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  • Oral Literature in africa - Saylor Academy



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Oral literature is a broad term which may include ritual texts, curative chants, epic poems, musical genres, folk tales, creation tales, songs, myths, spells, legends, proverbs, riddles, tongue-twisters, word games, recitations, life histories or historical narratives. Most simply, oral literature refers to any form of verbal art which is transmitted orally or delivered by word of mouth. Orature is a more recent and less widely used term which emphasises the oral character and nature of literary works.

In African Oral Literature for Schools , Jane Nandwa and Austin Bukenya define oral literature as "those utterances, whether spoken, recited or sung, whose composition and performance exhibit to an appreciable degree the artistic character of accurate observation, vivid imagination and ingenious expression" (1983: 1).

The Canadian Encyclopedia suggests that "the term oral literature is sometimes used interchangeably with folklore , but it usually has a broader focus. The expression is self-contradictory: literature, strictly speaking, is that which is written down; but the term is used here to emphasize the imaginative creativity and conventional structures that mark oral discourse too. Oral literature shares with written literature the use of heightened language in various genres (narrative, lyric, epic, etc), but it is set apart by being actualized only in performance and by the fact that the performer can (and sometimes is obliged to) improvise so that oral text constitutes an event."

Ethiopian literatures are composed in several languages: Geʿez , Amharic , Tigrinya , Tigré , Oromo, and Harari. Most of the literature in Ethiopia has been in Geʿez and Amharic . The classical language is Geʿez , but over time Geʿez literature became the domain of a small portion of the population. The more common spoken language , Amharic, became widespread when it was used for political and religious purposes to reach a larger part of the population.

At the end of the 19th century, missionaries brought the printing press to Ethiopia, and books were published in Amharic. Early Amharic works such as Mist’ire Sillase (1910–11; “The Mystery of the Trinity”) were rooted in traditional literary works. Newspapers in Amharic began to appear in 1924 and 1925, and there were translations of European literary works, including an Amharic translation of John Bunyan ’s The Pilgrim’s Progress , by Gabra Giyorgis Terfe, that was to influence later Amharic literary work.

It is possible that written Hausa goes back as far as the 14th or 15th century. Arabic writing among the Hausa dates from the end of the 15th century. Early poets included Ibn al-Ṣabbāgh and Muhammad al-Barnāwī. Other early writers in Arabic were Abdullahi Sikka and Sheikh Jibrīl ibn ʿUmar. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Hausa language was written in an Arabic script called ajami . In 1903, under the influence of the British, the Latin alphabet was added. Nana Asma’u wrote poetry, primarily religious, in Arabic, Hausa, and Fula in Arabic ajami script.

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Oral literature is a broad term which may include ritual texts, curative chants, epic poems, musical genres, folk tales, creation tales, songs, myths, spells, legends, proverbs, riddles, tongue-twisters, word games, recitations, life histories or historical narratives. Most simply, oral literature refers to any form of verbal art which is transmitted orally or delivered by word of mouth. Orature is a more recent and less widely used term which emphasises the oral character and nature of literary works.

In African Oral Literature for Schools , Jane Nandwa and Austin Bukenya define oral literature as "those utterances, whether spoken, recited or sung, whose composition and performance exhibit to an appreciable degree the artistic character of accurate observation, vivid imagination and ingenious expression" (1983: 1).

The Canadian Encyclopedia suggests that "the term oral literature is sometimes used interchangeably with folklore , but it usually has a broader focus. The expression is self-contradictory: literature, strictly speaking, is that which is written down; but the term is used here to emphasize the imaginative creativity and conventional structures that mark oral discourse too. Oral literature shares with written literature the use of heightened language in various genres (narrative, lyric, epic, etc), but it is set apart by being actualized only in performance and by the fact that the performer can (and sometimes is obliged to) improvise so that oral text constitutes an event."

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