Griot Chinyere Nwaubani:
Griot storyteller, Chigwa Practitioner, Theatre Director, oral traditionalist, Writer, Expedition leader, Facilitator, Producer, Visionary,
What is in a name?
Griot is the bringer of messages, the teller of tales, the keeper of magic, the guardian of visions, the holder of sacred community space, the conjurer that makes the invisible (ideas, thoughts and visions), visible. Chinyere means a gift from the divine womb of creation, Chineke and Nwaubani means child of treasure earth. Igbo names dictate who we are and why we are here.
Griot Chinyere Nwaubani is the artistic director for Shanti-chi, founder of the Nne Agwu Afrakan storytelling family retreat, (the only one of its kind in Europe) and an international oral traditional practitioner. She designs, effective and innovative bespoke creative storytelling & leadership workshops, retreats and programmes. She has travelled across Africa, Europe and the Middle East telling stories, writing stories, materialising visions and delivering creative based group work, planning and delivering group work with professional and non-professional members of the community across the generations. Griot Chinyere is an internationally renowned griot storyteller who has written, adapted, directed and produced 21 plays and has devised numerous performances with young people and intergenerational community groups worldwide. Her love is bringing Ancient Afrakan folktales to the stage, using it as a tool of empowerment while applying the ensemble storytelling form.
During her travels and practice she has developed a process that reflects the power of her culture and enables her to work authentically with some of society’s most excluded and marginalised citizens to bring well-being to the wider community enabling the frail and insecure to feel safe enough to explore. She is highly experienced and is able to support the shyest group members into their authority.
Applying a number of theatre techniques. Griot Chinyere special interest is how the oral traditions can be used to develop self-actualisation within the melanin rich global communities. Griot Chinyere has designed, creative projects based on the oral traditions independently and within well-established organisations such as The Royal National Theatre, Half Moon Theatre, GLYPT, The National Youth Theatre, The Royal & Derngate, Weekend Arts College, Lewisham Youth Service including schools, colleges, community centres, libraries, youth centres, museums, day centres, pupil referral units & prisons.She has learnt and maintained Chigwa, a specific practice strengthening the core of a woman.
Griot Chinyere has told stories and run workshops in the most amazing of settings: under the baobab tree, on the top of an alpine mountains, inside Voltarian cave, on an Afrakan beach, within an English forest, by a babbling brook, on a canoe, in an amphitheatre, on a train, in a playground, around a fire and under the stars.
The circle in nature is integral to the work of Griot Chinyere as she blends her skills as an expedition leader, director, movement stylist, performer and facilitator to create dynamic and lyrical stories. With a wonderful sense of playfulness, using the groups rhythm, she combines elements of the ancient griot circle, working with the ebbs and flows of nature to allow liberating, respectful and honest expression. It works for children & elders, students & professionals, freedom fighters & parents. Griot Chinyere has the knowledge to read the circle whether in a room or in the woods and act accordingly.
RECENT PROJECTS: With funding from the major’s office culture seed fund, a project creating a set of 6 contemporary Crossfields Estate Tales, short stories that uncover and celebrate the everyday magic of inner-city urban living environments undergoing transformation; from hidden histories and urban legends to the community spirit rising. This was the first project Griot delivered via zoom March 2020; With funding from Groundworks: Stories from the Trees - An expedition training around map reading, tree identification, breathing techniques, walking styles & rambling with 13 feminine melanin rich walkers brought stories from nature and survival skills together. It has been a powerful journey of self-discovery and acceptance. Participant’s graduation 30 January 2021.
July 2021 Nne Agwu Afrakan Storytelling, Dorset: in its 11th year, is 5-day family retreat bringing together 250 melanin rich family members. We hired exclusively a camp in Dorset to create the feeling of an Afrakan village with the love, creativity and spirituality to go along with it. The aim is to celebrate, promote, and preserve the art and spirituality of the oral tradition of storytelling as we nurture our community vibration and traditional family values.
