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Lesson 4 the african griot


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For use with "What's Your Story?", a curriculum unit written by A. Groves for the Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program.

For use with "What's Your Story?", a curriculum unit written by A. Groves for the Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program.

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  • 1. The African Griot
  • 2. Quick Write Prompt
    "Man is master of the wordhekeepsinsidehisstomach but hebecomes slave of the wordthat escapes hislips".(Africanproverb)
    What do youthink the proverbmeans?
  • 3. What is a griot?
    a member of a hereditary caste among the peoples of western Africa whose role is to keep an oral history of the tribe or village and to entertain with stories, poems, songs, dances, etc.
  • 4. Griots of the Past
    Inherited their role. They had to be born into a family of griots. They learned to memorize events, songs, and dances which transmitted the history of families, villages, and kingdoms.
  • 5. Griots of the Past
    Even though griots were important to celebrations and the preservation of history and culture, they were of a lower social class; sharing a caste with shoemakers, weavers and blacksmiths. However, it could be made higher if the griot were employed by a nobleman, aristocrat, or somebody else of great prominence or wealth.
  • 6. Griots of the Past
    This low position is one that follows the musician even after death. In some sections of West Africa, the griots have been denied proper burial.
    Historically, their bodies were placed in hollowed trunks of the baobab tree instead of in the ground, for fear of making the earth barren.
    Photo by Groves
  • 7. Roles
  • 8. Roles
    Storyteller –
    Griots know everything that is going on in the tribe and can tell stories of events and folktales that might have faded from popular memory.
  • 9. Roles
  • 10. Roles
    Historian - A griot can remember and sing seven generations worth of a tribe's or family's history and, in some areas, be completely familiar with the songs of ritual necessary to summon spirits and gain the sympathy of ancestors.
  • 11. Roles
  • 12. Roles
    Video by Groves
    Musician– Accomplished musicians, griots orchestrate a circle of music and dance, which draws in audience members until they become performers, creating a community experience.
  • 13. Just how important is the griot's role in African society today?
    Video by Groves
    Any West African celebration or special occasion is incomplete without a griot’s participation, even now. Storytelling has evolved to include modern forms of art and music.
  • 14. Just how important is the griot's role in African society today?
    Their ability to use historical knowledge helps to unify people and bring them together.
    This is now very important because there are tensions and wars across the African continent due to the diverse populations and their differences.
  • 15. The African Griot
    The importance of the griots is summarized in the famous quote by the historian, AmadouHampâtéBâ, ‘Every griot who dies, is a library which disappears’.
  • 16. Your Task
    There is an opening in your town for the position of griot. You think you are PERFECT for the job, but there are many others who want the job as well. Fill out the job application demonstrating your knowledge of the role of griot and explaining why you are the best person for the job. Good luck!