How to make a Keep-It-In-The-Ground Cantastoria
Below you will find:
- What’s a Cantastoria?
- Script: A short rhyming narration for each page
- Musical-singing Version: video links
- How Can I Make One for my Group or Community?
- Comic about how to make and perform a Cantastoria
NOTE: All the Break Free cantastoria art files, including Spanish, Portuguese, French and Turkish versions can be found HERE.
What’s a Cantastoria?
A cantastoria is a series of big storytelling paintings on cloth that are sung or performed. Canta-storian Clare Dolan calls it “picture story recitation,” and writes:
“Cantastoria is an Italian word for the ancient performance form of picture-story recitation, which involves sung narration accompanied by reference to painted banners, scrolls, or placards. It is a tradition belonging to the underdog, to chronically itinerant people of low social status, yet also inextricably linked to the sacred. It is a practice very much alive today, existing in a wide variety of incarnations around the world, and fulfilling very diverse functions for different populations. Picture-story recitation in its earliest form involved the display of representational paintings accompanied by sung narration. Originating in 6th Century India, this religious and then increasingly secular practice evolved as it spread both east and west.”
More cantastoria history and explanation here, sung as a cantastoria here, and all types from all over the world at the Banners and Cranks cantastoria Festival here.
In recent decades, cantastoria have increasingly been used in movements to tell our stories, and explain our struggles. As a form of popular education cantastoria provide both visual and auditory learning channels and can hold people’s attention with strong images and performance.
You can see the video and hear it being performed HERE (Dropbox file) or HERE (Facebook link).
PAGE 1: OPENING/COVER PAGE: KEEP IT IN THE GROUND/BREAK FREE FROM FOSSIL FUELS
When the person reading the script is ready, the cantastoria holders are also ready and have the cover (page 1) up. You can now get the visual and auditory attention of the audience/crowd.
“Would you like to hear the story of Break Free from Fossil Fuels?”
PAGE 2: BREAK FREE FROM FOSSIL FUELS
You can ask people to read aloud the LOOK, LISTEN and DECIDE words with you, and the last phrase of each page. It can help to point to each word/phrase as you say it.
Look – at the smoke swirling in the sky
Listen – to the storms and ask the question why
Decide – to end big oil’s rule
Break free from fossil fuels
PAGE 3: BIG OIL KNEW
Look – way back, they saw climate change was near
Listen – as they covered up what we all fear
Decide – to prosecute the fraud that they grew
Big oil knew
PAGE 4: IT’S UP TO US
Look – as governments talked about what they must do
Listen – as their promises became untrue
Decide – to act now, each other to trust
It’s up to us
PAGE 5: KEEP IT IN THE GROUND
Look – where we must stay: one point five degrees
Listen – as their plans would cause catastrophe
Decide – to leave fossil fuel where it is found
Keep it in the ground
PAGE 6: NOT ON PLANET EARTH
We’ve said N.I.M.B.Y., “Not In My Back Yard”
Now we say N.O.P.E., “Not On Planet Earth”
Look – as we all work to save our home towns
Listen – as the industry fights and bears down
Decide – from N.I.M.B.Y. to N.O.P.E., and fight for all we’re worth
Not on planet earth
PAGE 7: JUST TRANSITION
Look – to those hurt most, who lose a job or home
Listen – to each other, we don’t live alone
Decide – we will all build a coalition
Make a just transition
Musical-singing Version: video links
How Can I Make One for My Group or Community?
Here’s a simple outline of some simple ways to download, print out and make your own. All the art folders and script for the Break Free Cantastoria are here.
BLACK AND WHITE OR COLOR 11X17 VERSION ON POSTERBOARD DOWNLOAD:
You can download and print out all 21 of the images (3 on each of 7 pages) in the Break Free Cantastoria back and white here and color here. I suggest putting them on a USB flash/thumb drive, which at FedEx and some other places you can print from directly.
Print them out on 11×17 paper — a good quality printer/copier is nice–to get a strong black, or bright colors. If you have the option of a heavier paper, use it.
This is where you can get 7 sheets of large board or heavy paper–at least 36 inches/3 feet/1 meter by 22 inches/about 2 feet, so it’s big enough to paste three 11×17 inch images on it and have space for below.
Posterboard/Railroadboard: You could glue and/or tape 2 sheets of standard 22×28 poster board together. You can buy color ($20 for 25 color sheets or $18 for 25 white sheets )
Tagboard: Heavy “Tagboard” Paper is sold in 36×24 inch sheets, but often only in packs of 100 (about $50 for a pack)
Cardboard:If you can get used large boxes (bikes, appliances, etc. from stores or friends) and cut them to size, until you have 7. You can buy new moving boxes big enough to work with ($1.50 each). I like to tape the edges with masking tape to make them look cleaner and make it more durable. If there are any holes and tears I tape them.
Before you attach the print-outs of the Look, Listen, Decide images, you can quickly paint the whole front of the boards a solid color: I use latex house paint or acrylic paint.
GLUE PRINT-OUTS ONTO BOARDS:
After painted boards are dry, arrange the 11×17 images evenly, leaving room to paint and write words below. You can make light pencil marks on the corners of each image so you can glue it in the right place. Easiest for me is spray adhesive on the back (making sure to get glue on the edges) but you could also use other glue as long as it is strong enough — or even do a clean job with not-too- wide blue or white masking tape or clear tape.
