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Thursday, April 8, 2004 10:01 pm

From the land of the Gullah

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You may only be "haa'dly'kin" (barely able) to understand Anita Singleton-Prather and the Gullah Kinfolk, but you won't want to "tek'e foot een 'e han" (to run, or to leave quickly) once you hear them. We won't leave you "dry 'long so" (without a reason or explanation), so here is the scoop on all this funny talk.

Gullah is a Creole-based language created by generations of African-American slaves living in the South Carolina Sea Islands. It is generally considered to have solidified into a usable language in the 18th century. Using mostly English words with a lilt and a twist, combined with idiomatic, descriptive phrases, Gullah is a colorful but little-used language particular to that tiny spot on the globe.

Singleton-Prather, a native of the Sea Islands of Beaufort, S.C., best known for her PBS television character Aunt Pearlie-Sue, is the most vocal and obvious practitioner of her island tongue. Through her recorded stories and live performances, the storyteller, actress, singer, and writer almost single-handedly brought the Gullah culture to the world. The Gullah Kinfolk, a group of Sea Island natives (several are related to Singleton-Prather), join her in performances, singing and clapping hands much as slaves learned to do after plantation owners banned talking and the use of drums.

The show is another product of Midwest World Fest, a cultural exchange developed by Arts Midwest to bring arts and culture to areas of America not often reached by outside influences. The Springfield Area Arts Council, in conjunction with the Governor's International Arts Exchange Program of the Illinois Arts Council hosts the local performances and workshops, the only stops in Illinois by the Gullah group. So leave your "two-time-one-gun" (a double barreled gun) at home, bring along your "lawfully lady" (lawfully wedded wife), go get "tas'e 'e mout' " (something appetizing to eat), then head on out to see this moving experience.

Anita Singleton-Prather and the Gullah Kinfolk will perform a one-hour free public presentation at 7 p.m. Monday, April 12, at Abundant Faith Christian Center, 2525 Talyor Ave. On Friday, April 16 the group will cap off a week of school workshops with a full length Community Concert at PORTA High School Auditorium, Sheridan Road, Petersburg. Tickets are $5/family. For more information, contact the Springfield Area Arts Council at 753-3519.

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