August 2021 Feminine melanin rich walkers, Jurassic coast: after being trained over a period of 12 weeks followed by a formal graduation / initiation; learning expedition skills, including map reading, sign recognition, walking styles, appropriate wear etc Griot Chinyere took 8 of the 12 melanin rich sisters on a 2 day hike complete with a full rucksack for wild camping including enough sustanance for the period. What a magical mystical challenge.
August 2021 Ibolachi, Darent Valley Kent: has your spirit journeyed well – a 4-day retreat tending to group and solo learning experience that explores our relationship with nature, from an Igbo cosmology perspective. Griot Chinyere asks all participants wishing would embody the magic of her sessions, to come with an open heart and a willing spirit.
October 2021 Nne and the Ogbanji child, a beautiful, majestic folktale told by The Griot Way Ensemble, who eloquently express the essence of ancient Igbo culture and their relationship with the natural forces of the cosmos. Rewritten, adapted and directed for stage by Griot Chinyere, the story follows Nne Eze as she laments for her lost ogbanji child. In desperation a promise is made to the river alusi (diety) Osimiri, but is it one Nne Eze can keep? Performed 2 consecutive years at the Nne Agwu storytelling family 5 day retreat with a week run at The Space Theatre Westferry.
December 2016 - 2021 Free Spirit Night walk meditations in local woods, runs four times a year during the solstice & equinox, for health & well-being helping overcome fears, deepen resilience & strengthen connection to Nne Ala (Mother earth): the heartbeat of the divine.
Griot Chinyere is thrilled to have begun an artist residency as a director, writer, producer, visonary and outstanding engaging storyteller with Royal central school of speech and drama. Through her creative work and artistry as part of the partnership team with Dr Javeria Shah, they will remind the world "we be melanin rich 365 days of the year. The story of humanity began with the melanin rich indigenous."
Griot Chinyere aims always to walk with her village and is very excited about building powerful and creative relationships that enables all parties involved to walk their path with purpose, joy and success. We all need a taste of Griot Chinyere. READ TESTIMONIES
2010 - present
Imaginative Theatre Director
Organised Project Manager
Able to Adapt Stories from a variety of cultures
Creative Programme Designer
Magical Short Story Creator
Fluent in French
Proficient in BSL
Mac and PC IT skills in MS word, Page, iMovie, iPhoto, Powerpoint,
Simple book keeping
social media (twitter, facebook, instagram, LinkIn, blog writing)
NABSS Community award for culture and education 2018
BWA Award for best Storyteller 2013/15
BEL - Expedition Leadership Award 2008
Open doors life award, skillset 2006
Olive till memorial script writing Award 2004
NDC award for Theatre 1999
Recent CRB Check
2014 - Short Course in theatre Directing with Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
2014 - Oral HIstory Training with Oral History Society
2009 - 2011 Regular weekly workshops in Club swinging and acrobatics, at circus space London
2008- National Resource Centre training: Monitoring progress of pupils, Effective workshop management, Storytelling as a tool in education, Developing literacy and language
2008 - Cultural leadership program - Leadership training
2007 - Landmark Education Forum and Advance - personal professional development
2006 - Skillset open doors award, filmmaking – filmmaking being a 21st century storytelling tool.
2005 - Business Studies at Head for Business - completed
2004 - Film making: Four Corners Films – wrote, shot, edited & directed 2min. film
2004 - Internship with Uk Film Council – Distinction
1991 - 1993 Regular workshops with Circomedia Bristol in acrobatics, fire swinging and juggling
2016 Developing your Enterprise, Goldsmith London Universtiy - distinction
2003-04 MA scriptwriting-Goldsmiths London University - Merit
1997-02 Degree Aeronautical engineering - City University - 2:2
1996 Workshop leadership skills Youth Arts certificate-Second Wave-Distinction
1988-91 Diploma HND - Theatre of the Deaf – Reading university – 1st class
1982-84 Diploma OND - Business studies – Lewisham College - Pass
1975-80 O Levels - Drama(A), Biology(C), Maths(B), French(B), English language(B); Notre Dame Battersea Secondary School
My interests are the oral traditions and fire dancing, travelling through forest, along rivers, up mountains and across the seas experiencing a nomadic existence. I love discovering new spaces and learning new things. Swimming invigorates me. I have an ardent passion for dancing. My hobbies are chigwa, walking, camping and meditating, they calm my spirit and focus my mind.
