In 1880 Joel Chandler Harris, an American folklorist, published Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings; The Folklore of the Old Plantation. The stories, featuring Brer Rabbit and other creatures, had their roots in oral Afro-Caribbean folktales that had been retold and embellished by slaves in southern USA. Flowers, who grew up listening to these stories, wanted to reclaim them as important roots of African-American literature and culture. However, he has not only reclaimed them; he presents his unique versions, along with new stories featuring female characters who sometimes outwit Brer Rabbit, the eponymous arch trickster.
Trickster tales, usually featuring anthropomorphised animals, can be subversive – with moral lessons about using cunning and guile to escape from oppression – or they can be told purely for pleasure, and such stories can be found across many cultural traditions. In this beautifully presented set, Flowers says he has revised them as ‘wisdom tales’. The artwork for the book features Chitara’s gorgeous Indian textile art. This limited hardcover edition, which comes with an audio CD featuring Flowers’s spoken voice and griot storytelling, is a piece of art in its own right. It is a stunningly beautiful, genre-defying, seamless fusion of Indian artwork, Western written and African storytelling traditions, accompanied by a blending of blues and Indian musical elements. Get a copy if you can: perfect for reading aloud, it will be a wonderful addition to any library. Listen to the CD. Watch the short animated film which provides a glimpse into the process: www.tarabooks.com/brer-rabbit-film