www.agentofchaos.com presents guest artist, poet, musician, storyteller Hashim El-Ra-Mun

Life is A Poem, Accompanied by Music
by Kimyetta Finley - Cleveland Life Magazine, 1997

Cedar Road artist uses words and music to educate about African oral traditions

Sometimes the simple message is difficult to grasp in our demanding, ever changing world: Celebrate life.

"Celebrate life. Celebrate these times of old and new," the poet chants as he plays the African xylophone. Beneath the xylophone are large gourds that amplify the steady beat that builds in intensity. Wearing a black Bob Marley T-shirt and a knitted hat colored like the Jamaican flag, he becomes the rhythm and sways to the sounds.

"They used to call me 'preacher' in high school," Hashim El-Ra-Mun, 43, says to the about 30 senior citizens at the Ernest Bohn Golden Age Center in Cleveland. From the way he smiles at his audience, and the excitement in his voice, it's easy to see how he picked up that nickname.

El-Ra-Mun, a poet, musician and clay artist, loves discussing the African oral history, customs and practices he remembers while growing up on East 84th Street and Quincy Avenue. During the 40-minute performance, he encourages the seniors to share their histories with each other.

"Our homes have to once again become the center of education, along with the barber shops and the beauty shops," he tells the group. Families don't get together and pass down their histories anymore, El-Ra-Mun says, and "we have to get back to that so the younger people will know their traditions."

Everyone agrees by nodding their heads.

The artistic seeds of poetry, sculpture and drawing were planted within him when he was a young boy observing his father: "I can remember when I was young, and he made an airplane out if wood. He and his friends would draw black cowboys, and I got inspired by that."

Beatrice Crankfield, 69, is moved by the musical poetry performance. "When he leaves here, if he didn't leave us with something, something is wrong with us. I just want to say thank you and I really appreciated it," she tells El-Ra-Mun and the crowd.

"I love education," Crankfield says before lunch is served. "We're about to eat food for the physical, but he fed us mental food."

Besides being a storyteller, El-Ra-Mun is a visual artist. He created a 16-piece collection of clay Egyptian sculptures that he sometimes brings to these performances. He began creating the figures and pyramids when he was an art student at the Cuyahoga Community College from 1987-1991. He used small, delicate tools similar to dentists' equipment to shape the eyes, noses, and words onto the individual clay works.

"some pieces would take two to three weeks, and some I would take home because I got so involved," he said. One of the items, Tutankhamen's Sarcophagus (King Tut's tomb), is his favorite.

Admittedly, his art work won't make him rich. "It's not very profitable, but it's very gratifying. Money is important, but I'd rather do something I'm committed to. I'm doing something I love to do, and the money will come later, if ever."

His art has been exhibited at Cleveland State University, in the Veteran's Administration Hospital's African American History Month Exhibit, and at the Cleveland Clinic's Employee Art Exhibit. El-Ra-Mun also taught art painting and drawing to children at Karamu House.

for art, music or slide presentations,
contact Hashim El-Ra-Mun at
Hashim1954 at-sign yahoo dot com
call (216) 391-2117.

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