The Tana River Story Guild, Northeast Kenya (Summer 2011)

Somali Muslims and Bantu Christians worked together to explore and tell the shared story of Abraham’s second wife, Hagar, and their son Ishmael, who were spared by a miraculous spring in the desert.

Muslim cultural advisors from the Somali community together with members of a local Christian church in Garissa, Kenya worked with Sacred Canopy staff to tell the story of Ishmael and his mother Hagar and their survival in the desert where God/Allah provided fresh water for them from a miraculous spring.  Both Christians and Muslims include this story (with slight variation) in their scriptural traditions.

Somali children identify the wild animals of the desert around them, then paint images of these creatures on large pieces of cardboard.

This Somali boy designed and painted a hyena.  This animal will circle around Ishmael in the production as he lies dying of thirst in the desert.

Some of the Christian children from Mororo who are to be part of the storytelling

Here the children demonstrate their skill on a skin-covered hand held drum.

Sacred Canopy music director, Curtis Mathewson, teaches a Somali dance he was taught by cultural advisers to a group of Bantu children.

The first of three stages being moved into place  for the storytelling under the hot desert sun.

Tama Ward, meets with Nur, one of our important Somali Muslim cultural advisors for the production.

Osman, a camel herder brought in from the “badia” (bush), recites traditional  poetry and song as part of our exploration of the Somali cultural landscape.

Two of the children who comprised the cast of the production.

Children proudly displaying the snake they have designed and constructed as one of the fearful desert animals that will plague Hagar and Ismael in their walk through the wilderness.

Tama advises on an acting moment where young Ismael is lying close to death from thirst in the desert.

Tama assists with the construction of a traditional “uckle”, a nomadic house made of acacia roots and grass mats, as part of the set design for the production.

Tama and Curtis are welcomed into the home of a local Somali elder for a feast of camel meat which has been provided to celebrate the anniversary of a local clinic.

Tama participates in traditional Somali song and dancing which is performed at the anniversary event of a local clinic.

The story of Hagar is narrated by Isaac and Ismael, the two sons of Abraham, separated in childhood, now reunited at the time of their father’s funeral.

Reams of cloth in varying hues of brown and gold provide the backdrop and maze through which Abraham and Hagar make their epic desert journey.

Abraham stops to give his infant son, Ismael, a drink as both mother and child weary of the long walk and seek a place to lay down and rest.

Abraham offers up a prayer recited from a verse in the Koran, that his wife and child will be kept safe and entrusting their future into the hands of God/Allah.

Ismael is close to death  when a miraculous spring of water surges up in the desert.

The cast and crew of the Tana River Story Guild at a celebratory party at the end of our first season.