Folk literature, African -- History and criticism.
Using two books from the 1960s as a point of reference, this paper addresses the literary quality of African oral literature. Both books surprisingly underscore orature's objectives such as propriety as well as quotability, which are discussed together with orature's quality of finalization. The paper finally answers the question in its title, and points to a possible resolution of the comparative dilemma entailed in the varying notions of literature embraced by different cultures and eras.
Yoruba (African people) -- Music -- History and criticism.
Folk literature, Yoruba -- History and criticism.
This paper explores the significance of the autobiographical element in hunters' chants among the Yoruba. Since hunters primarily occupy the subject position in these chants, they use them to construct and praise themselves and their communities and to contest their representation by others as well as to teach communal history. The paper examines the art of composition and recitation in the chants, showing how subjects are formed, developed, and contested to promote heteroglossia as different discourses and counterdiscourses are developed. Finally, the paper argues that the chants are crucial in reconstructing historical and literary aspects of precolonial Africa.
The first possible variant of the urban legend The Vanishing Hitchhiker occurs in Acts 8: 26–40 with the conversion of an "Ethiopian" by the hitchhiking apostle Philip. More recent variants in the Gambia and Somalia exhibit a different plot, but retain the vanishing hitchhiker motif. A female hitchhiker spends time with a man, who is later unable to locate her, but who finds his coat on her grave. The found-coat variant is part of a widespread cycle of vanishing hitchhiker legends. Could the story have originated in Africa? This article deals with this issue and with widespread occurrences of this legend.
It is not surprising that the legend of the Vanishing Hitchhiker is found in Africa. It is one of the most persistent and widespread urban legends in the world today, as will become obvious in the bibliography that follows. This work was completed with the assistance of a modest grant from the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University and the determined assistance of John Galuska. It contains every reference we could find dealing with this topic.
Opacity is an intrinsic characteristic of Otjiherero praise poetry: it simultaneously enables and complicates reception. This essay analyzes a piece of Herereo praise poetry (omutandu) that was created for the burial of the victims of the so-called "Windhoek Shooting" in 1959 and preserved until today by means of oral transmission. It explores the poetic response of the Herero community to the forced removal of Africans from the vicinity of Windhoek, their articulation of resistance against the aims of apartheid, and the expression of grief and dismay about the killing of several people at the escalation of violence in 1959. At that time, the performers expressed, in coded diction, their collective will not to move to the newly built township, Katutura. Today the poem projects a version of history that contradicts the reading of colonial history contained in the archival.
South Africa. Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Women, Black -- South Africa -- Social conditions.
Oral tradition -- South Africa.
On 28 and 29 July 1997, a special committee of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard the testimonies of women who had been abused and brutalized during the years of apartheid rule by white South Africans. Seizing this unique opportunity to liberate their minds and voices, long suppressed by a heartless patriarchal system, the women told their tales within the traditional frame of oral performances. But the lack of a truly gender-sensitive format forced their testimonies into evasive strategies born partly of an ingrained resentment of male domination and partly of codes of secrecy under which blacks waged a long military struggle against the system.
Laudatory poetry, Bambara -- History and criticism.
This paper examines traditional and innovating elements in a praise performance organized by a hereditary bard in 2002 for a twenty-year-old from a prominent family in Segu (Mali). It shows the importance of a detailed knowledge of the youth's network of social relationships for understanding the oral text. Special attention is given to the circumstances that led to the composition of a praise song for so young a person (a most unusual event), to its implicit and explicit views on familial and other interpersonal relationships, and to the articulation of images and references drawn from the older oral literature, including the Segu epic, with ones grounded in twentieth-century social experience.
This essay examines Maryse Condé's novel The Last of the African Kings in relation to the African griot tradition. The essay approaches the novel from an oral-arts aesthetic perspective, examining the ways Condé deploys the voice of the African griot, a traditional raconteur and chronicler of history, in the exploration of African diaspora sensibility. Although the narrative scheme of the novel seems to convey the author's keen familiarity with the sense of authority and significance with which the oral artist performs epic or other narratives, the essay argues that in the "brave New World" of African diasporic narration, a postmodernist, decentered narration replaces the unified and conservative voice of the traditional griot.
This essay explores the creative ability of an African writer to preserve different forms of oral literature in his video films. The paper argues that on several occasions, these folkloric materials also become instruments for raising social consciousness in the artist's audience. The films discussed are part of a growing body of African popular culture whose purpose is the discovery and pursuit of a new direction in the economy, politics, culture, and social life of contemporary Africa.
Private radio stations have multiplied in Mali during recent years. Radio Parana is a rural station that broadcasts in a minority language spoken in the areas of San and Tominian, in the southeast of the country. In their desire to validate the cultural patrimony of this region, the station owners have from the very beginning included in their line-up a program on stories. That broadcast is undeniably successful among its listeners, as are the cassettes (31 as of now) that they have produced. This article focuses on the impact of a media practice such as this upon oral literature and also upon the storytellers who have been invited by the radio
Based on an account of a meeting between a young Western researcher and a Zarma jasare (a griot of history and genealogy) of Niger, this article explores the problems connected with the collection, preservation, and diffusion of oral literature. This is, obviously, a peculiar case, but it is illustrative enough to be invoked. Indeed, with the evolution of Zarma society, the training of the jasare has gradually declined so that today there is barely one left who knows the story of the ancestors: Jibo Baje, alias "Jeliba." Aware that he is the last depository of the oral literature of the jasare and that none of his sons would replace him, he has entrusted the author with the mission of preserving and passing on his repertory to other cultures.
African nations are undergoing change at a tremendous pace. Not only are their citizens losing a grip on their traditions, but the governments themselves find their political will severely tested by the challenges of change in which they are embroiled. The aim of this paper is to propose steps that would help researchers in Africa preserve one of their most cherished treasures—the oral literature—with modern technological tools that would not only protect the orality of the tradition but also ensure that it reaches as wide an audience as possible both inside and outside their countries.
Publishing can help us to preserve the results of an oral performance; but in the end the reader is limited to the same linear arrangement of the information that we get from the oral performance. Computer technology can do better than that, because it can help us create a set-up which helps us not only to read the text of a narrative performance but, with the aid of a web of related ideas that define the world behind the tale, enable us to rearrange the sequence of the tale in a way preferable to us. That set-up is the hypertext or the hypermedia. Through it, we enter into a dialogue with the tale in an even more direct way than the live audience of its performance.
The postmodern sensibility encourages doing away with particularizing traits and practices that impede the final emergence of a global community and culture. This reality and its imperatives inevitably come to mind when one works on traditional texts like Yoruba proverbs. The mechanical means at our disposal for recording and preserving such texts effectively release them from their traditional ties to specific cultural, social, and geographical contexts, so the texts lose the properties that scholars have traditionally relied upon to determine provenance, targeted audiences, routes of diffusion, and the like.