restricted access The Wolof Epic: From Spoken Word to Written Text
Abstract

The main issue in this paper concerns the transition from oral to written. It illustrates with two Senegalese epics where the author was involved in the collection phase and in the production of written English and French versions. The first epic is "The Epic of Ndiadiane Ndiaye" performed by the griot Cheikh Niang. The second is "The Epic of El Hadj Umar Taal of Fuuta" whose author is a smith named Birahim Thiam. Both epics are replete with historical, religious, linguistic, and cultural references, in addition to constituting important identity markers and memory preservation items for the constituencies and audience of the two performers. Three languages are involved in the production of the epics, each playing a specific role: Wolof, Arabic, and French. The first is the language of performance and is the culture carrier; Arabic is the language of the Islamic faith; and French is the medium of modernity. The paper discusses the translation process from word to print that poses a number of challenges, and the editing process, which is also an important step toward the production of the final text. The transmission process of the two epics stretches from earlier griots through the two performers discussed in this article to the English and French texts that the author has been involved in producing.


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