Who Are the Hittites?
The group's ceremonies began tackling issues such as AIDS, rape, and the Rodney King beating and cultural icons such as the Jackson Five -- in short, topics of meaning to the African-American community. In commenting on such topics, the Hittites saw themselves as fulfilling a purpose as community shamans and modern day griots, descendants of storytellers from ancient Africa. "I am a myth-maker," says Mason.
The Hittites' "performance rituals," combining raw, edgy commentary with haunting imagery, touched something deep in audiences of all cultures. In the past nine years, the group has performed over 200 multimedia events around the world, from Lincoln Center's Serious Fun Festival to the street corners of South Central L.A., with stops along the way at the Mark Taper Forum and the Solo Mio Festival in San Francisco. In their travels, the company has also made it a point to work with young black men ages 16 to 25 in other communities. These efforts have spawned groups that incorporate the Hittites' performance and activist methods in cities from Pittsburgh to Atlanta. -- M.G.