Tag: Brer Rabbit

The Atlanta Opera's Rabbit Tales — Save the Date

Rabbit Tales will premier at the Wren’s Nest on October 29th. It’s the Atlanta Opera’s first ever commissioned work and it just so happens to be steeped in the Brer Rabbit stories.

They’ve sent along a save the date worthy of this prestigious occasion —

Save the Date for the Atlanta Opera's Rabbit Tales

I’d like to extend a tremendous thanks to the National Black Arts Festival for lending their expertise and African arts and crafts for the premier.

Can’t make the big day? Just bring Rabbit Tales to your school instead. Easy!

One of Eatonton's Brer Rabbit Statues Has Been Stolen

Brer Rabbit has been stolen from Eatonton. What’s left of the Brer Rabbit statue in front of the Uncle Remus Museum is at once a total bummer, a little funny, and an apt metaphor. Here’s a photo courtesy of Stanley

Brer Rabbit Statue Stolen in Eatonton Georgia in front of Uncle Remus Museum

The Macon Telegraph has had some fun with the story, which is what I imagine Joel Chandler Harris would have done when he worked there in the 1860s.

The caper has, as the author might’ve put it, caused “a considerbul flutter.”

“You can add some humor to it, but it’s a serious theft,” Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said Wednesday. “People are calling. They’re upset about it.”

Thieves — no doubt sly Mr. Foxes — with a crowbar pried the statue a’loose Sunday night and, lippity-clippity, made off with a town treasure.

For now at least, the villains, well, they lay low.

“The briar patch is hard to find Br’er Rabbit in as you well know,” the sheriff joked. “We picked up Br’er Fox … (but he had) an iron-clad alibi. … We got Tar-Baby, but he won’t say nothing.”

Got any tips on Brer Rabbit’s whereabouts? Please give the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office a call at 706-485-8557.

In the meantime all we can do is remember Brer Rabbit as he once was — take a gander what the statue used to look like.

President Obama, Doug Lamborn, and Dealing with the Wonderful Tar-Baby Story

This week Brer Rabbit seemed to take President Barack Obama by storm.

First, Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) likened the president to a “tar baby.” Then, Pat Buchanan said “don’t throw me in that briar patch” shortly before referring to the President as “boy.”

The terms stem from “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” and “How Mr. Rabbit Was Too Sharp For Mr. Fox” recorded by Joel Chandler Harris. In case you’re rusty, here are both stories told together (as they usually are) by Akbar Imhotep:

[vimeo 10765411 450 253]

The phrase Akbar uses in the story and the phrase we heard from Rep. Lanborn are different.

The tar baby of Akbar’s story didn’t carry a derogatory connotation when it was told over the course of generations between enslaved Africans. Nor did it carry that connotation when Harris first heard the story while working on a plantation, nor when he wrote the story down at the Atlanta Constitution.

“Tar baby,” however, has evolved into a derogatory term when used in an insulting way. In fact, its connotation reaches so far and so far afield of its original definition that it’s difficult to say in conversation without whispering.

Just so we’re clear — I think Rep. Lamborn’s comment was offensive and intended to be offensive. Enough politicians have used the term (Mitt Romney & John McCain, for instance) that Lamborn knew the whirlwind of criticism and publicity he was entering. It’s shameless to insult President Obama through racist epithets and unfortunate to further hold America’s greatest folklore hostage with political rhetoric. (I’m less sure about Buchanan’s bumbling.)

Most media outlets that I know about have covered either the “tar baby” story or the “briar patch” one. Miss Nannie saw the story on The View, and then 50 Cent let loose on his twitter account.

While I’m thrilled that Brer Rabbit is getting a lot of attention, I’ve gotta say it’s near impossible to combat so much negative misinformation. If you run into 50 Cent, politely refresh his memory on Brer Rabbit.

You can imagine the “tar baby” is a bizarre problem to have for a small house museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris and the heritage of African American folklore Everyone knows it’s bad, but few are clear on its origins.

We’ve come up with two strategies at the Wren’s Nest to set the record straight about this particular Brer Rabbit story and the 190 Brer Rabbit folk tales that Harris collected —

(1) Tell our entire story. Be it through storytelling performances or research like Everything You’ve Heard About Uncle Remus Is Wrong, we won’t shy away from the controversy or the awesomeness of Brer Rabbit

(2) Change the story that’s being told by bringing the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris to the 21st century. This means instituting the KIPP Scribes Program, which pairs professional writers with the 5th graders to record an important family story. It also means collaborating with the Atlanta Opera to develop their first ever commissioned work and uplift African American folklore in new ways. Or partnering with StoryCorps to record the stories of our neighbors.

Other, less publicized strategies include “drinking beers at key moments,” “sighing quite a bit,” and remembering that sometimes controversy can be a good thing.

Otherwise, I can only describe this particular situation as “a difficult problem that is only aggravated by attempts to solve it.”

What else can we do? What else should we do? What would you do?

International Museum Day — 90.1 WABE's City Cafe Interviews Lain Shakespeare

John Lemley, the famed voice of WABE’s City Cafe, stopped by the Wren’s Nest the other day to talk about memory in museums.

Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit Carved out of Wood

Because, as we surely all know by now, “memory” is the theme of this year’s International Museum Day. City Cafe is doing it up right — all this week they’ll interview plenty of other folks about memory in Atlanta’s museums.

John and I talked about my favorite artifact in the Wren’s Nest, pictured above and below. Brer Fox escorts Brer Rabbit to jail for stealing vegetables, and Brer Rabbit drops the evidence along the way. It’s an intricate Bavarian wood carving from the early 1880s. Plus, their heads pop off to better use as a humidor for tobacco.

The piece illustrates just how revolutionary these African American folktales really were. It was the first time animals walked, talked, dressed, and sassed like humans in American literature. Uncle Remus was like Aesop 2.0.

These stories were also the first serialized narrative in children’s fiction, where the animals exist in a kind of alternate universe. There’s no beginning, middle or end to the story. Brer Rabbit was like jumping from Turner and Hooch to The Wire overnight. It’s no wonder Harris had received this gift from Bavaria about 18 months after Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings debuted.

I’ll spare you more. That’s where City Cafe’s “A Visit to the Wren’s Nest” comes in.

Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox Headless

The Atlanta Opera's First Ever Commissioned Work — Rabbit Tales, A Brer Rabbit Children's Opera

Today the Atlanta Opera announced its very first commissioned work—a children’s opera called Rabbit Tales. And wouldn’t you know, it’s based on the Uncle Remus stories.

The first ever commission by the Atlanta Opera
We’re stoked.

Amber and I have worked with with the Atlanta Opera staff over the past few months to develop the vision for the production.

Librettist and playwright Madeleine St. Romain will weave stories from Native American, African, and Cajun folklore. The score, written by composer Nicole Chamberlain, will reflect those traditions.

The premier of the show will kick off National Opera Week right here at the Wren’s Nest on October 29th.

Rabbit Tales will tour elementary schools throughout Georgia in October and November of 2011 and also in February and March of 2012. Schools will have the option of including a storytelling performance from one of the Wren’s Nest Ramblers to complement the four-person opera.

Want Rabbit Tales at your school? Contact opera genius and good person Emmalee Iden — 404-881-8883 or eiden@atlantaopera.org.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 6

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Sign up below to receive newsletters and updates about events and activities from The Wren's Nest. 

Donate Today!