London Diary – Where Are All the Local Folk Tales? [opinion]

These past few weeks I have been on the hunt for African folk story books for my little ones.

I am getting a bit bored of reading ‘Snow White’ and ‘Telly Tubby’ bedtime stories over and over again. See, my four-year-old is given a book every week from school which Daddy has to read out loud and perform to, before she goes off to bed.

And for her young stay-at-home sister of two- plus, anytime is bedtime story and acting time. She prefers her book readings to be accompanied with better sound and animation effects, with a fully blown out acting performance by Daddy.

The other week, in the middle of playing a beautiful fairy princess, it occurred to Daddy that he could do much better being Mr Hare or the formidable Hyena. I am thinking, the roles would suit my voice much better, and more importantly, provide us with some variety and choice.

There is also the scary Luo monster tales of Mr Obibi, the 12-eyed giant who storms into homes through walls to cheer up children who don’t want to finish up their food or are being naughty. Pure classic tales, these.

Now, the issue is, I just can’t seem to get my hands on any of these African folk classics. A shout out to my online and offline contacts has so far yielded nada. Where have these things that were so commonplace a few years back disappeared to?

We are barely halfway away from our teen years, and, as young adults and parents, our children are already living in a world completely alien and very much different from ours.

As a primary school child growing up in Gulu town in the early 90s, I would spent the better part of my days after school kicking football and eating guavas with friends around the old Gulu Post Office grounds.

On the many evenings I got carried away and got back home past my ‘curfew’ time, the preceding interrogation by Mum with a reed-thin, flexible cane in hand, seemed more to do with my choosing play over lunch and bath, than with concern for my safety and security.

Today, we cannot imagine our children being out of sight or not under adult supervision for even one minute. Even when our daughter gets invited to a birthday party of one of her school friends, either I or the ‘wifey,’ has to tag along. It also means wearing a play-friendly outfit because Daddy or Mummy is going to be as involved in the tricks, treats and play as daughter is. How the times change!

Still, I cannot imagine a child coming out of the innocence of childhood without enjoying the cleverness of Mr Hare, or Mr Hyena’s greediness for meat, nor the slowness but determination of the tortoise, in the Animal World Marathon Series.

Should my guys fail to come through by the end of the year, I am determined to collect and self-publish a few of these folk stories for my little ones from scratch. Just be ready to drop in on a few wazee in the village with a tape recorder at hand.

And for our now ‘Kampala City’ smart phone-wielding ‘village’ boys we grew up with, all I will need is their email addresses to siphon the bits and pieces of folk stories hidden in the creases of their minds. Some things should never change.

Source : The Observer


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