From beloved bedtime stories to familiar folktales told around the fire, the sharing of stories forms some of our first memories. But for author Tololwa Mollel, it might as well be in his blood.
For generations, members of Tololwa’s family have passed on important narratives about the people, culture, and language of their homeland of Tanzania. Inspired by the storytelling traditions of his ancestors, Tololwa changed his name to honour his great-great grandfather and followed in his footsteps. Now, with over 15 children’s books and a Governor General’s Award under his belt, Tololwa’s skills as a storyteller are simply undeniable.
Although he works in a broad variety of genres, there’s only one thing that really matters to Tololwa: a good story. “If a story moves me enough to work on it, then I figure it may also move someone else. I want to pass that feeling on to whoever is listening to the story. That’s the way I see my purpose,” he says. This profound passion for a good story is often accompanied by African folklore or personal experiences based on Tololwa’s childhood in Tanzania. Although he has shifted primarily into storytelling and playwriting in recent years, Tololwa still loves writing stories for young people, especially when he feels like he can share his unique life experience.
His most recent children’s book, Grazing Back Home, is a multimedia project that was completed in collaboration with Namibian-Canadian musician Garth Prince and Edmonton artist Jason Blower. “[Garth] came up with the idea while working on a new album and reached out to me to come up with a story.” Following Pevu and his rabbit, Grazing Back Home is a captivating story of vulnerability, empowerment, and education. Tololwa’s words work in perfect harmony with Garth’s music and Jason’s illustrations to create a completely unique reading experience. Plus, the audiobook is narrated by Tololwa’s wife Obianuju Mollel!
Serving as the Regional Writer in Residence in the Metro Edmonton area was a logical step in Tololwa’s journey as a storyteller. By splitting his time between the Strathcona County, Fort Saskatchewan, and St. Albert libraries, Tololwa has been honoured to connect with community members and budding writers by hosting panels, conversations, and workshops. He shares that people often bring their real lives and experiences to these workshops, even sometimes looking to feature a grandchild or family member in these budding stories. Since converting profound life experiences into stunning stories runs through all of Tololwa’s work, he’s always up for the task. I’ve quite enjoyed helping people find their purpose and try to get their writing in line with that purpose.”
What’s next for Tololwa? Well, definitely more opportunities to bring vibrant African stories to Edmonton audiences. He is currently working on a trilogy of plays based on “Anthem of the Decades” by Mazisi Kunene, an epic poem that contains over 12,000 lines about the story of the Zulu people. The first installment in this series will debut early next year. On top of this exciting project, Tololwa will continue his life-long journey of sharing stories and inspiring minds. “For me, it’s about passing on a story that will give people food for thought, and food for the heart as well.”
Stay tuned for more events hosted by Tololwa as he completes his term as the regional Writer in Residence for Edmonton Metro Libraries. You can also contact Tololwa for writing advice and expertise at email@example.com