Snippets of Work History:
2012 - 2018 Nne Agwu Afrakan Storytelling Festival: Artistic Director and Project Manager
My responsibilities are to inspire the management committee of 7 members, take the lead in designing the artistic content of the festival, Timetabling, Planning, Staffing, Marketing, Delivering and Evaluating the Nne Agwu Afrakan 4-day camping Storytelling Festival in collaboration with the Management Team and fundraising. I have many years’ experience in the creative arts industry as a creative facilitator, theatre director, writer and performer. I design workshops with emerging artist and support their growth during the festival period and throughout the year.
2011 - 2018 Annual programmes
Annually, As artistic director / programme manager for Shanti-Chi, I work with over 6000 participants around the country in gardens, classrooms, playgrounds, galleries, parks, forests, studios and other various spaces and places., I design and deliver various creative programmes and events which: Forge new relationships between different generations; Develop participants’ thoughts, feelings and behaviours by introducing them to storytelling and related activities which expand their arts skills; Explore the multi-layered socio-political history of the participants. The programmes include: 9 annual monthly rambles; 2 Feminine rise energy Women's retreat; 2 camping trips and other expedition related workshops like fire building, shelter building and foraging, in some of Britain’s most stunning areas; The Griot Way training, an in-depth study of Storytelling and related activities, providing a personal and professional creative expression and Writing and directing at least 1 stage performance.
2008 - ongoing Entelechy: Creative Facilitator
I have been an associate artist with Entelechy for over 10 years. I am part of a team that facilitates their Ambient Jam weekly sessions with adults with learning disabilities. In this space, in this place we listen to our heart beat, we listen to our truth and we allow the rhythm of our intuition to carry us into action. I also share my heart beat with an ever-evolving group of 8-20 elders at Deptford Mission who share stories of a bright future. Our approach is fun, gentle and flexible. This proves effective in drawing creativity from the participants using movement, visual art, vocal exercise and instruments. Over a period of 10 weeks we build trust within the group and created songs, dances, stories and poems in a very spontaneous manner. Three times a year Entelechy hosts tea-dances where the elders can present their expressions and create new memories. My character is the griot nature spirit and I hosted the last t-dance Wilderness Tales. Our remit is to bring well-being and mindfulness to the space.
2016 – ongoing Leadership Foundation: Creative Facilitator
I design and deliver leadership workshops applying the art of the oral tradition of storytelling in such a way that encourages mindfulness of the BAME leaders in academic institutes of the UK. We are on cohort 9 and I have been asked to return again 2019. Amongst BAME leaders the question is, “Can we be effective leaders if we neglect our culture and our heritage?”The essence of the programme is to challenge participants about who they are and why they are here and what they have to offer. I have found that participants seek well-being and realise by finding and expressing their authentic self it makes for creating a better leadership style. A style that suits who they are and the task at hand. By the end of the session participants have the courage to come up with solutions on how they will bring their culture into leadership style. There are alumni group meetings as follow up. The prognosis is great!
2017 Arts La O'Lam - Creative Storyteller Facilitator
Commissioned by Arts La O'Lam to work with International drummer Abass Dodoo to facilitate creative new intergenerational storytelling and drumming project. The Storyseekers project involved working with two groups, approximately 30 participants in each group; made up of children, adults with learning disabilities, actors, storytellers and elders. Through exploration of the particpants personal history in a series of 2 x 6 weekly creative workshops. My task as creative Community Workshop Facilitator supported the group to produce a performative response to the project stimulus. We focused on understanding how we can use storytelling and drumming to create community cohesion.
