Storytelling is essentially a communal practice transferring, across generations, cultural notions, norms, and values. However, in the study of storytelling practices in African societies, the empirical focus and analytical emphasis have been on adults and elders, in particular men, neglecting the roles of women and children. Adults and elders have been seen as producers and transmitters of cultural knowledge, whereas children have been seen chiefly as knowledge receivers. Based on ethnographic field research, this article analyzes the roles of children in storytelling events among the Oromo-speaking Guji people of Southern Ethiopia. Far from being passive knowledge receivers, the Guji children are attentive listeners and engaged narrators. They express their sentiments and opinions in gestures and words, pose questions to clarify points, make meta-communicative comments on the proper ways of narrating stories, and pass judgments on the moral messages. This article argues for a more child-centered perspective in the study of oral traditions in African societies, which recognizes their agency in the intergenerational transfer and change of storytelling traditions as well as of the cultural notions, values, and norms transpiring through them.


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pp. 135-149
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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