* Guelph GoGo Grandmothers Griots (5Gs)

Griots in school  

GoGoGrandmothers offer four options:

Presentations explore themes such as kindness & caring, empathy, teamwork, power of love, social justice, volunteerism, generosity, building capacity, respecting and celebrating differences, treating all with dignity and respect, . . . These are determined by the story, collaboration with the teachers, student age, school mission, curriculum expectation, etc. Audiences are engaged in discussion and Q and A.

The dates for 2020 / 21

Feb  11* and 25*
March 10* and 27* 
Aril 17 and 28
May 8* nd 26
June 9*
NOTE: Indidates *BOOKED 

Although the descriptions below are geared specifically to school children, the stories and themes speak to adults of all ages and have been succesfully presented in churches and senior homes. ~ ~ 

  1. Presentations by the Griots Troupe:
        A)   For primary students: ZOMO THE RABBIT: a Trickster Tale from West Africa,  by Gerald McDermott. It is shaped for Kindergarten, Gr. 1-3, with puppets, drumming and storytelling. This has been enormously successful for five years. This production takes anywhere from 30 - 60 minutes, depending on the number of groups involved and the time available for post Zomo story activities - - (i.e., echo story, "Going on Safari").
    In addition to the story, children are divided into two groups for back to back hands-on experience with African instruments and puppets.
    (See dates below to book a Friday.  We can do two or three presentations to 25 - 50 students during the middle instructional period.)
      B)   For junior students: WHY FROG HAS NO TAIL It's a retelling of an African-based tale about self-awareness, responsibility, and sharing, created by our own GoGo Griot, Sya VanGeest. This takes about 45- 60 minutes to tell through dramatic storytelling with puppets and actors, followed by a class discussion about embracing our gifts, celebrating those in others and treating all with dignity and respect.

    Performances of ZOMO and How Frogs . . . by the Griot troupe are offered in the middle Teaching block, by appointment confirmed with Sya VanGeest. 
    Contact: grandmasya@gmail.com 

  2. Workshops:
         A)   Percussion / jbembe workshop - 30 to 40 minute presentation.
    4Gs have a number of experienced drummers, most engaged in Guelph drumming groups, who love to share their passion for percussion and drumming. This is a free participatory workshop actively engaging learners.
    (Honourariums are appreciated. Drummers will donate any money directly to the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign
         B)   Puppet Workshop  - GoGo Ellen started collecting puppets as a young girl and has accumulated hundreds of puppets of all sorts, including ones she created. Ellen's been actively involved with puppeteer troupes, presented many workshops, used puppets as tools to enhance her decades-long teaching career, (now "retired"), has taught the rest of us  and leads us to integrate them in Zomo the Rabbit and Why Frog Has no Tails.
    This is a free participatory workshop actively engaging learners.
    (Honourariums are appreciated. Moneys will be donated directly to the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.
  3. African Encounter:
    i) Storytelling:  Individual class or school-wide storytelling or readings of a variety of African tales by one or more 4Gs, tailored for students from JK/K to 7/8, with possible inclusion of puppets and drumming. African stories are built on tradition with universal themes and eternal verities that have a timeless voice.  We discuss with teachers their choices of themes and topics to meet their objectives and maximize learning opportunities for students.
    4Gs members include experienced storytellers and members of the Guelph Guild of Storytellers, puppeteers, drummers and a number of experienced 'retired' educators.
    (Presentation details arranged between teachers and 4Gs. E-mail grandmasya@gmail.com)

  4.  Social Justice For grades 6, 7 or 8: "Powered by Love" This presentation tells the story about African community grassroots projects and the remarkable impact gogos (Zulu for grandmothers) have had on "Turning the tide" of HIV AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa. It tells how millions of dollars have been raised since 2006 by the Canadian Grandmothers movement (recently gone international) for the Grandmothers Campaign to partner with African grandmothers caring for orphans.
    Themes include social justice, the power of love, capacity building, volunteerism. Students are engaged in discussion and Q and A.
    (Presentation details arranged between school and Sya VanGeest)

February 15, 2019

Griots at Paisley PS Feb 2019Your shows were fabulous!  I heard rave reviews from both teachers and the kids all afternoon after you left, and nonstop talk about the frog tail from the grade ones I taught during the last block.  Thank-you so much for the presentation, and fitting all of the students in for your shows in the library.  The three presentations went very smoothly, and hopefully weren't too busy for you!

