The Importance of Oral Traditions in African History. One way that they passed down traditions from generation to generation was folktales. In mythic imagery is the embodiment of significant emotions—the hopes, fears, dreams, and nightmares—of a people. In most ancient societies including those of Africa, legacies, culture and traditions were passed from one generation to other by this … A griot is a learned storyteller, entertainer and historian. The hero is everyman, moving through a change, a transformation, and so moving into the myth, the essence, of his history. Oral traditions include medical practices. Ancient Egyptian scribes, early Hausa and Swahili copyists and memorizers, and contemporary writers of popular novellas have been the obvious and crucial transitional figures in the movement from oral to literary traditions. But the linkage is also a crucial characteristic of more-serious and more-complex fiction. The storyteller speaks, time collapses, and the members of the audience are in the presence of history. Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication wherein knowledge, art, ideas and cultural material is received, preserved, and transmitted orally from one generation to another. Unfortunately, however, we are losing members of these past generations far too quickly. The recollections of ordinary African women and men are often the best, and often the only, historical sources for much of twentieth-century African history. -Describe the geographic regions of Africa: -Sahara : Largest and hottest desert in the world; receives very little rain. In the San, Black and Afrikaans traditions, people knew how to treat certain illnesses or wounds from what their elders told them. Over the centuries, African culture has meshed with cultures from around the world, although much of traditional African customs have remained … The people with viable memories of the transfer of power in the 1960s are now, at minimum, over sixty and surviving members of the founding generation of African nationalists are far older.  This allowed liberal democracies like France and Britain who sponsored the imperialists to legitimize their conquests by portraying Africans as simple tribesmen in need of a guiding hand to achieve “modernity.” Â. oral transmission is full of exaggeration, creativity and sometimes the informant may talk of good things only. They have also used linguistics and archaeology to create a more accurate written history of the … It is also a mode of transmitting feelings, and attitudes. It is the driving force of a people, that emotional force that defines a people; it is the everlasting form of a culture, hence its link to the gods, to the heavens, to the forever. This relationship, which is a harbinger of change, occurs against a historical backdrop of some kind, but that backdrop is not the image of Africa: that image is the relationship between the mythical character and African/European history. The real contemporary world is the place from which the hero comes and to which the hero will return. From the Azmari in Ethiopia, to the Iggawin in Mauritania, the Halaiqui in Morocco, the Imbongi in South Africa, and the Akewi in Nigeria, Africans have always been an oral people. Europeans began settling in the southern portion of the continent in the mid-17th century, as did South Asians, who settled in the areas of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Often, the responsibility of recording historical information was consigned to professional historians, trusted individuals whose superior wisdom and training equipped them to remember and interpret … Traditional African religion is based on oral traditions, which means that the basic values and way of life are passed from elders to younger generation. It is a time of masks. The kinds of imagery used by literary storytellers and the patterned way those reality and fantasy images are organized in their written works are not new. We have to remember that Jesus died around 30. It is the hero’s identification with history that makes it possible for us to speak of the hero as a hero. ORAL TRADITIONS EVOLVE INTO GOSPELS. Oral and written storytelling traditions have had a parallel development, and in many ways they have influenced each other. Metaphor is the hero’s transformation. History is the real, the past, the world against which this transformation is occurring and within which the hero will move. Oral traditions are key features of Africa’s cultural legacy because they bring hope and entertainment to people. The linkage between oral tradition and the written word is most obviously seen in pulp literature: the Onitsha market literature of Nigeria; the popular fiction of Accra, Ghana; the popular love and detective literature of Nairobi; the visualizing of story in the complex comic strips sold in shops in Cape Town. Oral history both corrected the records of the colonial era and filled in the institutional gaps resulting from post-colonial African governments’s inability and unwillingness to continue the bureaucratic record keeping traditions of their predecessors. West Africans did not record written history.instead they recorded their culture using oral history West African oral traditions help to preserve the values and histories of West African societies. Walter J. Ong (1982, p.12) puts forward that “thinking of oral tradition or a heritage of oral performance, genres and styles as ‘oral literature’ is rather like thinking of horses as automobiles without wheels”. