Saturday, November 14, 2015

African Storytelling at a Birthday Party

This evening I did something I have never done before--performing African folktales at a birthday party. The event took place at the Community Center in Maple Grove, Minnesota. A West African woman and children who had witnessed my storytelling during Afrifest wanted me to do something similar at the birthday party.

I drove from Northfield to Maple Grove and got there around 7pm, the time I was expected, The party was over half way through, and the room was alive with children of different ages as well as adults. The only people I knew were the woman who invited me and her daughter who had attended my Afrifest folktale performance.

I was promptly invited to take the floor and after briefly introducing myself and acknowledging the one girl I had met before, proceeded to tell two West African tales: one about Frog and Spider and one about a character called Money. After the first tale, I asked the children some questions about what they learned from it. As I have always noted when telling tales to children, they have good ideas and speak freely.

I deliberately chose tales that did not involve monsters, violence, or death. This is not because I worry about the children. I have noted over the years, and in different parts of the USA, that children take such tales in stride. It is the adults who have worries and misgivings. I have always been intrigued by this. In fact, today, I asked the girl who attended my Afrifest storytelling whether she thought the tales I told that day were scary. She said no, emphatically.

I concluded my presentation with a few remarks about my work of recording African tales and I held up a copy of Matengo Folktales. Someone asked if the book was for sale, and I said it was, adding that I had brought a few copies. Several people stepped forward to buy them, and I hope they will appreciate the tales as well as my commentaries on them.

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