We look forward to seeing you again next week - a slower pace I promise!  Another thanks for fitting us into your busy schedule, I can see why you are in such great demand.  I will send you the other photos as I receive them.
Have a good weekeend,
Jennifer G.

May 29, 2018

"What a treat it was to welcome you to June Ave.  We look forward to working with you again in the future.  The children loved hearing the story of Zomo the Rabbit and exploring with the instruments and puppets.  Thank you for the receipt.  I will pass along your email to my colleagues." 


Why Frog Has No Tail - Ks thank you#2

March 1, 2017
 . . . I wish to thank you and all the Go-Go Grandmas for the mesmerizing African drumming presentation and puppet play.
The feedback I got from the teachers involved was very heartfelt and positive.  I was told that our students were absolutely enthralled.
I am hoping to start a unit now on making hand puppets.
Thank you for sharing your music and stories with us and also your precious time.
Yours in Education,
A. L.


    griots2GoGo Joan and Arlene, part of Zomo the Rabbit  to primary classes  


(Click here to see Griots preparing for Why Frogs Have No Tail - [or scroll down].)
Each story is interactive and each ends with a  discussion of a deep question of life.  Each visit offers the opportunity to facilitate an exploration of African instuments and puppets.

Frog cast @June mtng 2017


THE CAST June 2017





NOTE Each telling is free. However, an honourarium is gratefully received. It goes immediately to the African Grandmothers Campaign of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

"The Guelph GoGo Grandmothers Griots?" (5Gs)

"Griots" are African storytellers and "Gogo" is the Zulu word for "grandmother". 
A group of Guelph GoGo Grandmothers (4Gs) melded the two terms to call themselves, "Guelph GoGo Grandmothers Griots (5Gs)".

We are inspired by the rich tradition of Griots in African culture and we strive to do it honour.

Our objective is to learn the beauty and wonder of selected African stories and visit schools to share them  with children and youth in a fun, interactive way.  (We have been granted official clearance to visit Upper Grand Public schools. ) 


The books and stories are selected for their fine quality. See the selection.  - African stories

Educational themes and benefits:

griots6> Share with children wonderful African stories.

  • > Reinforce curriculum strand of oral communication - model language shaped for the ear, engage children in Q & A.
  • > Interactive, audience participation - engage children in deep thinking and discussion.
  • > Support curriculum themes -  community, global village, anti-bullying, social justice, care of the earth, respect, responsibility,  . . . .





ne 24, 2016 at Priory Park Public School
k you again! ______________________________________________________________________________
June 24, 2016 at Priory Park Public School
"Thank you so much for the magical performance. The feedback from the kids and staff was fantastic. We love the mix of puppets, live music, and storytelling.
We are now huge fans!  Love to have you back in my class next year.
Thank you again!

In 2016, the 4Gs Griots were featured on #GuelphLife, the Rogers TV's bi-weekly current affairs program that highlights city's stories, events and people.
 With the school's and parents' permission, we were delighted to welcome Jan Hamilton, director with Rogers TV, to capture the Griots presentation of Zomo the Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Afica by Gerald McDermott to primary classes at Priory Park on June 24th, 2016. Jan interspersed one-on-one interviews, where members described the work of 4Gs and the focus on one of its three objectives, that is to educate, and by extension, share the beautry of African culture with children.  


The Griots of West Africa – much more than story-tellers"

Traditionally, "griots" were a social caste, dedicated to preserving the memory of society.  “Without us, the names of kings would be forgotten, we are the memory of humankind. By the spoken word, we give life to the facts and actions of kings in front of the young generation”, said griot Mamadou Kouyaté. ("Word of Mouth") Even today, there are griots in African villages, who continue to tell tales shaped by important traditions and new realities. They have much to say to us.

The storytellers told many stories - stories about the many gods and goddesses worshiped by early people, stories that explored the great mysteries of life. They told tales of war and battle and heroes and leaders and kings. Stories were often accompanied with music and dancing and song. When there was no written language, stories kept history and family memories alive, stories explored the eternal verities of community, justice, love, sharing,  . . ., stories entertained and taught.  Many of these stories are fun and entertaining and continue to challenge us with powerful lessons and truths that speak to us today .







Frog at Victoria Terrace in Fergus FEB 2019 


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Workbee to create masks and tails for the six characters in Why Frog Has No Tail
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