Summertime is for festivals in Canada, and one of the most entertaining is the Fringe. In Winnipeg, this year’s Fringe Festival had an interesting production for kids called African Folktales. This one-person story-telling play was performed by South African Erik de Waal. It brought to mind books my sister sent me when she was working in Sudan: Stories from Africa 1 and 2 by Lawrence Darmani and Talata’s Party Dress and Other Stories by Eirene Akua Agyepong published by African Christian Press. It was a delight to receive these Ghanaian produced books and read them to my children.
After seeing African Folktales, my daughter requested a rereading of the story “Monkey Escapes” from Stories from Africa 2. In this tale, Monkey uses his wits to escape from Crocodile, whose intent, of course, is to eat Monkey. My daughter is fond of animal stories but I found the other tales about humans in the book compelling like the one entitled ” Amadu, Alale and Adama” This story is about three friends, each of whom suffer from something — Amadu is lame, Alale, blind and Adama, poor. One day a stranger comes who changes their lives. The story is a loosely veiled parable with a moral at the end. It reminded me of one of the things children’s books do, namely, aid in spiritual formation by creating awareness and edifying the reader.
When I was a young, beginning reader, I lived in a small town in Canada’s north. Occasionally my father would go to the city on business trips and bring back books. One time he brought me a collection of stories from Africa similar to the one my sister sent. I remember the animal stories quite well, but also recall ones about the people who lived there and who learned spiritual truths about life. Obviously the intended readers for these books were Africans, but such books had their own influence even in a far flung corner of northern Canada where I lived. Were there any books you read when growing up that had a lasting influence on the way you perceived the world?