If you printed out images in black and white (this is both cheaper and allows for some hand painted/colored elements) you could now color in some elements of the images. You can see how the artists chose to color some areas and leave others uncolored. Some options: colored pencils, markers . . .
Paint: I suggest water colors–or if you have acrylic or latex (water based) paint, you can water it down until it becomes more of a wash. The key is to keep it light enough that it does not cover up the black outlines or take away from the light/dark contrast between the black and colored/white area. I also try not to use too wet of a brush so the paper does not wrinkle. I usually practice on scrap paper until get the color I like and get some practice painting.
Phrases at the bottom of each sheet (Break Free from Fossil Fuels, Big Oil Knew, etc.) need to be added along the bottom of the page. You could paint the words — for spacing, I usually count letters, divide up space and sketch the shape of the letters in pencil, then paint/fill. You could also cut and glue paper of a contrasting color/shade, or even write up the worlds on computer, print them out and, if needed, enlarge them until they are big, but still fit in the space. The phrases at the bottom of the 6 pages are:
- BREAK FREE FROM FOSSIL FUELS
- BIG OIL KNEW
- KEEP IT IN THE GROUND
- IT’S UP TO US
- NOT ON PLANET EARTH
- MAKE A JUST TRANSITION
You could also choose to use the same style of writing on the cover page, instead of the 11×17 print out of Break Free from Fossil Fuels/Keep It in the Ground–or just choose one of those phrased from your title page. This can allow for larger, more readable words and a consistent look on each page.
Now you are ready to take it to the streets, community spaces, your group, and the actions. See SCRIPT below for words and tips on performing.
NOTE ON PERFORMING WITH BOARDS:
There are a few ways to display the cantastoria boards while presenting/performing: you can have two people hold them — either all 7 pages, and as each page turns they can put the last page on the ground or on the bottom of the other pages. They (or if you have just one person) can also just hold up each page at a time, laying it down and picking up the next one. It helps to practice a bit, for the page holders/turners to be focussed and to think about how they can be most visible (where is the sun?–ideally not behind, which creates a silhouette) to those who will see the cantastoria.
LARGE FORMAT PRINTER BLACK AND WHITE DOWNLOAD:
You can use these full image black and white files to download, put on a USB flash/thumb drive.
Print out the full cantastoria on a large format printer/copier (at many FedEx Offices and other photocopying stores) which print on rolls of 36 inch/3 foot wide (and usually also 24 inch) white paper. FedEx charges by the square foot–I paid $75 to print out all 7 pages on 36 inch paper. Some of these machines are self-serve, and the store worker simply asks you how many many feet you printed out. Other ones are not self-serve, and it’s a bit complex to get the image to print out filling the whole space and making sure it’s a dark black.
If you plan to use these outdoors, or use them a lot, it’s worth making them stronger by taping the back edge. I use clear packing tape –even masking tape would help a bit– getting help from another pair of hands to lay it flat along each edge so it won’t easily tear.
You can choose to color the background and leave the images black and white, or color both the background and elements of the three images on each page. You can see how the artists chose to color some areas and leave others uncolored. Some options: Colored pencils, markers, or . . .
Paint: I suggest water colors–or if you have acrylic or latex (water-based) paint, you can water it down until it becomes more of a wash–the key is to keep it light enough that it does not cover up the black lines or take away from the light/dark contrast between the black and colored/white area. I also try not to use too wet of a brush so the paper does not wrinkle. I usually practice on scrap paper till I get the color I like and get some practice painting.
FULL IMAGE COLOR PRINTING:
Printing in color on big paper or vinyl or fabric can be expensive, but maybe you know someone who has access, or you have enough $$, at which point you can compare prices. Here are the files as pdf’s and as Adobe Illustrator files. Here is a photo of how we rigged the large fabric prints.
ARTISTS AND MANY HANDS
This Cantastoria was made with many hands–and maybe yours now–to support Break Free from Fossil Fuels actions as well as longer term fights to Keep It in the Ground.
David Solnit took some of the core elements of the story of the fight for climate justice and asked artists from Paperhand Puppet Intervention (Jan Burger, Alma Stott, and Emma Skurnick) to create a cantastoria of images and a simple script. Paperhand Puppet Intervention is a puppet theater company based out of Saxapahaw, NC. They say, “Since 1998 Paperhand has been using cardboard, cornstarch, bamboo, your old house paints and other assorted junk (treasure to us!) to create giant puppets, shadow plays, parades and pageants. We use this puppetry, performance and creativity to undermine greed, hate and fear and promote, equality, peace and care for the earth.
Jan Burger, David Solnit and Julie Searle wrote the rhyming script together. Kehben Grier of Beehive Collective facilitated the production of 10 sets of “infusion” dyed giant banners at her family’s manufacturing shop (that does not use toxic chemical or water); cut and sewn by San Francisco Bay Area activists, including Misao Brown who sewed all 70 banners herself!; Lush Charitable Giving Program donated production costs; these giant fabric sets have been sent to the Break Free action across North America. David Solnit coordinated (arts-organized) the project as part of his work as an arts organizer for Break Free from Fossil Fuels.