2017 Global Essex and Afrika Eye - Storyteller / Performer
Commissioned to facilitate creative workshops / performances, at the 3 foot high festival exclusively for young children / toddlers and their parents and grandparents, over a period of 4 days. The project involved working with a transient family group from between 10 and 50 participants. My task was to share stories that are entertaining, engaging, educational and interactive,full of song, dance and emotions. We focused on inspiring the 3 foot high future particpants, in the oral tradition of storytelling, in a manner that would ensure the arts future.
2011 - 2017 The Griot Way Storytelling Training: Theatre Director
As Theatre Director, I design, manage, and deliver, "The Griot Way", a training course exploring the various aspects of writing, devising, and staging stories. For better communication with clear and articulate speech, great storytelling, improvisation, listening & team working. Working with a strong sense of self and ones relationship with other performers, the space they occupy on stage and their relationship with the audience. The participants, aged between 14 and 45 years old, are guided in the structure, the symbolism, and presentational skills of African storytelling. I have trained over 300 participants in The Griot Way which is designed to nurture future storytelling talent. This course was created after 3 years of research and collaboration with local authorities, education establishments, literary managers and creative teams up and down the country. I directed this year's graduation: a storytelling feast. sponsorship from Canada Water Culture Space, Deptford Mission and The Albany.
2014 National Youth Theatre Summer: Theatre Director
Commissioned by Anna Niland as youth theatre Director for National Youth Theatre summer programme, London. I delivered Master classes in storytelling for performance to 300 young people, nurturing youth talent, ensuring maximum learning potential. We discussed and debated the topic of WW1 - Each group devised and presented a story inspired by images. The workshops were centered around a photo gallery which sparked their imagination. They developed techniques in audience interaction with eye contact, call and response and direct communication. They learnt to react to audience response. We explored body language and facial expressions.
2013 -2014 Artsdepot: Creative Facilitator
"Talking in class" is an intervention project using spoken word, storytelling and drama to improve the spoken language and listening skills of children, where English is their second language. With research, working collaboratively with two schools, class room teachers, speech therapists, teaching assistants, head teachers, a team of artists and learning participation manager, I was able to develop a series of 10 workshops exploring the storytelling process, drama techniques, narrative, plot and characters. The process was children centered and children led. Each week the children built and shaped the story with their classroom the teacher. The teachers took the creative ideas into classroom and applied them to the curriculum. As the weeks went on I handed my role over to the classroom teacher and facilitated the process from a theatre director's perspective thereby enabling a performance.
2011/ 2012 / 2013 Sesa Wo Suban African Storytelling Festival: Artistic Director
I am Artistic director for the "Sesa Wo Suban storytelling festival" created to encourage communities, unaccustomed to the great outdoors, to experience its beauty through live storytelling performances and story sharing workshops. My role required managing a range of activities; developing communication links with stakeholders including landowners, performers, volunteers, community sponsors, local celebrities, business partners and the local community. This includes designing a bush craft program to entice those communities into the great outdoors. At its conception I was also responsible for staff and volunteer recruitment training, developing and overseeing marketing strategies, auditioning professional storytellers, encouraging investment (money & energy), and generating a budget. For the 4th festival 2015, a management committee is in place. Ben Okri gave me a provisional promise to be the keynote speaker. I designed and delivered training for the management to ensure they were clear about their collective and individual roles and responsibilities. I have written a project plan with contributions from Michelle Hoyte (Secretary) and Vanessa Matthews (People & Strategies Director). I have put fundraiser in place. I focus on the creative side of being Artistic Director for the festival.
2013 Wormwood Scrubs Adult Male Prison: Creative Facilitator
I was invited to Wormwood Scrubs 2013 to run a pilot storytelling project with Maureen Hibbert. Our participants were prison guards and inmates, (some of whom were locked up 23 out of 24 hours in a day). They worked harmoniously in the same workshop. We worked hard with much enthusiasm and skill using storytelling to discuss the consequences of choices. They contracted into our program within the first 30 minutes. Each participant created an affirmation and a story as part of a group. As two female facilitators we were concerned how the masculine energy would react to us running the room. The feedback was powerful and positive. One inmate described his time with us as "perfect ". We had a prison guard begging us to stay, stating, "This has been my favourite day in all my 12 years of prison service. Thank you".
