CHEVERLY – Rhythmic sounds, along with a rich blend of tales by incomparable storyteller Queen Nur, filled the auditorium of the Publick Playhouse on Friday, Feb. 19. Queen Nur, also known as Karen Abdul-Malik, presented her show “Queen Nur’s Sweet Potato Pie” with highly energetic and interactive performances that delighted a senior-aged crowd. The nationally-renowned […]
CHEVERLY – Rhythmic sounds, along with a rich blend of tales by incomparable storyteller Queen Nur, filled the auditorium of the Publick Playhouse on Friday, Feb. 19.
Queen Nur, also known as Karen Abdul-Malik, presented her show “Queen Nur’s Sweet Potato Pie” with highly energetic and interactive performances that delighted a senior-aged crowd.
The nationally-renowned artist had hips swinging and voices singing through her songs and rhymes celebrating African-American heritage and the art of storytelling, all accompanied by African percussion instruments.
The theme of the performance was inspired by her own version of the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.”
“I introduced the difference between a sweet potato and a yam, but that’s not how it started,” Abdul-Malik said. “My first story I usually do behind (the performance) originally was called ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ but it’s my version. She’s got a sweet potato pie and she’s in the city. She’s taking her sweet potato pie to her grandmother and her grandmother makes the best sweet potato pie anywhere in the city and everybody wants it including Wolf. There’s a brother named Wolf who tries to steal it and it came out of the impetus of that.”
Abdul-Malik also said her grandmother inspired the show as well.
“My grandmother made a mean sweet potato pie, so it’s a way that it’s dedicated to her,” she said. “Her name is Ruth and the name of my red story is ‘Ruth Oree’s Sweet Potato Pie.’ So it’s dedicated to my family and my grandparents are very much a part of who I am and what I do.”
Abdul-Malik performed a number of culturally rich stories and songs, including the original Lion King story from the 1200s that originated in Mali, a country in West Africa. She also talked about the different elements of storytelling such as call and response.
Originally from Willingboro, N.J., Abdul-Malik is also the president of the National Association of Black Story Tellers. She believes storytelling is very important to the young generation of people today and explains why it is different from other forms of art.
“The act of oral tradition actually is the first art form, so it happened before writing,” she said. “Particularly the art form is the way that we pass on our lineages, the way we pass on our values. It’s the way we pass our culture on without it being in a didactic way as well. It’s a very rich art form that has a rich and historic meaning.”
She also explained the purpose of storytelling and how she comes from a very deep and rich tradition of African and African-American history
“It’s not just meant for us to educate or it’s not just meant for us to entertain so we have to blend those two together,” Abdul-Malik said. “We are the historians. It is used for healing. The African oral art form is used for so many different disciplines in terms of life, in teaching you how to live in life, to survive in life, to sustain in life so that’s some of the reasons to how it is different. The thing about storytelling is it safely takes you on a journey and it safely brings you back to where you are.”
Visitors, including Barbara Blassengale from Capitol Heights, went home learning something new about the art of storytelling.
“I learned stories do not have to be something that is made up and it can be national and international,” Blassengale said.
Abdul-Malik wanted her visitors to take away three messages from her performance on Friday morning.
“One, tell our stories,” she said. “Two, celebrate us. Three is the strength and the courage of our people and that we’re still in a time where we need to show resistance.”