Elementary school experiences African song, dance, folklore


November 11, 1996|By Lois Szymanski | Lois Szymanski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN JOANN BENSON and her family saw a performance by Kibibi Ajanku and Kauna Mujamal this summer, she knew they had seen something special.

"We saw them perform this summer at a Carroll County public library cultural program, and I was impressed," Benson said of Sankofa Dance Theatre of Baltimore.

So when Charles Carroll Elementary School, where Benson teaches music, was looking for a cultural program, Benson suggested Sankofa Dance Theatre.

On Friday, the students at Charles Carroll were treated to African culture, presented in song, dance and folklore. The program was jointly sponsored by the school PTA and Carroll County Arts Council, through its Artists in Education program.

Sankofa means "reaching back to move forward" and the husband-and-wife team of Mujamal and Ajanku, in traditional African tribal costume, reached back to help students move forward in their acceptance of another culture.

Kauna explained to the packed auditorium what his traditional dress stood for and why it is important to his culture. Students learned a traditional African song. Benson had a surprise for the entertainers. She had taught every class the song "Funga Alafia," an African song of greeting.

With the children seated in a circle around the entertainers, storytelling began. Ajanku told her story, her expression somber, while Mujamal danced, acting the part of Akita, a warrior in the tale.

"He's very ferocious looking," Benson said of Mujamal, who is more than 6 feet tall and was dressed in a caftan, with bells on his arms and legs. "I wondered what the children's reactions would be," Benson said. "But they loved it."

The program ended with a message of self-esteem. "Good, better, best never let it rest, until your good is better, and your better is best," Ajanku and Mujamal had the children recite.

In Africa, a "griot" is the person responsible for preserving culture and heritage of a tribe through the art of storytelling.

Mujamal and Ajanku offered that and more. "Their program presented a nice coordination between folklore, music and dance," Benson said.

Spaghetti dinner

St. John's Roman Catholic community invites the public to a family-oriented spaghetti dinner from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday in the St. John's cafeteria.

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20 per family or individually for $6.50 per adult, $3.25 per child (ages 4 through 12), and under age 3, free.

Information: 857-1481.

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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