2011 Half Moon Theatre: Storytelling Theatre Director
I was commissioned to be the Storytelling director along side theatre director Thierry Lawson during February half term, intense one-week, full time, Afrakan Storytelling project. We worked with a diverse group of disaffected young people, delivering exciting storytelling / theatre workshops and performance training daily which culminated in a final performance. It was important to follow the safeguarding policy of half Moon young people’s theatre. We devised with the young people a code of conduct for the project and everyone signed including workshop leaders. With the late starters we reviewed the code of conduct. It was referenced throughout the week. The outcome was a final performance on a professional stage, in the round with light and sound technicians. The young people also evaluated the process and themselves. A success by all accounts.
2009 - 2011 GLYPT: Youth Theatre Director
Commissioned as youth Theatre director working with the Education officer and participation manager to agree outputs and outcomes. My responsibilities were to design workshops that explored the devising process; to enable the expression of ideas and themes participants wanted to develop creatively for stage. We were working with very vulnerable young people, many were from foster homes and were considered high risk. We also liaised with parents and guardians. Any emotional or physical incidences were reported and solutions created to develop harmony while steering the young people through the theatre methodology. We built confidence and self-esteem, and developed communication tools they needed to set personal goals and achieve them. We directed a number of theatre sharings throughout the year and scripted the final play for production at the end of each year.
2009 - 2010 Royal & Derngate: Arts Project Designer
I was commissioned on 2 major projects with the Royal and Derngate. The first to develop an arts project for primary school children with Theatre facilitators, teachers and school management in line with their strategic aims for listening, reading, writing and speaking. We designed a drama arts project and we delivered workshops over a period of 3 months, in primary schools throughout Northampton. We looked at sound in communication, word definition, sentence construction. Our outcomes included improved spoken communication shown through theatre performance and the stage set designed by the pupils, worked as the visual storytelling backdrop. The second project as theatre director for young people where English was their second language. I worked with an assistant director, Moulton College course tutors and counselors to design a set of exercises to develop a devised theatre performance using stories from their mother country. I also managed a drama student peer motivator. We explored drama elements such as character development, vocal articulation, stage presence and performance skills. Their ability to convey a message through storytelling to an audience grew rapidly with each week. The graduation consisted of live performances in the Derngate, one of its main Theatre spaces. The feedback was uplifting. I have also been commissioned to perform African stories.
2009 - 2011 Unicorn Theatre: Workshop Leader
I was a theatre workshop leader with unicorn theatre for 2 years working with young people aged 11-15. Workshops were designed to be a response to the big production playing in the main theatre space. The workshops used the story and themes of the show to create unique separate pieces of theatre. When the workshops were a direct response to the show, meaning the participants had already experienced the professional performance, I explored playing in role as a means of prompting a creative response from the participants and exploring themes. Other times the workshops were designed as a pre-show experiences with the aim of enhancing the audiences theatre involvement. Usually done with scripts that had complex themes and or needed to be placed in an historical context. A history not necessarily covered by the school curriculum.
2009 & 2010 Welling Arts School: Youth Theatre Director
I was commissioned on two separate occasions, a year apart, to design a 3-week long African storytelling and drama performance project, for key stages 3 and 4. The aim was to stimulate a creative oral response for exhibitions by David Hockney. The first exhibition was based on six of the 220 tales the Brothers Grimm collected from Germany and it’s surrounding regions, including well-known Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin. The return visit focused on a creative oral response to a photographic exhibition of David Hockney, images from the American depression during 1933. We explored a history our imaginations allowed us to access through the visual images of the exhibition. They performed their devised stories, poems & spoken word pieces with and to their peers.
