Introducing the Concept Renaissance Griot

A “renaissance griot” sings the song of people whose work is reawakening old truths and practices and joining the results with the most edge of history visions of the day.

Drawn from ancient griots of Mother Africa.

Griot

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A griot (English pronunciation: /ˈɡri.oʊ/, French pronunciation: [ɡʁi.o], with a silent t) or jeli (djeli or djéli in French spelling) is a West African poet, praise singer, and wandering musician, considered a repository of oral tradition. As such, they are sometimes also called bards. According to Paul Oliver in his book Savannah Syncopators, “Though [the griot] has to know many traditional songs without error, he must also have the ability to extemporize on current events, chance incidents and the passing scene. His wit can be devastating and his knowledge of local history formidable.” Although they are popularly known as ‘praise singers’, griots may also use their vocal expertise for gossip, satire, or political comment.

Griots today live in many parts of West Africa, including Mali, the Gambia, Guinea, Western Sahara and Senegal, and are present among the Mande peoples (Mandinka, Malinké, Bambara, etc.), Fulɓe (Fula), Hausa, Songhai, Tukulóor, Wolof, Serer, Mossi, Dagomba, Mauritanian Arabs and many other smaller groups. The word may derive from the French transliteration “guiriot” of the Portuguese word “criado,” which in turn means “servant.”

In African languages, griots are referred to by a number of names: jeli in northern Mande areas, jali in southern Mande areas, guewel in Wolof, gawlo in Pulaar (Fula), and igiiw (or igawen) in Hassaniyya Arabic. Griots form an endogamous caste, meaning that most of them only marry fellow griots and that those who are not griots do not normally perform the same functions that they perform.
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Further reading on Permaculture Principles can be found at www.permacultureprinciples.com

Interview With Permaculturalist Robert Frost re Transformation of Suburban Acre in Johnson Creek Wisconsin

Godsil. I was very inspired by your presentation of your Johnson Creek backyard suburban farming project at the Bioneer Conference in Madison this weekend. You mentioned using “permaculture” concepts to guide your work. What are some of the key permaculture principles you applied in developing your suburban farm and what were some surprises, if any, your permaculture theory did not quite prepare you for?

Frost. Thanks Godsil! Permaculture is made up of a number of Key Principles that designers use to ethically restore systems to support our planet and our communities, and many of them are integral to the work we are doing at our home. First of all - the most important Principle that we are following is “Catch and Store Energy”. This is primarily done in our rebuilding of living soil through compost, restoring permeability for water infiltration using rain gardens and swales on contour, and planting mulch crops such as sunchokes, fodder willows, and Russian Comfrey. Other Key Principles are to Obtain a Yield (750#’s last year with a goal of 2000#), use Slow and Steady Solutions such as planting compost crops for “fertilizer” rather than using store bought, and to Produce No Waste - we recycle 8000#’s of organic material on site annually. Finally, an overriding concept in Permaculture is to turn “problems” into solutions. By tapping into waste problems in our home and community we are able to turn organic wastes into fertilizers, waste water into irrigation, and lawn to be mowed into lush, beautiful, and productive gardens with no inputs… enriching our local environment rather than degrading it.

For Permaculture Techniques we seek to grow plants in polyculture communities as much as possible. In the space typically set aside for a single fruit tree we are also able to gooseberries, chives, echinacea, indigo, daffodils, hazelnuts, currants, day lillies, New Jersey Tea, clover, and other plants. Together the plants share resources - such as the indigo, clover, and New Jersey Tea providing nitrogen; the chives and comfrey providing nutritious mulch, and of course the berries, nuts and herbs providing food. Also the plants attract numerous beneficial insects that help to keep the pest / prey ecosystem intact so that pesticides are not needed.

Things I was not prepared for? Quack Grass! What a persistent weed! I try to see the good in all things, but Quack tests me. It is very aggressive and will run up to 8′ a year under my mulched beds so far forcing me to annual intervention and more soil disturbance than I would prefer. By practicing the Principles of Interacting and Observing I am learning that thick living mulches of white dutch clover may prevent its intrusion, and over time seems to be weakening it. Quack seeks to fill niches in ecosystems, acting as Nature’s Band Aid as it heals and covers disturbed soils. As my gardens mature, the quack should fine less of a foot hold.

Godsil. How will you take care of any red wriggler worms you would come upon?

Frost. Here are some photos of my son and I re-housing the worms into the indoor vermiculture area at Prairie Dock Farm. The Pile is about 20′ long with 4′ sides. The bulk of the pile is 2/3 composted horse manure (from resident working draft horses) and is topped with 1–2″ of leaves that are readily available as the farm is a certified composting site for the City of Watertown— we took about 50 truck loads this year. The piles interior is still cooking along at 143 degrees after more than a week, but as with your’s and Will’s, the top 6″ is cool enough to support worms - we found several dozen “native” worms from the horse manure. Hope they get along with the City Worms!

Prairie Dock Farm is a ecologically restorative 20 acre farm who’s goal was to convert a grain field to a more natural state, achieving inspiring results over the past 20 years using permaculture planning and alot of elbow grease. After a decade of using the recovered land to produce local organic food, the owners Greg and Sandy David now spend most of their time on community building projects and other do-goodery-ness while other souls work the land - there are at least 4 different sustainable growing projects going on by separate people taking advantage of the rich above and below ground ecosystems the Davids have recreated- including my potato market garden, a small CSA, a large hardy fruit/nut nursery business, and a large family garden feeding 3 generations. Labor and tools are often shared and harvest bartered or given amongst the tenants and the Deep Wisdom of ecological agriculture possessed by Greg and his generous personality make him a perfect mentor. Chickens, geese, and peacocks fill ecological niches to keep insects down and manure levels up, while much of the large field work is done by 2 beauttfil Percheron draft horses.

Robert Frost’s Web Site

Here is Robert Frost’s web site: http://www.onestraw.wordpress.com

Robert on Low Tech Solar and Aquaculture

I continue to find inspiration from the pioneering work of the New Alchemists of the 1980′s and their work in solar food producing structures. Here is a brief outline of some of their work on aquaculture in greenhouses:

http://nature.my.cape.com/greencenter/pdf/solaraqua.pdf

I particularly like their use of “small batch” aquaculture - lots of 300–500 gallon tanks rather than one big one. Good use of redundancy with its inherent protection and as the fish reach “market” size there is not more than a family can handle. Could be scaled up easily.

Also their work on bio-shelters is very thought provoking. Far too much solar gain in most of their designs for my taste, but their planning around integrated systems is incredible.

http://nature.my.cape.com/greencenter/pdf/naibiosh.pdf

Last edited by Commonwealth Citizen. Based on work by Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on December 15, 2009

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