Under coronavirus curfew, West African bard offers escape via live-stream


OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Every night at half past seven Ouagadougou time, story-teller Kientega Pingdewinde Gerard picks out a tune on his traditional kora and weaves a tale via Facebook Live to distract listeners under coronavirus curfew in Burkina Faso and beyond.

With over 280 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Burkina Faso is the West African country worst-affected by the global pandemic. When the government declared a state of emergency in March, KPG, as he is known, decided to put his skills to use in a 21st-century format.

He has won international acclaim and national treasure status at home for reviving a prized form of Burkinabe story-telling. Now, for around 15 minutes every evening, KPG broadcasts a live stream of music, humour and serialised stories to entertain an audience stuck at home by government order from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m.

“The elders say we only recognise the importance of our buttocks when they have boils,” he joked in a recent segment, sitting in a cosily-lit set designed to look like an ironmonger’s forge.

The videos, shot in a shaky, informal style, have attracted thousands of views. In one recent broadcast, a dog ambled into the shot and stared as the story-teller plucked the kora, a West African, lute-like instrument made from a calabash gourd.

While KPG believes his duty is to divert his viewers rather than lecture, he also offers some cautionary words on the epidemic.

“Dear friends, dear children, dear parents, dear colleagues, coronavirus is not a story,” KPG said. “It is not a tale, it is not a legend, it is not a myth. It is a reality.”

Reporting by Vincent Bado; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Leslie Adler