Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Seventh Street Junior School

We had a pleasant morning telling stories at this school. With a great welcome from Linda Sutherland we began the program. These students have spent the month reading my book: "The Pot of Wisdom: Ananse Stories," and will be telling five of the stories on Friday at a gathering. I was very honoured to hear this and of course I gave of my best as usual. I hope I set a fine example for storytelling.

Monday, February 22, 2010

University of Guelph

Just one hour of drumming a polyrhythm from scratch= A good feeling and a great bunch of students from the council of Biological Sciences. It had me thinking, "Once upon a time I was a student of human biology." They were very likeable.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade

On my mind today is one of the most compelling topics in the history of human relations, when one race for the purpose of commerce and capitalism was designated as inferior and therefore able to be classified as chattel or movable goods by another race. The unfortunate set of circumstances began with the invention of the Portuguese Caravel under the auspices of Prince Henry the Navigator. Then in 1441 Antao Goncalves captured Adahu the Tuareg and took him to Portugal. In 1445 six ship load of slaves took 200 slaves to Portugal.
The "discovery" of the Americas was the factor which gave the trade a focus and a goal. Europeans wanted cheap labour for agriculture. This was what took slavery, which had always existed, to new heights and new definitions with reference to race and trade. The trade was established by1500 A.D. at 13000 enslaved Africans each year to such numbers as 135000 enslaved Africans each year by 1800s.
The TAST wasalso known as the Triangular Trade because the ships set sail from the great ports of Europe, London, Bristol, Cadiz, Bordeaux, Marseilles for Africa. The slave coast, was that area betwen Ghana and Cameroon. Angola and Congo were also significant places for the trade. The middle journey was the 7-12 weeks it took to sail to the Americas. The last leg of the trade was the return trip to Europe when the ships were laoded with rum and sugar and cotton.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Willow Road

Two presentations at Willow Road P.S., a school we first visited some years ago. We connected with Susan P. who has often directed the Spoken Word space at Hillside Festival. I resurrected the Snake of Venda in addition to some of my season's favorites. Right now I am trusting that plans for our March 6th celebration will advance unhindered.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

African Focus Group Discussion

Today was D-day, and 6pm was H-hour, and I had been planning for two weeks in my busiest month of the year. This year, March will compete strongly and perhaps win over February for presentations. I debuted as facillitator for an African focus group discussing questions on settlement. I found that I enjoyed my part of the meeting and the discussions which jumped from person to person. Once again, in spite of the stresses of finding my group, I have not regretted trying a new thing and I have learned things in the process. The bonus was meeting Anna whose family read my book, "Crabs For Dinner," over and over again while the children were growing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


There were two assemblies for Templemead P.S.. The first was for the primary students and the second for intermediates and grade six. This was a school rearing to go, starting from the students we met who were setting up and assisting with sound, and a very savvy MC who introduced us. For this day I resurrected Ijapa the Tortoise and Fanga Alafia. This school has started using the JIG produced interactive DVD, Sankofa: From Fables to Freedom! Wow. No wonder Fanga Alafia was a resounding success!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mansa Kankan Musa

Mansa Musa was the next great King of the old empire of Mali after the founder Sunjata Keita. Mansa ruled from 1307 to perhaps 1332. He was known for expanding the empire to include gold producing lands and important trading centres. He was savvy at governance and a devout Muslim. His spectacular pilgrimage is well documented for the huge entourage of courtiers and slaves as well as the gold he took. In Egypt he was said to have been so generous with his gold that he depressed the value of gold for 12 years therafter. He is known for the urbanization of areas such as Timbuktu, Sankore and Niani where he built great structures of learning, mosques and palaces. Notable among these ae the Hall of Audience in Niani and the university at Sankore. Did he really travel with 60,000 courtiers and 12,000 slaves. And would he give all that gold away? It must be so, because years later stories were being told about Mansa Musa. In 1337 Mali appeared for the first time on a world map, The Mappa Muni of Dulcert. Mansa Musa had put his unusually wealthy empire on the world map for future adveturers, explorers and wealth seekers to chase after.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Planning for a King

Yesterday at 1pm, my friend Rodney and I met new friends in London, Ontario to plan for the visit of a traditional ruler from Ghana, to our part of the world. Nothing is set in stone yet, but we have met, enjoyed good company and great snacks, and set an agenda in motion. Can we really plan a royal visit for three Ontario cities? I suspect we can. It is early days yet but the convener of our meeting, is a very able man.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Laurentian Senior School

It was the third visit to Laurentian Senior School but it had been a while since the last visit. We met staff we had known previously and others who were new to us. In two performances we met the entire school of grade seven and eight students. What a robust time it was. We told of the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman, the great hero of the railroad, who trekked 300 people to freedom from the United States to St Catharines, Canada druring the mid 19th century. We did honour to Lt. Governor Simcoe of Upper Canada, who's law made it possible for the slaves who dared, to escape to Upper Canada against the considerable intimidation of the United States. We told of Ottobah who wrote the very first slave narrative in 1787, and then the humorous story of the Hen and Crocodile. By popular request, we also performed Ananse and the Pot of Wisdom. Whew, what a day. And the students were great, with very able 'screamers' who got us all excited.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sankofa: From Fables to Freedom

