Saturday, November 20, 2010

Arabic Folktales

     This week, Professor Zaru came to speak to the class regarding Arabic Folktales.  From the beginning I realized that I had some misconceptions about exactly what countries were included in  the Arab world.  I was in the rough ballpark, but included some countries of which did not belong, as well as exclude some that did.  

     It was very interesting to see the connections of Professor Zaru's lecture with the lecture of Dr. Ochieng' K'Olewe's presentation last week on story telling in Kenya.  There were a lot af parallels between the two cultures.  Kenya, where Dr. K'Olewe is from borders two Arab countries, Sudan and Somalia.  This may be a reason for so many similarities.  In both of these places, the Arab world and Kenya, story telling is an art.  It is a tradition that is used as entertainment, insight, and to get a moral across.  

     I enjoyed when Professor Zaru talked about the magic carpet.  It is an item of which now that I think about, is very prominent in culture, even today.  It made me think of Vivien Deitz's presentation in which she talked about the magic lamp, and we had to imagine taking a magic carpet.  It is such a prominent part of culture.  There is a great song by Stepponwolf called "Magic Carpet Ride" .  
     This cartoon pokes fun at the American culture.  I think it is so funny because it mocks the fact that Americans use cheap linoleum in their homes rather than beautiful rugs.  It is just a witty cartoon.  Professor Zaru's presentation was very informative, leaving me with much more knowledge than I had entered with.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Story Telling Tradition from Kenya

     This week we had a presenter who I really enjoyed, Dr. Ochieng' K'Olewe.  It was great to have that storytelling experience in class.  Dr. K'Olewe was kind enough to share a handful of stories with the class, and even involve us through song!  I greatly enjoyed how he used the different stories to make his points of  importance: 
1) Entertainment (use of song)
2) Values, beliefs, rules, taboos
3) Morality
4) Wit
5) Understanding Phenomenon

     It was great to see how he used the audience and setting to make the best of his stories.  By turning the lights off and getting the audience involved through song made the stories even better.  The drum pictured above is one very similar to the one that Dr. K'Olewe used when we sang.  It really made a difference in helping me really paying attention to the stories and made the whole experience better.  I loved all the stories, and the goofy endings they all had.  The reasonings for the phenomenon were so funny, the tortoise shell, the ostrich neck, the rabbit ears, and others!

     The tale I liked the best was probably the one about how the tortoise got the pattern on its shell.  I thought it was a great way of explaining the back of a tortoise, something I never thought much into.  It displayed entertainment, values, morals, wit, and the understanding of a phenomenon.  The wit of the tortoise I found most entertaining.  The fact that he changed his name to, "all of you" was so witty and funny.  
     I also thought the riddles that Dr. K'Olewe told the class.  I found a website with some Kenyan Riddles, of which I thought were very funny.
The one I like the best is:

I have travelled with one who never tells me to rest                                         
Answer: My shadow

     All in all, Dr. K'Olewe was a great presenter, one of whom I will never forget.  It was just so entertaining and intrigued me to find other stories told in a similar fashion through youtube, but none matched the live tales of Dr. K'Olewe.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Presentation by Dr. Johnson-Ross

     This Thursday we had the pleasure of having Dr. Johnson-Ross present on the African American Storytelling Tradition.  The presentation left me feeling as though I did not know enough about American history as I should.  The Brownies Book was a publication of which I have never heard.   In learning more about this I began to think that I did not know much about a major part of American History.  I greatly enjoyed her presentation and the history of how folk tales were used in the African American culture.

     I was more expecting her presentation to focus on actual tales of which were prominent in African American culture, but it was much more interesting than that.  It was so interesting to learn how The Brownies Book used folk tales, games, and songs from around the world to help African Americans with the great segregation in America.  By sharing knowledge with each other in the African American community through publications such as this as well as among neighbors.
     These stories are unique in that all the stories that we read were featured around animals as characters unlike the European tales in which humans were the characters.  This may be, for one major reason, that animals are not discriminated by color, but they are just whatever animal they are.  There is no distinction of the frogs in, "How Mr. Crocodile Got His Rough Back" being of different races.  But rather, they all work together and trick the greater beast, being the crocodile.

     One thing that Dr. Johnson-Ross made a point of was the cover of The Brownies Book.  It was something that I initially disregarded as being relatively unimportant.  But after she pointed it out, I realized that the cover makes such a huge statement.  A statement that can not go unnoticed.  This cover that I found from January 1920 is representative of that.  It depicts a young African American woman wearing white and she looks just so happy.  It is showing that the future does bring happiness and unity. I greatly enjoyed her speech and hope to learn more about a part of history which lacked in my textbooks.