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K (1983), Dan and Sello in Bessie Head’s A Question of Power (1973), Mustapha in al-Ṭayyib Ṣāliḥ’s Season of Migration to the North (1966), and Nedjma in Kateb Yacine’s Nedjma (1956). According to oral traditions in western Africa, some of the descendants of Bilal ibn Rabah migrated to Mallel, the Arabic name for Mali. ... Over the past fifty years, historians of Africa have done more to incorporate Africa’s oral traditions into their examination of the ancient past. Most African societies place great worth in oral tradition because it is a primary means of conveying culture. Folktales taught young boys and girls about their culture, and it taught them many morals … This movement of a realistic character into myth is metaphor, the blending of two seemingly unlike images. 3.01: West African Empires-What impact did oral traditions have on Africa’s history? The transmission is through speech or song and may include folktales, ballads, chants, prose or verses.In this way, it is possible for a society to transmit oral history, oral literature, oral … For centuries, African people depended upon oral tradition to teach the listener's important traditional values and morals pertaining to how to live. AFAS is assisting this team by helping to research and produce more of these sample interviews with an eye toward a major funding proposal and documentary project.  In doing so they gave the lived experiences of ordinary people equal weight to “official” state, military, educational, and mission records. In each case, a real-life character moves into a relationship with a mythic character, and that movement is the movement of the hero’s becoming a part of history, of culture. Victoria Mutheu, Sagwa Chabeda, and Stan Barua have already put together an extremely promising and highly polished series of sample interviews. What is a griot and why were they so inportant in west Africa? It is in this relationship between reality and fantasy, the shaped and the shaper, that the story has its power: Samba Diallo with the Fool, Mugo with Kihika (and the mythicized Mugo), the doctor with Michael K, Elizabeth with Dan and Sello, the narrator with Mustapha, the four pilgrims with Nedjma. It is the explanation of the historical background of the novels. This is the Fool, Kihika, Michael K, Dan and Sello, Mustapha, Nedjma. In the oral tale this is clearly the fantasy character; so it is, in a complex, refracted way, in written literature. Ancient Egyptian scribes, early Hausa and Swahili copyists and memorizers, and contemporary writers of popular novellas have been the obvious and crucial transitional figures in the movement from oral … Moving beyond conventional historical sources that reinforced the colonial view of Africa, a new generation of historians placed oral history and tradition on equal footing with conventional archival records. While historically black colleges in the United States had pushed back against these pernicious stereotypes for decades, most western history departments only acknowledged the existence of African history in the 1960s in response to the end of empire in Africa and the successes of the American civil rights movement. Myth is the stuff of which the hero is being created. This is … The cultural achievements of West Africans have significantly influenced the culture of the United States, particularly in the areas of art, music, oral traditions… dsc01621 copy.jpg Who is involved in the African oral history … Griots were poet-musicians whose job was to memorize everything. It combines, on the one hand, the real (the contemporary world) and history (the realistic world of the past) and, on the other, myth and hero, with metaphor being the agent of transformation. We have also been working with a team of Kenyan filmmakers who are working a documentary on the experiences of surviving African veterans of the Second World War. 3.01: West African Empires -What impact did oral traditions have on Africa’s history? The image of Africa, then, is that rich combination of myth and history, with the hero embodying the essence of the history, or battling it, or somehow having a relationship with it by means of the fantasy mythic character. The fantasy character is crucial: he is the artist’s palette, the mythic element of the story. This is possible because of nature of transmission itself. Myth, which is deeply, intensely emotional, has to do with the gods and creation, with the essence of a belief system; it is the imaged embodiment of a philosophical system, the giving of form to thought and emotion. Emphasizing the absolute necessity of protecting individual privacy, we will invite our informants to take part in a serious of oral history workshops where they will share their experiences with a public audience of students, faculty, and members of the wider St. Louis community. Oral tradition does not maintain the same value of the oral history; instead the values keeps on changing as time goes; Oral tradition may be biased. Oral tradition communicates knowledge of pre-colonial Africa to the present generations, whereby it teaches values and beliefs integral to the culture, such as the history of the origins and migrations of particular peoples, and also validates the political and social status quo of the present by providing the history of groups or … The forms of oral tradition cultures are kept alive by being passed on by word of mouth from one … JACK GOODY College Cambridge The Impact of Islamic Writing on the Oral Cultures of West Africa In discussing the impact of Islamic literacy