Monday, June 6, 2011

Kenya Field Trips: African Folk Tales

We went to see the Under the Baobab Tree play this weekend. The play was a collection of African folktales about animals, with a couple of songs and dancing mixed in. There were three actors, who changed from animal to animal, using a variety of costumes and puppets as their stories were told. It was quite interactive and the audience was asked to say "Jambo!" (hello) to each of the animals when they appeared. The Whirl Girl loved it, and it was especially fun that it reinforced some of what we've been reading in our books.

For those of you who can't or didn't see the show (or if you did see it, and want to revisit it), you can create your own version at home. All you need are a few stuffed animals, finger puppets, or even photos of animals. I don't know about you, but we have a bin of stuffed animals that often get forgotten and when I started rifling through them, I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of them live in Kenya. There were elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, hares and crocodiles, just waiting to be played with. Now they are characters for your own play.

Then you need some stories. Check out Tinga Tinga Tales (a new-to-me TV show) for very abridged versions of traditional stories like why the hippo has no hair, why monkeys swing on trees, and why the elephant has a trunk. A series of books by Mwenye Hadithi (aka Bruce Hobson) tell African animal stories for a young audience based on folk tales. And there's also books available with a number of African folk tales in one, like Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales and A Pride of African Tales. We've not read them yet, so if you have, let me know what you think. Or make up your own! Why do you think the zebra has stripes?

And if you're really into it, make your own baobab tree. Here's a version that can be colored. And a photo for inspiration:

(photo from National Geographic):

Let the story telling begin!


  1. Hi Jenika! This sounds like a marvelous project - truly wonderful. I received the email that you sent to us. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to really explore much of Malaysian picture books as yet - I immersed myself in the folktales initially - you might want to begin with those. What I used for my own study was the Malaysian Children's Favourite Stories. You might want to check that out. =) If I run into any interesting titles, I'd be sure to let you know.

  2. Thanks, Myra! Thanks for the recommendation, I will check it out. Hope you'll keep following our adventures.