Education: University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, BA, literature and theater, 1972; University of Alberta, Canada, MA, drama, 1979, PhD, drama, 2001-.
Memberships: Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers; Society of Children's Book Writers; Writers Guild of Alberta; Alberta Legion of Encouraging Storytelling.

Career

University lecturer, director of children's theater and actor in Tanzania, 1979-86; writer, storyteller and lecturer in Canada, 1986-; Edmonton Public Library, writer-in-residence, 2000-.

Life's Work

In many modern cultures, the practice of handing down history through the oral and pictorial traditions of storytelling is giving way to the flashy special effects of Hollywood movies, the lessons learned in television sitcoms, or the unsubstantiated truths that can be downloaded from the Internet. Numerous old folk and native stories have been lost as popular culture has failed to integrate them into modern entertainment. However, several artists and authors have taken it upon themselves to preserve these stories and rejuvenate them for contemporary young audiences, including children's storybook author Tololwa Mollel. Since 1992 Mollel has been reinventing African tribal tales and creating original stories that he hopes will teach children about varying cultural backgrounds as well as focusing thematically on traditional morals and values. As Mollel said in an on-line Kids Care Club interview, "I think folklore plays a role in providing children as they grow a basic literary vocabulary and means with which to perceive the world and human behavior. It also provides them entertainment and a means of socializing them into the mores and values of the community."

Even though Mollel now makes his home in Canada, he was born in the Arusha region of Tanzania on June 25, 1952, to Loilangisho and Saraa (Eleiser) Mollel. Early in his life, Mollel was sent to live with his grandparents who tended a coffee farm in northern Tanzania. It was here that he was introduced to two very important influences, storytelling and religion. His grandparents made sure that Mollel and the other children living with them had access and constant exposure to biblical stories in order to foster a love of literature and Christian values. They also very heavily valued education and reading. In an article on Mollel on the University of Alberta website, it stated that Mollel would run home from school, "to share the thing he had read at school. Mollel's grandfather would listen intently, probing for details." Mollel says that it was these first conversations with his grandfather that sparked within him a "love of storytelling that has never left."

First Book Retold Maasai Venus Story

Mollel attended the University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania to pursue a bachelor's degree in literature in theater. He accomplished this goal in 1972 and proceeded to further his education by attending the University of Alberta in Canada. Mollel decided to focus on his talents in the fields of theater and performance, and received his masters degree in drama in 1979. Afterward he returned to Tanzania and was employed as a university lecturer in the field of drama. He was also a director and actor at a children's theater. As Mollel continued to work and produce plays, he lived meagerly and saved his earnings in the hopes of returning to Canada. It would take him seven years, but finally in 1986, Mollel returned to Canada, this time not as a student but as an emigrant. He continued to lecture in Edmonton, Canada to make ends meet, but fostered his love of storytelling that he had been able to express while working in the Tanzanian children's theater. In the late 1980s, he turned to writing as an outlet, and wrote a few short stories for children that were published by various magazines.

Then, in 1991, Mollel published his first major children's book, The Orphan Boy. The Orphan Boy embodies an old folktale about the planet