|Pearls of Wisdom: African and Caribbean
by: Raouf Mama and Mary Romney
by Siri Webber Feeney
Levels: Elementary/High School to Adult
Intermediate to advanced proficiency
There are three components to this fascinating and enjoyable collection of
stories from Africa and the Caribbean: The Listening and Reading Book, The
Integrated Language Skills Workbook, and a Recording of the folktales on 2
cassettes or 2 CD's. The stories have been collected by Dr. Raouf Mama, a West
African Griot (master story teller).
The text contains twelve stories for
reading and/or following along with Dr. Mama's authentic and dramatic recording.
Reading is at the intermediate skill level.
The workbook is designed to maximize language learning by
providing a variety of exercises in all skill areas and vocabulary development.
The answers are provided in the back of the book for easy self-study or
The recordings bring the stories to life, allowing the
listener to experience the power and excitement of involvement in an oral
tradition, a tradition as old as civilization itself.
The collection includes: How Chameleon Became a Teacher (Benin), Why Hawk
Preys on Chicks (Nigeria), Pearl of Wisdom (Gabon), Anancy and the Guinea Bird
(Antigua), How Goat Moved to the City (Haiti), Why Cat and Dog Are Always
Fighting (Cape Verde), A Fisherman and His Dog (Puerto Rico), Monkey's Argument
with Leopard (Congo), and four other classic tales.
Pearls of Wisdom: Contents
of the African Diaspora xiii
How Chameleon Became a Teacher (Benin) 1
Why Hawk Preys on Chicks (Nigeria) 4
Pearl of Wisdom (Gabon) 8
Anancy and the Guinea Bird (Antigua) 14
How Goat Moved to the Village (Haiti) 20
The Greedy Father (Benin) 26
Why Cat and Dog Are Always Fighting (Cape Verde) 32
A Fisherman and His Dog (Puerto Rico) 38
How Yogbo the Glutton Was Tricked (Benin) 44
Monkey's Argument with Leopard 50
(Democratic Republic of the Congo)
The Gold Ring (Benin) 58
The Prince and the Orphan (Benin) 66
Pearls of Wisdom: Introduction
are one of the oldest forms of literary art, and are to be found in every
culture in the world. From the beginning of history, people have used folktales
as a traditional means of teaching moral and cultural values and as a tool for
educating children and preparing them for adult life. Furthermore, most
folktales from one culture have equivalents in another, and this makes them
universal. Because of their universality, and the power and simplicity of their
language, folktales are ideal for teaching language and literacy skills. This
book is an attempt to promote, through the power of folktales, the teaching and
learning of English language skills.
but one of the tales in this book are either from Africa or have African roots.
This book contains eight folktales from West Africa, one from Central Africa and
three from the Caribbean. Two of the Caribbean stories, in turn, are originally
of the West African tales are from the Fon ethnic group in the Republic of
Benin. The African folktales in this book fall into four broad categories:
explanatory tales, sacred tales, trickster tales, and cautionary tales.
the Fon tales, How Chameleon Became a Teacher is an explanatory tale that
describes the origins of the behavior and appearance of chameleons. The Greedy
Father is a cautionary tale. The Gold Ring is a sacred tale. How Yogbo the
Glutton was Tricked is a trickster tale, and The Prince and the Orphan is a
sacred tale that is a variant of the Cinderella story.
the other West African tales, Why Hawk Preys on Chicks is an explanatory tale
from the Ibo ethnic group, the third largest in Nigeria, whose great oral
tradition has yet to be adequately documented. Why Cat and Dog Are Always
Fighting is also an explanatory tale, this one from Cape Verde, an island nation
off the coast of Senegal. Pearl of Wisdom is a cautionary tale from Gabon, a
French speaking country in West Africa. It came to our attention through a
broadcast on "Africa No. 1," a multinational radio station funded by France. The
tale is about the importance of names in Gabonese culture in particular, and in
African culture in general.
Argument with Leopard is a trickster tale from the Democratic Republic of the
Congo (formerly Zaire) in Central Africa.
and the Guinea Bird is a tale from the island of Antigua. Anancy is a character
who appears as a trickster in many Caribbean folktales, but who originates from
Ghana in West Africa. How Goat Moved to the Village is a Haitian tale that calls
to mind the biblical story of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-25. The
fact that one of the characters is a hyena and another a lion is an indication
of the African origin of the tale. The Fisherman and His Dog is a tale from
Puerto Rico, where many people of African descent have settled. Taino, the name
of the dog, is named after the indigenous people of Puerto Rico.
of the Caribbean stories mentioned above are clearly of African origin and, as
everyone knows, many people of African descent live not only in the Caribbean
but also in North, Central, and South America. This movement of a people from
their homeland to other parts of the world is known as a diaspora. See map on
The African diaspora is the phrase describing the various
groups of people of African descent who live outside of Africa. In most cases
this diaspora was brought about by the infamous transatlantic slave trade, which
took place over three and a half centuries, from the early 16th century through
the middle of the 19th century. From 1519 to 1867, approximately 12 million
Africans were transported on European slave ships from Africa to the Americas.
The slave trade was conducted by trading companies from several European
countries: Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark.
Thousands of ships carried slaves primarily from the coast of West Africa to
many colonies and territories in the Americas.
forced displacement of people from Africa to the Americas resulted in the
transfer of many cultural traditions along with the enslaved people. For
example, in the United States, music such as work songs, spirituals, gospel,
blues, jazz, and rock and roll have resulted directly from the musical and
rhythmic traditions that the slaves brought with them from Africa. In the other
countries of the diaspora, different types of music have evolved directly from
West African musical traditions.
Another result of the African diaspora
has been the spread of the African oral tradition. This oral tradition has
survived among people of African descent even into the twenty-first century.
This book is a sampling of the multitude of stories from this tradition,
collected and told to you by a West African "griot," or storyteller, who brings
them to you from his native Africa and countries of the African diaspora.
This review appeared in the May/June 2002 issue.
by Anna Silliman
Stories are certainly the most interesting teaching
material, and you can never have too many of them at your disposal. For
intermediate through advanced level students, this collection, along with the
workbook materials and cassettes, makes a beautiful addition to your story
Hands-on English has mentioned other folktales
books in previous issues. What sets this one apart? The stories are powerful.
Like Aesop's fables, they teach a lesson, but more profound and complex ones
than in other tales.The stories are not remotely childlike; they raise questions
as much as they answer them. In a nutshell, they provide food for thought and
The excellent workbook expands vocabulary learning
but more importantly draws out discussion of the meaning of the story. Students
explore the moral of the story, discuss the themes found there (trust, betrayal,
deception) and discuss relevant proverbs ("Do unto others..." . A set of
interesting questions encourages students to relate the themes of the story to
their personal experience ("Have you ever been robbed or deceived by someone?"),
and to the broader contexts of groups and cultures ("Do you know of long-time
conflicts between groups?"). As a final step, students discuss symbols and
metaphors related to the story.
The wisdom of the stories will be of universal
interest and will provide a chance for people of all cutlers to share ideas. At
the same time, it is wonderful that they bring a flavor of the African Diaspora
to us and to our students.
Usually the cassette tape is the part you can do
without if you are trying to save money, but in this case, we highly recommend
the tapes. The beautiful and dramatic recording of the tales will add a new
dimension to your lessons.