mainland who have worked to bring Read Me a Story to British Columbia. “Soka Gakkai” translates to “value-creation society.” Soka Gakkai International is a group of Buddhist organizations whose goal is to promote peace, education and culture.
In a city known for its diversity, Vancouver was a clear choice as the next location for the multicultural showcase of 1,200 stories.
“Bringing the exhibition to Vancouver in 2015 is a tangible way for SGI Canada to contribute to the broader community,” says Ashbury.
Tales from around the world
To share more than 1,200 stories with Vancouver is certainly no small undertaking, but the Roundhouse was open to the task.
“With the Roundhouse being our community partner, we have a beautiful venue that accommodates the size of the exhibit and is accessible to the community,” says Ashbury.
The exhibition features both contemporary and more traditional stories and includes hundreds of children’s storybooks published in many different languages. In addition to this, volunteers run activities such as games, crafts, and story reading for classroom groups.
Perhaps most notable though is the number of story murals on display. A series of 30 in all, the four feet by five feet or larger murals display a particular story over original artwork commissioned for the event. Using their own artistic styles, methods and mediums, each artist has interpreted the tales in a two-dimensional image, resulting in a diverse feast for the eyes.
Some of the panels on display feature more popularized stories such as Puss in Boots and Cinderella that have been adapted to feature films.
Other panels, however, feature Aboriginal tales such as The Story of the Lost Wife, and Nanook, the White Bear, a story about boys who become bears in the cold tundra after their mother abandons them. At one point in spite of his previous experience with humans, one of the bears compassionately helps a stranded hunter survive. However, the ending is bittersweet as neither bear ends up returning to their human family.
It’s common that many old tales and stories have a happy ending. The stories have either originally had a happy ending or have been “Disneyfied” to end on a happier note. This is not always the case for every tale included at the exhibition.
“Not all folk tales have a positive moral or even a happy ending, but they all offer insights into their culture of origin and its people,” says Ashbury.
Yet while each story might not have a happy ending, by reading them one can learn and come to understand other people, cultures, and points of view.
“The willingness to understand rather than judge cultures that differ from ours is the starting place for empathy and, ultimately, peaceful coexistence,” says Ashbury.
For more information on the event, visit www.readmeastory.ca.