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‘Teju’ to tell tales this week

Call him Teju. Storyteller Tejumola Ologboni is one of the country’s premier African-American storytellers, sharing folk tales and songs from the countryside to the city and all the way to the continent of Africa.
As the next teller-in-residence for the International Storytelling Center’s Storytelling Live program, Teju will tell a wide range of traditional tales and personal stories.
Teju learned some of his favorite stories at the knee of his daddy, a storyteller whose influence looms large.
He was a railroad man on the Union Pacific line who was handy with stories and poems.
“There would be my father sitting there and everybody else would be sitting around quiet listening to him talk,” Teju recalls. “That was just amazing to me. I thought, ‘I want people to listen when I talk.’”
As it turned out, people were listening to Teju long before he went pro.
Before he went into storytelling, while he was still a schoolteacher, Teju was known for his students’ good attendance records. His trick was in the timing.
“All my students were on time because I’d always start a story right when the bell rang,” he says. “And in the afternoon, when they’d come back to homeroom, I’d start a story and stop it when the bell rang. I’d say it was going to start at 8:05 tomorrow morning.”
The kids were always on time.
Today, Teju still turns to storytelling as a form of teaching.
His traditional tales are like windows into other cultures.
“If you keep a story the way it was in the beginning, it tells you something about the people,” he explains. “I’ve been comparing folk tales from different cultures to see how they express different worldviews. My goal is to let people understand how they can see these worldviews in the stories. We want to make judgments on others based on how we see the world, but none of us sees things the same way.”
To keep things lively, Teju accompanies himself with a variety of instruments, including drums and harmonica. He acquired many of them during his travels abroad, where he’s had the opportunity to soak up all the different cultures he teaches people about. In Africa, he was delighted to hear his father’s style of storytelling echo through the crowds of people.
During his residency, September 4-8, Teju will offer daily matinees at 2 p.m. at the ISC.
Tickets are $12 for adults and $11 for seniors, students and children. For more information about Storytelling Live or to make a group reservation, call 913-1276 or visit