Frequently Asked Questions: What is a Jeli?

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Hello Friends!

So . . . I have been discussing my latest project, A Jeli’s Tale:  An Anthology of Kinship with the public and many of the same questions are popping up about this project during my conversations.  So, I thought it would be helpful (and fun) to place all of the questions I have collected in this blog.

Are you ready for the Q & A?  Here we go!

Q:  What is a Jeli?

A:  A Jeli (or griot) is a historian, advisor, arbitrator, praise singer, and storyteller.   In West African traditions, a Jeli is a living library of songs, stories and key artistic components of a culture whose role is to keep an oral history of the tribe or village. 

Q:  Why did you choose to adopt the role of a Jeli?

A:  A Jeli’s role is to learn a tribe’s history and to perform tribe’s linage through song.  In my artistic practice, I collect people’s stories to construct installations which allow the public to experience these stories in an intimate art environment.  So, I adopted the role of a Jeli as a metaphor for my artistic practice.

Q:  Do you sing people’s stories?

A:  No, I edit my subject’s interviews with music and soundscapes.   Then I play the narrative soundtrack in an environment constructed with memorabilia, such as family photographs.

Q:   Do you need original photographs for this project?

A:  No, I can make a digital copy of your photograph to add to the Anthology.  Your donation will be used for exhibition purposes only.

Q:  That sounds really cool, but I’m not originally from Chicago.  Can I still participate in your project?

A: Yes, you can!  I am interested in collecting stories from people who are living in Chicago.  It’s individuals like you that makes Chicago a culturally rich city.  If you currently calling Chicago you home (even if it’s temporary), then I would like to add you family stories and/or photographs to the Anthology.

Q:  Great!  How can I participate?

A:  Thanks for your support!  Please contact me through this website and we will set up an appointment for story collection.  If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me.  I welcome all kinds of inquires.  :)

Stay tuned for posts about family story contributions donated to the Anthology!

An Anthology of Kinship: A cuisine tasting and story sharing event featuring Samantha Hill & J. Frank Santana


Hello Friends!

When Laura Shaeffer (Co-founder & director of SHoP) invited me to participate in the Towards a Union of Public Artist exhibition, she also asked me to create a social event related to my work.  I thought about it . . . and I really wanted to create a story sharing event at SHoP.  I was discussing this idea with Kinship Project story contributor J. Frank Santana and he wanted to participate in this event.

J.Frank said to me, “I was discussing with my mother the other day about comfort dishes that warm you up when the weather changes . . . It would be great to create a tasting of favorite family dishes!”

J. Frank started to describe a few wonderful dishes for the event and everything sounded so delicious!  So I said, “Lets do it!”

Please join chef J. Frank Santana and myself in an evening of story sharing and food tasting.   This event an opportunity for people to connect and share their favorite family stories in a friendly cultural community center.   Stories are the common thread which holds us together.  So, come, listen and if you feel inspired, share a story of your own!

Event Date:  November 4th, 2012 – 3pm to 5:30pm

Event Price: $7 online tickets, $10 at the door.

To purchase tickets to the event, go to

I hope to see you there!