Our oral literature is better appreciated through participation

Judy Moraa teaches English and Literature at Cardinal Otunga High School, Mosocho.

Our oral tradition has survived as a valuable source of information about African past and her philosophy of life.

The essential aspect of African cultural heritage consists of the artistic desire portrayed in Okot’s Song of Lawino; and of course, learning about the nature of our society, laws and practices.

We therefore study narratives about our spirituality, heroes and heroines, why things are the way they are, and their moral implications. These beliefs and culture deeply root us as Africans.

African oral literature should be studied not to romanticize it but for the long cherished values and norms that we fought for in the pre-colonial era.

African oral literature also raises pertinent historical and philosophical issues in our thinking, mythical beliefs and their influence.

Taban Lo Liyong’ says that the best way to recapture the African oral literature concept is to go back to the village and involve the grandparents, parents, uncles, aunties, etc, because they are the professors at that. It is what they do best; passing knowledge and information through generations.

Okot P’ Bitek agrees that when attending events, you must not just be a mere cheerleader on the sidelines. Instead, you should join in fully – singing, chanting and dancing. Experience the real thing. Shut your mouth. Ask no questions. Observe.

If we are to identify with the cultural desire of our people, we must participate wholeheartedly and not just spectate.

Frantz Fanon justifies that: No one can truly wish for the spread of African culture if he does not give practical support to the creation of the mechanisms necessary for the existence of that culture.

Therefore, studying African oral literature is necessary for our view of the world the African way in terms of personality, thought system and traditions. Oral literature also enhances our consciousness of the black race and offers us courage to defend the existence of a black man’s culture.


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