In my search for African folk tales to retell, I stumbled across a delightful little book called “West African Folk-Tales” (killing me with the creative title here) collected and arranged by Cecilia Sinclair and W.H. Barker B.Sc (like all of humanity needed to know that he was a college graduate, but I digress). Cecilia designed the drawings featured in the book, while Barker (who was formerly principal of the government institution in Accra, Ghana) did most of the arranging of the text. The cool thing is that the book is almost 100 years old (or at least it will be in 5 years if I’m reading my Roman numerals correctly (MCMXVII)! Thank you Stanford University Archives ( where I think I procured my soft copy of the document, but then again, I’m not sure…I’ll verify that later)!! I’m making sure I give proper credit where credit is due.
The book presents some of the folklore of the Gold Coast peoples, and while I am not affiliated with their culture or history, I did note that there are remarkable similarities between the stories told almost 100 years ago and the ones my Uncle told me as a child sitting on the hard concrete floor of my mother’s kitchen with the light of a lone candle dancing across my ebony skin. (Don’t hate, I was a beautiful child, if I do say so myself….and I do).
There is an OBVIOUS bias against the Africans even in the retelling of their own stories. Hey, this book was published in 1917, and the African colonies were firmly under the English thumb. I shall not go into detail about the opening assumption in the book that civilization did not exist in Africa until the Europeans came; I will talk about what I plan on doing to reclaim the stories and dignity of my African people. Like I’ve mentioned in the About section on this blog, children of the diaspora, and even those who live in urban Africa, have lost touch with where they come from. I’m not trying to romanticized the past; rather, I’m trying to preserve the wisdom and simple sophistication present in these stories. These stories are a part of our collective history. I think that our history is just as important, if not more so, as the present integration of the African continent into modern society.
I am contemplating starting a series of unifying stories. Right now, I’m batting around several ideas: “The Whys and Hows”, “The Animal Kingdom”, “Proverbially Speaking”, or “Popular Stories”. The thing is, none of those ideas are mutually exclusive…a lot of stories fall into all categories. The easiest and most flexible option is “The Animal Kingdom” so I’ll be delving into rewriting some of these stories maintaining some of the Gold Coast storytelling nuances via graphics, video, animation, and illustration. For those of you who have managed to stumble across my blog, feel free to offer suggestions and scripts of your own that you would like to see told.
For now, ciao!