Today we met Peggy Hobbs and Joe Gombocz at ETFO Kitchener for a presenation of "Life in Africa." The snacks of pita and humus and selections of Lebanese hors d'ouevres provided by the ETFO went down very well. The tech. misbehaved but Peggy held it down with a smooth discourse of the offerings of our DVD educator produced by JIG productions. Our demonstrations were very well received. If you're a teacher and you're looking for a fun interactive Black History education for primary classes, we have the ideal interactive DVD for you: Sankofa: From Fables to Freedom: Life in Africa.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alloa at Caledon

An early start to Caledon meant that we could have a Tim Horton's breakfast before arriving at Alloa. We met their very interesting teacher-librarian J. S., who has recently been to Ghana. This school has supported an orphanage and a school in Ghana as well as a theatre group. It was a pleasure to present to them, although two performances would have worked better than one.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

My Book

On this day my book has returned for a few final copy edit suggestions.
My summary of how to write a book is ....creativity, determination, patience and perseverance. I am grateful to God for his grace. There will be great rejoicing from my end when I see it published. Stay tuned for excerpts once this happens in the not too far future.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Northwood P.S.

Two presentations at Northwood School in Mississauga. We were prepared for "Griot's Journey" but we were introduced for "Once Upon an African Village", so we did a bit of both. Our presentation went very well, and we spent the time between performances at Square One, eating breakfast and window shopping. I do recommend the Sears Cafe breakfast. As Fule says, "Real eggs from real hens". Eating eggs may have influenced my choice of telling the "Hen and the Crocodile" to the amsusement of my audience. I have noticed that telling Ottobah's story in the first person, makes some students think I am recounting my own story...LOL!!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Black History Month

AFRICA has been home to many empires in antiquity.
3000-2500BC was the period of the Old kingdom of Egypt and with little known of the land of Kush which was growing more southerly about the fifth cataract of the Nile.
1900B.C.-The new kingdom of Egypt grew with Nubia in it's shadow until 748B.C when the kings of this land of Punt or Kush ruled Egypt for about a 100 or 150 years, supplying the pharaohs of the 25th dynasty.

The capital was in Meroe present day Sudan. Hence the black pharaohs.
Also 200-300 A.D. Kush rose over Egypt.

1000BC-Saba grew in the North East where Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen are today. The Queen of Saba or the queen of Sheba is said to have visited Solomon. According to the Kabra Nagast, Sheba's son Menelik was fathered by Solomon. Aksum grew in place of Saba, while Kush declined until about 1200A.D. All these kingdoms were trading aound the Nile and the Red sea with Assyrians, Persians, Romans, and Arabs at one period or another.

In the West of Africa, (The Western Sudan also known as Bilad-as Sudan- the land of black people) from about the first century, the Soninke settlements began to grow into a principality and then a kingdom, This kingdom was called Wagadu, but the Arabs erroneously called it Ghana after one of the titles of its kings.

I will write labout Wagadu of which much is known.

Friday, February 05, 2010


Today Fule and I went to St. Ursula School in Brampton. It was our third visit to the school school in four years- a total of six presentations. This time we performed an abridged "The Griot's Journey", an interactive storytelling performance of history with song and dance. We presented in the morning and in the afternoon for the entire school from kindergarten to grade eight. Inspite of the wide age range for both performance, we were extremely well received. I told of Quobna Ottobah Cugoano from his biography, a slave narrative and also of Harriet Tubman, the most daring conductor of the underhground railroad. There is also the little known history of the 1793 bill passed by Lt Gov. Simcoe which enabled the underground railroad. We ended the performance with a folktale and a dance with a rousing school chant. Hey, St Ursula!

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Yesterday was the second annual Afroculture workshop for the students of Recreation and Leisure Services of Mohawk College at their winter camp. Fule and I gave evening workshops for African drumming and African dance for about 120 students and staff. We were accompanied and supported by Graham our associate from Shaw Percussion. The evening was a blast, starting from the interactive hand game, through the hand drumming experience on the Djembe: You've Got Rhythm, and the Dance workshop: You've got Motion! The challenge was the drive by GPS through every nook and cranny to Brant county, but we got there. On the way home we chose the route and bade the GPS to follow....LOL!!! Highway 24 was a breeze.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Djole, Kpanlogo and proto-Highlife

My dance class is learning the Djole...We are in the fourth week and the energy of the dance has powered our learning. Although the drum song from Guinea is diferent from the kpanlogo drum songs, these two dances are closely related. Djole is higher tempo rhythm, and like most of the Guinean dances more open with larger moves. Yet it carries within itself the more subtle language of Kpanlogo and the very beginnings of proto-highlife.
We begin the dance with the claiming of our turf.....and when in the end we retreat, we do so knowing the territory is marked for us.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Garthwood Park Public School

February 1st and Black History celebrations begin. We went to Garthwood Park P.S. in Mississauga and spent an hour of storytelling, song and dance in an interactive performance assembly. We have decided to incorporate my activities as a drummer this season. Fule says if it ain't broke don't fix it but the artist will keep retelling and creating. February is cold but African History warms it up considerably.