SAAM hosts a visual storytelling workshop in preparation for Kwanzaa

STORIES OF KWANZAA

Lisa Jackson, Education & Community Outreach Liaison at Savannah African Art Museum

It’s that time of year again: seven principles, seven days and a lot of stories, Kwanzaa’s best is on display in Savannah.

In preparation for the Seven Days of Kwanzaa holiday, Savannah African Art Museum (SAAM) will host an Interactive Kwanzaa Visual Storytelling workshop on December 18.

Back by popular demand, writer, artist and actress Kat Robertson will facilitate the workshop. It will take place in the second-floor multi-purpose room of SAAM’s Terra-cotta Gallery at 201 East 37th Street.

The educational, hands-on workshop will consist of a short presentation explaining what Kwanzaa is, why it is celebrated, and its connection to Africa. There will be a presentation on the Nguzo Saba (Swahili), commonly known as the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa, of which each has its own individual day of recognition during the week of celebration.

During the second portion of the workshop, participants will be asked to identify one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa or perhaps a personal principle that resonates with them. They will then create a candle representing that principle. After everyone is done molding their creation, Robertson will take each one and use it to cultivate a collective visual story.

“It starts out as an individual concept then it’s brought together for the community,” Education & Community Outreach Liaison Lisa Jackson said. “It’s a very good exercise that brings people together.” 

“Bringing people together” is one of the many things Kwanzaa is about. Celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African celebration based on the agricultural harvest celebrations of Africa called First Fruits. 

During First Fruits festivals, communities across Africa celebrate harvest, ingathering, reverence, commemoration, and recommitment with food, music and dance in traditional masks and costumes, according to SAAM personnel. 

Kwanzaa was founded in the United States in 1966 by activist Africana studies professor and author Dr. Maulana Karenga. Karenga purposefully introduced the Fresh Fruits celebrations of Africa to African American descendants, many of which had forgotten or lost their original customs and traditions due to the harsh realities of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Now, the pan-African holiday is acknowledged and celebrated across the world.

“I was fortunate enough to have attended a Kwanzaa celebration that Dr. Maulana Karenga attended every year in Brooklyn, NY,” Jackson shared. “He would speak and they would have different Kwanzaa workshops, so every year I think about what parts of that I can bring to the African Art Museum.”

Jackson said that just about anything that relates to Africa can be made into a workshop per Savannah African Art Museum’s mission to provide engaging experiences that educate and start conversations about the power, diversity, and spirituality of African art. This Saturday’s Kwanzaa workshop is in alignment with that mission.

“This storytelling experience is a part of Kwanzaa because Kwanzaa is a celebration of community, family, and unity,” Jackson said. “Storytelling is a cultural thing that many people do around the world, and for Africans it is very important because in storytelling we pass on history, information from the ancestors, codes of behaviors and we pass on how we are to connect to one another.”

This Interactive Kwanzaa Visual Storytelling workshop will close out SAAM’s bi-monthly workshops for 2021, and Jackson said she’s already thinking of what the museum will educate the community about in 2022.

“Africa is in us, as Africa is the beginning of civilization,” Jackson said. “If we don’t know who we are and what our past was, we don’t know how to move forward.”

Registration through eventbrite.com is required. Attendees are asked to be aware that there is no wheelchair accessibility for the workshop.


About The Author

Brandy Simpkins

Brandy Simpkins is a born and raised Savannahian and an alumna of Savannah Savannah State University where she received her B.A. in English Language & Literature. Simpkins enjoys writing more than anything else in the world. She is a curious journalist, an astute essayist, and captivating spoken-word artist...
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