The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 30, 2013

Storyteller talks of native land, provides music

By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 — Stanly Community College hosted African folk tale storyteller Obakunle Akinlana on Wednesday in the Dennis Auditorium.

The event was sponsored by Momentum, a male minority mentoring student oriented program, and was in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Accompanying Akinlana was April Turner, who performed the native Yoruban dances for the audience to see. The two have been working together for 22 years and have performed throughout the United States and Africa.

The presentation opened with festive drumming and dancing.

Akinlana introduced himself, explaining that he was of the Yoruba people in Southwestern Nigeria.

“My name is Obakunle Akinlana. The name Obakunle means, ‘the king who fills the house with joy.’ Akinlana means ‘courage opens the road,’ ” Akinlana said.

As the program proceeded, Akinlana immersed the audience in Yoruba culture, identifying the garments he was wearing and the musical instruments he would be playing, along with the myriad of other interesting items he’d brought with him.

One of the instruments Akinlana had is called an agogo and it is used to keep time when Yoruban musicians are performing.

Akinlana produced a calabash, a type of vegetable, that when dried the Yoruba use to carry objects, sometimes balancing the calabash-bowl on their heads.

He explained that the calabash can grow quite large.

“The men use them as fishing boats,” Akinlana said.

Throughout the presentation, Akinlana shared Yoruban vocabulary and had the audience shout it back at him at appropriate times.

One of the more memorable words, considering the reason for the occasion, was “àlàáfíà,” which means “peace.”

“People often ask me, what do you do professionally? Then, they’re surprised when I tell them I am story teller,” Akinlana said.

“ ‘You get paid for that?’ Sometimes.”

This year marks Akinlana’s 25th year as a storyteller and as part of this milestone, he plans on sharing his stories with all 100 counties in North Carolina.