The young African king, his queen and their retinue watched anxiously as the tribal storyteller began his tale. It would commemorate the sixth day of Kwanza, the traditional African festival that means "first fruits" and is celebrated by many blacks in Americas and alternative to Christmas.
The sixth day of the seven-day festival is called Kuumba, meaning "creativity," and it was with that in mind that the story of the turtle and the eagle unfolded before the crowd that had gathered at the Museum of African Art in Washington yesterday.
The teller began with notice of an upcoming funeral, which, in ancient Africa, was a very big social event. The person in the community who had attended more funerals than anyone else was always regarded with utmost respect, and in this case, it was Mr. Turtle.
Now, Mr. Turtle's problem for this sixth day of Kwanza was that his dear friend, Mr. Eagle had died, and Mr. Eagle's relatives had decided that the funeral would be held in a tree, not considering that Mr. Turtle could not climb trees.
"No problem," said Mr. Turtle, after the Eagles and Hawks had realized what had happened. "Just come by here tomorrow and pick up this package I'm going to leave for you."
The next day, the birds flew in, picked up the package and flew up to the treetop funeral parlor where Mr. Eagle rested in state. "Poor Mr. Turtle," the birds said, before looking around to notice that Mr. Turtle was sitting there among them.
Well, needless to say, everyone was surprised. How did Mr. Turtle do it?
Using considerable "Kuumba," Mr. Turtle has simply climbed into his own package and was flown to the top of the tree. Creative enough, eh?
The Royal Family applauded. They included the King, ElliotKassoff, 8 who volunteered for the part, along with Queen Jenny Christie, 8, and royal staff Tonya Claude, 8, Chris Brunner, 5, and Calvin Jones, 7.
And so went the sixth day, a reconstruction of the scene of an accident African village where dancing, singing and storytelling marked the festivities.
For the past 10 years, Kwanza has been revived in America in a similar fashion as a number of people, albeit not a large number, have attempted to change the mood of Christmas that to them has become over commercial.
The seventh-day celebrations will be held at 3 p.m. at the Museum of African Art, 318 A St. NE.