Part three of The New Narratives Summer School hosted by the Museum of Impossible Forms (MIF) and the Children’s Library Project in Helsinki showcases Inga Angersaari’s lecture on Storycrafting as a means of unsclinencing the voices of Finnish Romani children.

Angersaari  has managed to wield her academic and working life to make an impact on the Romani community. With her double masters in Social Politics and Social Work she has amongst other things worked as a school teacher and preschool teacher and has written a children’s fairytale book that has been used extensively in preschools, Romaniukin satureppu,  which roughly translates to  A Backpack of Romani Fairy Tales.

In Sweden, aside from the deservedly celebrated and well- read Katitzi series by Katarina Taikon,  most of the children’s stories  of and about Romani culture are little known and kept within specialist circulation circuits made hard to come by in mainstream books stores.  If the opposite where true these stories would be “windows and mirrors” within society and would have obvious consequences for the building of tolerance and mutual understanding. In Finland it seems that Angersaari’s book is also one of a few publications aimed at children concerning Romani life and traditions but is currently out of print with no budget for a printing extension.

Storycrafting vs Double Prejudice

Almost all the fairy tales in Romanuukin statureppu are written and illustrated by Angersaari save for one that has been created using a method of storytelling or writing called Storycrafting.  Storycrafting methodology was developed in Finland, it allows for a power shift between adult and child and has been recognised as enhancing children’s mental health (find out more in links below).  Hence it is an especially effective method when used with children within minorities such as the Romani who to this day bear witness to much socio-ecomomic prejudice in Finland despite being active and participative citizens for the last 500 years. This marginalisation, Angersaari noted,  had extended to the Storycrafting workshops which up until her own research excluded  Romani children.

In most cultures children’s stories are told and authored by adults which lends adults authority over children even in this supposedly child appropriate context.  According to Angersaari it is the elders of the Romani community who carry their cultures  history and are also the story tellers within the community. This combined with the lack of published Romani stories and general minority status related marginalisation within Finland equates to Romani children experiencing a double barrier where they are dictated to by the greater cultural norm and rendered voiceless by adults within their community.

The worst outcome of this double barrier is that the children reject their own culture resulting in a displaced sense of self within their own communities and the greater Finnish context. At the other end of the spectrum, children can respond by excelling in both cultural contexts placing them under extreme pressure to live and exemplary life which in the long term is unrealistic and can too have negative consequences.

As Storycrafting methodology is based on the child’s perspective it allows for participating children to have an outlet by following four steps, namely: Telling, Writing, Reading Back, Correcting. At least two participants are required where one (the adult) word for word transcribes the story told by the child, with no adjustments. The adult then reads the story back, again word for word, allowing the teller to make alterations to the story which are added with no input from the writer.  Consequently empowering the storyteller by letting their voice be heard and recorded un-interfered with by the adult world.

In her Masters Thesis : “Näkymättömästä näkyväksi – romanilasten sadut ja tarinat” (From Unseen to to Seen- Romani Fairy Tales and Stories)  Angersaari conducted storycrafting workshops with children within the Romani community with the aim of using it as a research method for investigating how children perceived their position in society, by looking at the social interactions and relations revealed within their stories. After analysing  about 36 storycrafted stories she noted that they shift between survivor and victim narratives with hope for a better future.  Identified sore points included the use of prejudiced language within schools, the importance of being able to be a child free of unrealistic expectations and a sense of being outside of the majority. In addition Angessari attested to the sense of well-being experienced by the participants post Storycrafting sessions.

Angesaari would like to further develop her work within Storycrafting for the Romani community but finds herself in an appreciated however isolated position in need of funding and interest to be able to collect more storeis. MeR would really like to see both  Romaniukin satureppu  and Näkymättömästä näkyväksi – romanilasten sadut ja tarinat translated to Swedish and possibly English too.

If you are interested in knowing more contact us and we will put you in touch with Inga Angersaari: merbarnkultur@gmail.com

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Photograph: Inga Angersaari presenting her work at MIF New Narratives Summer School: Accessed 2 July from http://picbear.online/museumofimpossibleforms