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HomeOperaVera Oyé Yaa-Anna, founding father of Oyé Palaver Hut, shares African storytelling, music,...

Vera Oyé Yaa-Anna, founding father of Oyé Palaver Hut, shares African storytelling, music, dance, and cooking

palaver (noun)
– an extended parley often between individuals of various cultures or ranges of sophistication.
– unnecessarily elaborate or advanced process.
– an improvised convention between two teams, usually these with no shared language or tradition.

Ask Vera Oyé Yaa-Anna about palaver, and he or she has a really completely different clarification for this phrase. “Palaver is a Portuguese phrase from palavra, which implies to talk or to speak. It’s about having a dialogue with various individuals.”

Born and raised in Liberia, Oyé Yaa-Anna defined how palaver has a really particular that means integral to Africans. “All through West Africa, you’ve a spot known as the palaver hut,” she stated. “It’s a small gazebo-like [structure] that … individuals use as a gathering place, like metropolis corridor. It’s the place the elders come to take heed to disputes and the place individuals can come and settle them. It’s additionally the place individuals come and be entertained.”

Vera Oyé Yaa-Anna photographed by Lucia Effors

A storyteller, educator, producer, and maternal determine, Oyé Yaa-Anna acknowledged a necessity for bringing features of her African tradition to kids and adults within the Washington, DC, area as a way to each mend damaged communities and share artistic experiences in story, music, dance, and cooking. The driving drive behind the small, nonprofit instructional efficiency firm Oyé Palaver Hut, Auntie Oyé — as she is fondly identified by her acolytes, each younger and outdated — is a one-woman, one-stop operation. Along with her hair wrapped in a vibrant blue printed African headband, she exudes happiness with a heat smile and laughing eyes.

An Oyé Palaver Hut program usually seems like a village occasion or a city corridor with a number of parts — drumming, dance, storytelling, and, continuously, meals. Think about sitting in an open-air gazebo-like hut that’s a nook espresso store, music corridor, and dance flooring in a single, the place tales and sustenance are shared amongst pals and amongst pals you haven’t met but.

The Palaver in Los Angeles. Picture by Vern Evans.

Auntie Oyé cites her circle of relatives historical past as an inspiration for creating Oyé Palaver Hut. “My great-grandparents have been Individuals,” she stated. “My great-grandmother got here from Richmond, Virginia; my great-grandfather got here from Georgia. I even have a good looking icon who’s my ancestor: Harriett Tubman.” Her great-grandparents belonged to the American Colonization Society, which within the nineteenth century labored to return Africans to Africa to flee the horrors of slavery and racism. Liberia was one of many few uncolonized spots on the continent. “The explanation it wasn’t colonized was due to the mosquitoes,” Auntie Oyé laughed. “They have been simply there by themselves …. I assumed, these individuals will need to have actually needed their freedom; they didn’t care the place they went so long as it wasn’t the plantation.” That, she added, indicated how horrific slavery was in America.

Sharing private and household histories is important to what Oyé Yaa-Anna does by her workshops and performances. She explains: “Rising up in Liberia, we’ve got sturdy values. Primary, you personal your story. We begin at three years outdated. [Each child] will get up and introduces themself, ‘My identify is …’ Then says, ‘As soon as upon a time,’ you may inform the story in order for you. When you don’t, you simply say, ‘The tip.’ Everyone claps. And that’s how we construct vanity.”

She additionally inculcates respect for elders in her younger college students, whom she meets at in-school and after-school applications throughout the District and past. “In Africa,” Oyé Yaa-Anna stated, “we revere our ancestors and bear in mind our tradition. I dwell that each day as a result of I costume as an African girl each day; I don’t need anyone to neglect the place I got here from.”

She produces applications specializing in music and dance with a number of the grasp African performing artists primarily based within the area, together with P.G. County–primarily based drummer Joseph Soh Ngwa, Malian musician Chieck Hamala Diabate, DC-based African dancer and drummer Sylvia Souma, and dancer Dianne Freeman, amongst others. These applications method the African arts as holistic and intersectional, encompassing music, dance, storytelling, and meals. Auntie Oyé serves as a griot, introducing every part of her program with a narrative, a lesson, or a tidbit that connects African tradition and American tradition to the artists on stage.

For instance, the West African djembe drum serves as a conduit — as youth study conventional drum strategies and rhythms, they start to make the connection between African music and African American music, from spirituals to rock and roll, blues, jazz, soul, hip hop, and rap. Oyé Palaver Hut’s senior citizen applications rely, too, on conventional drumming methods and the confirmed medical analysis that signifies drumming decreases stress, decelerates nervousness, enhances immunity, and rhythmic cues enhance dexterity, strengthen reminiscence and focus, decrease blood strain, and launch endorphins within the mind that promote higher well being.

Some courses and workshops concentrate on a single artwork kind — drumming, for instance, or cooking, or storytelling — whereas different applications is perhaps extra performative and holistic incorporating drumming, dancing, and storytelling. To study extra about how to enroll a toddler — or your self — for a workshop, go to the calendar on the web site. Some could also be a single-day workshop, others might meet for a particular session.

Vera Oyé Yaa-Anna with faculty youngsters at Leckie Elementary College in Washington, DC. Picture by Fran Robertson.

Oyé Palaver Hut has been round in a single kind or one other since 1993. Oyé Yaa-Anna got here to DC in 2003 and noticed a necessity right here. Oyé Palaver Hut is a registered nonprofit, even whether it is primarily a one-woman store. Oyé Yaa-Anna says the group receives some funding from DC Public Faculties, personal foundations, and people. PTAs and faculties rent her for programming, however they will’t at all times afford a full cohort of performers; Oyé Yaa-Anna, in fact, pays her drummers, dancers, and different performers. She want to do extra — supply extra applications and extra faculties and group facilities, in addition to personal paid occasions. “I’m only one particular person — I’m government director, shopper, producer, instructor — and typically somebody says, ‘Can’t you go name any individual else [for help]?’ I need to practice extra individuals to do that, but it surely takes cash,” she stated, “and I don’t have cash to do all of it.”

That stated, she approaches every day with a smile and gladness in her coronary heart, saying, “I’m lucky that I got here from a tradition the place they instructed me the historical past so no one can put me down or make me really feel dangerous. I’ll not have the [consumerist] trappings of success, however I do know who I’m.” And youngsters who spend time in her applications will develop up realizing extra about themselves.

For extra details about Oyé Palaver Hut and to donate, go to

In regards to the Wendi Winters Memorial Collection: DC Theater Arts has partnered with the Wendi Winters Memorial Basis to honor the life and work of Wendi Winters, the DC Theater Arts author who died within the Capital Gazette taking pictures in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 28, 2018. To honor Wendi’s legacy, the Wendi Winters Memorial Basis has funded the Wendi Winters Memorial Collection, month-to-month articles to be produced by DC Theater Arts to convey consideration to theater corporations and theater practitioners in our area who have interaction in exemplary work that makes our group a greater place. The centerpiece of those articles is a collection we’re calling “The Corporations We Maintain,” articles providing an in-depth have a look at one native theater firm every month. In these instances of division and battle, DC Theater Arts chooses to have a good time those that do good.

For extra data on DC Theater Arts’ Wendi Winters Memorial Collection, take a look at this text graciously revealed by our pals at District Fray Journal



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