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Storyteller entertains and enlightens crowd during Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration


Musician and storyteller Madafo entertained a crowd of about 100 people in the Baker University Center Theatre on Dec. 3 during Ohio University's annual Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration.

Madafo, dressed in traditional African garb, played the role of the griot during the event. In West Africa, the griot is the person who keeps the history, traditions, principles and values of his people alive with storytelling, poetry and music.

During his 30-minute performance, Madafo played several tunes on his bongos and kalimbas while telling various African folktales. He also used chants and audience participation throughout the evening.

Madafo said his parents were storytellers and they passed the art form down to him.

"I am a storyteller as a result of our history and the need for our children to know who they are," Madafo said. "Basically I fulfill a need in our community, especially for our African-American males. Elders need to come forth to tell our story, so that's the reason I do what I do. Our culture needs to be taught every opportunity we get, whether it's in the church, school or on the playground."

Before Madafo performed, several members of the Black Student Cultural Programming Board (BSCPB) read the seven principles of Kwanzaa and lit a candle for each one. They also explained the significance of the traditional items on the Kwanzaa table, which included corn, a decorative mat, a candle holder, a poster of the seven principles, and a red, black and green flag.     

Freshman marine biology major Kymaia Gadsden, a board member for BSCPB, was one of the seven students who read a Kwanza principle to the audience.

"I thought the event was very enlightening and is something I hope to continue to be involved with," Gadsden said. "It was a really good experience to help me broaden my horizons about African-American history. Madafo, who I had heard about but never seen perform, was really good."

Toi Sanford, a senior audio post production major, said she learned some things during the celebration.

"I learned more about Kwanzaa, which I didn't know a whole lot about before tonight," Sanford said. "Madafo's messages stuck with me because I'm taking an African art class this semester. The storytelling techniques he used are what I'm studying in class. It helped me personally and I enjoyed it."

Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration held in the United States and other nations in Africa and the Americas to reconnect Africans and African Americans to their heritage. The non-religious holiday promotes Nguzo Saba, also known as the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; cooperative economics; purpose; creativity; and faith. This year, Kwanzaa will be celebrated Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.

The event, which was sponsored by Multicultural Programs and BSCPB, culminated with a free reception outside the Baker Theatre.