2008 -2009 Central and Cecil Housing Association: Writer & Storyteller
I was commissioned to listen to and document the personal history of participants with dementia and the write a story based on ‘The First Dance’ of a group of elders I visited, as part of Central and Cecil’s arts and education programme called, The Big T dance. It was about recalling some of those dances experienced during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. My interview question: “Do you remember your first dance?” From that simple question came a host of history about people’s lives; women during the Second World War, a pivotal time for changes in women's roles in society and vivid recollections of dance styles of the time. Using the various perspectives and stories, I structured a narrative about first dances which I then shared with the elders during their Big T dance event. It was beautiful to see their eyes light up when they recognised their contribution to the narrative.
2007 - 2008 Horniman Museum: Storyteller
I was commissioned to run African storytelling sessions in the Afrakan Worlds gallery with families and schools. I used hands on objects while sharing the stories, which encouraged the audience to participate in the storytelling. This generated discussion and debate around the objects. The participants were not given any information about the objects, through asking a series of question we were able to create short stories about the life these artefacts might have led. I found this encouraged the families and school children to use their imagination.
I was employed as a storytelling director to design a short story writing and storytelling course for first year diploma students between 18 and 24 years old. The outcome was Students writing and performing an original piece based on the history of the Transatlantic slave trade, as part of their performing arts diploma. The course ran for 3 months; 3 days a week, 3 hours each day. My responsibilities involved designing and delivering engaging workshops in a safe environment, leading discussions and debates, telling traditional stories and developing the research, performance training and analytical skills of participants. My role also included: co-ordinating a team of freelancers with specialist skills such as: capoeira, gumboot dancing and drumming. I also administrated collaborations with singing, acting, and contemporary dance teachers. I assisted in guiding the participants work from research notes to the final stage piece, overseeing and directing the final performance. The course catered for all the students creative and academic abilities, while achieving the aims of the diploma.
Summer Term, 2007 WAC, Storytelling Director
2006 Rachel MacMillan Nursery School: Theatre Director
The Cross With Us Rhinoceros is a storytelling arts project tackling the challenges of transition for children familiar with their surrounding and the eldest in nursery school to being the youngest in the big world of what can seem like the scary environment of primary school. This project gave them a chance to share those concerns in a safe and creative setting. After hearing the story and acting out the tale, the children completed drawings, told us which part of the story it related to and how that part of the story made them feel. The outcome: the children were able to recount the story to younger children, and a permanent mosaic made from the children's drawings was mounted on the walls of Rachel Macmillian nursery school.
2005 - 2007 The Royal National Theatre: Theatre Director
I was a Youth Theatre Director for the Next Generation project which ran for 18 months. I worked with a group of 12 young people aged 13 to 16 years, meeting every Saturday morning for 4 hour sessions, at The Albany Theatre. The aim of the company was to develop the participants storytelling and performance skills. The programme was designed as a rites of passage, honoring the child to adulthood journey, tapping into the personal story and making a clear path to achieve future goals. We worked with several older volunteers who took on the role as peer mentors for the young people in the group; they helped with research, during the sessions and generally supporting the participants on their journey. This group was particularly interested in music so we used rhythms, song writing and poetry to express themes and ideas the group felt relevant.
1991 - 1994 Rue Sage (Street Wise): Theatre Director
Rue Sage was a project with the aim to encourage 18 beggars on the street of which 50% were English born, to share their story with the shop keepers who own the businesses they beg outside of and on occasion beg inside of. The Municipal of Montpellier gave 50,000fr (£5,000) to support the project. The local community centre donated room space as a meeting place for the project to be carried out from and a local bar with theatre space of 150 capacity, donated performance space for 3 nights. 15 out of the 18 completed the project. We charged 5fr at the door, we were at full capacity for 3 nights. 12 of the 15 went on to take up internships with the small business they once begged outside of. The money raised paid the project designer and manager (myself) the rest from the performances was put toward buying work clothes for the new interns. As a result the owner of the theatre asked me to be artistic director. I was responsible for designing and running devising workshops, recruitment of participants and volunteers, performance and drama training, directing theatre performances, co-ordinating a team (volunteers, mentors, performing artists, theatre staff, liasing with local business, liasing with stakeholders, sponsors etc and writing a report for municipality of Montpellier!