on the societies of West Africa one ought to try and separate the influence of Islam from the influence of literacy While total separation is barely possible at least we should have the … This is a Eurocentric view that the early Africanist historians have always debated In most ancient societies including those of Africa, legacies, culture and traditions were passed from one generation to other by this ‘Oral Tradition’. For 40 years, there's no written gospel of his life, until after the revolt. The fantasy character provides access to history, to the essence of history. Literature is atomized, fragmented history. As is the case with the oral tradition, written literature is a combination of the real and the fantastic. The danger in the thought that oral traditions are not a reliable history source material is enourmous that it has skulked into the minds of some students of history. These are the ambiguous, charismatic shapers, those with connections to the essence of history. The materials of storytelling, whether in the oral or written tradition, are essentially the same. The oral tradition is a living, and dynamic organism within the … This was consistent with the griot practices of oral history in many African and other cultures that did not rely on the written word. The writer is examining the relationship of the reader with the world and with history. Head of library diversity initiatives and outreachrudolphc@wustl.edu, Independent Scholar and Filmmakeraskari.kenya@gmail.com, Teaching Professor and Linguist, African and African-American Studiesmmutonya@wustl.edu, Professor of History and African and African-American Studiestparsons@wustl.edu, Administrative assistant, African and African-American Studiesjstanton@wustl.edu, Copyright 2020 by:Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, African and African-American Studiesafas@wustl.edu, Department of African and African-American Studies, Visit the main Washington University in St. Louis website. The hero is the person who is being brought into a new relationship with that history, be it the history of a certain area—Kenya or South Africa or Algeria, for example—or of a wider area—of Africa generally or, in the case of A Question of Power, the history of the world. In this movement the oral tradition is revealed as alive and well in literary works. History of our ancestors and the society they lived in was usually remembered by people and kept alive by word of mouth. The real-life character is the hero who is in the process of being created: Samba Diallo, Mugo, the doctor, Elizabeth, the narrator, or the four pilgrims. In the San and Black cultures it was usually the medicine men that knew this, but in Afrikaans it is called ‘boererate’, and anybody was allowed to use them. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. The hero is everyman with myth inside him. For example, the Choctaw oral tradition includes two creation stories: One relates to migration from the west and another to … The oral tradition refers to stories, old sayings, songs, proverbs, and other cultural products that have not been written down or recorded. They taught people about Africa’s ancient geography, culture, and ancestry. What Should I Know For Module 3? In serious literary works, the mythic fantasy characters are often derived from the oral tradition; such characters include the Fool in Sheikh Hamidou Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure (1961), Kihika (and the mythicized Mugo) in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat (1967), Michael K in J.M. Lesson Summary. Specifically, the Mandinka clan Keita, which is generally credited with founding the great Mali Empire, claims its descent from Bilal ibn Rabah, referred to as Bilali Bunamah in the Mandinka … Imagine what American historians could learn if they were able to interview the founding fathers (and mothers) of the United States a half century later in 1826? Visit the Collection Guide below for detailed information about the collection and updates on contents. The influence of oral traditions on modern writers, Literatures in European and European-derived languages.  Consequently, imperial conquerers portrayed Africans as a people without history, which in effect implied that their culture was static, tribalistic, and inherently primitive. These traditions are not religious principles, but a cultural identity that is passed on through stories, myths and tales. He thereby becomes a part of it, representative of it, embodying the culture.  Most often, these written records have been the archives of state institutions, which has privileged elite and bureaucratic perspectives over those of ordinary people. Oral and written storytelling traditions have had a parallel development, and in many ways they have influenced each other. Technologies such as writing and printing play a vital role in transmitting history, thought and creativity, and such technologies have a long history in West Africa.Existing independently of writing for centuries – yet interwoven with such technologies to the present day – is a wide variety of oral traditions passed down … Metaphor is the transformational process, the movement from the real to the mythic and back again to the real—changed forever, because one has become mythicized, because one has moved into history and returned with the elixir. History—the story of a people, their institutions, and their community—is the way one likes to think things happened, in the real world. 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