Mara Menzies is passionate about bringing African stories to life. She delights in sharing tales with a variety of audiences and her stories range from traditional folklore such as ‘How the cat came to live indoors’ and ‘The Seven Day Story’, to stories based on actual historical characters such as Kenyan freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi. She is keen to keep up the oral tradition of African storytelling in Scotland and to find audiences with whom she can share the wonders of Africa through the spoken word.
Mara works with a wide range of audiences but her main focus is with children of nursery and primary school age. Mara is keen to provide an alternative view of Africa, a view often ignored by the media. Stories that expose the values, beliefs, environments and attitudes of millions of people who have known Africa, visited, lived or had some connection to it at some point. She firmly believes the way in which people view the world and choose to live in it can often be shaped by a simple story.
Having spent the first 13 years of her life in Kenya, Mara grew up listening to many stories sitting at the foot of an elder or a traveler or from anyone who wanted to share what they too had once heard. In Scotland, the opportunity to hear these stories did not exist any longer and she went on to work in the Arts and Media, always with an Africa focus. It was not until she became pregnant and felt the need for her daughter to have a connection to her African heritage, that she wrote and published a book based on one of her favourite stories, about a crocodile and a monkey. This book became a conduit to storytelling where she discovered the Storytelling Centre and the richness of the storytelling world in Edinburgh.
She has told stories in schools and libraries across Scotland, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and put on a storytelling show during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where she received rave reviews. She was also the only storyteller at the annual African Film Festival in Scotland, ‘Africa in Motion 2008’. She took part in the Children Book Festival, Ireland in October this year and has also told stories at Hear and Tell and the Guid Crack Club.
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