Temujin the Storyteller to Appear in York, PA

A big man in traditional
African dress, with an engaging personality and booming talking drum, Temujin the
Storyteller has been telling traditional stories from Africa and the Americas
for over 40 years. He was as born in Pittsburgh but traces his roots back to the
Yoruba culture in Nigeria, West Africa. With an active repertoire of over 200
fables, tales, and parables, Temujin’s stories range from traditional Yoruba to
Native American tales. He will be giving two programs at Martin Library in York
on Saturday, September 17th at 11 am and 1 pm.

During performances Temujin
dresses in the manner of a West African prince from the Renaissance period. He
wears elaborately woven embroidered African clothing and sometimes as much as
30 pounds of jewelry made out of glass, brass, bronze and hippopotamus ivory.
“During this time period it was typical for men to wear this much jewelry” he
says. “If the jewelry is very heavy it is a reminder of the burden of wealth
that you have. You have the burden to be generous towards those that do not
have what you have.” His clothing is very colorful and is made of narrow woven
strips that are sewn together called ashoke.
The woven fabric is usually made from silk and often is adorned with gold and
silver threads. The work of weaving the narrow ashoke strips is traditionally done by the men of the village.

He’ll gather the crowd
together, as it is done in the villages in Africa, by beating on his talking
drum. The drum that he uses makes a big sound and is modeled after ones that
can be found in the Congo. It is made of wood with a calf’s skin head that is
held on and tightened by a rope. In many places in Africa it is believed that
the talking drum can speak the language of the West Africa culture and has been
used throughout the ages to convey information.

Temujin tells stories from a
variety of sources – the only criteria is that it a story that he likes. He
never tells a story the same way twice and often changes the story depending on
how the audience is reacting. Some of his favorite West African stories are about
Anansi the Spider and Rabbit; two tricky characters that rely on their wits but
often get themselves into trouble. He also likes to tell tales about wise
tortoise who goes through life calmly, refusing to be rushed. During his
presentation he’ll talk about how stories such as these have found their way
into American culture and have become such classics as “The Tortoise and the
Hare” and the Br’er Rabbit stories.

Temujin the Storyteller performs about 150
times a year at festivals, schools, libraries and at Renaissance Fairs.  His all-time biggest crowd was over 1,500
when he followed Fred Rogers (of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood) at the Three Rivers
Arts Festival in Pittsburgh. Fred Rogers had worked with Temujin many times in
the past and when he found out that Temujin was backstage, he sent Mr. McFeely back
and get him. While standing together on the stage Rogers told the audience,
“Temujin is my friend and I want you all to stay so that you can hear his
wonderful stories.”

This event is sponsored by the Susquehanna
Folk Music Society in collaboration with the Martin Library and the York County
Visitors and Convention Bureau. Funding is provided by the Pennsylvania
Humanities Council. Although the event is free, preregistration is required by
calling 717-846-5300 ex 222. Further information
can be found at www.susquehannafolk.org.

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