Oral Traditions

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Teach Africa

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World Affairs Council of Houston

The Oral Traditions of Africa
What are oral traditions? Oral traditions are messages that are transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages may be passed down through speech or song and may take the form of folktales and fables, epic histories and narrations, proverbs or sayings, and songs. Oral Traditions make it possible for a society to pass knowledge across generations without writing. They help people make sense of the world and are used to teach children and adults about important aspects of their culture.

The art of storytelling There is a rich tradition throughout Africa of oral storytelling. Although written history existed for centuries in West Africa, most writing was in Arabic, and the majority of people did not read or write in
Arabic. So the transmission of knowledge, history and experience in West Africa was mainly through the oral tradition and performance rather than on written texts. Oral traditions guide social and human morals, giving people a sense of place and purpose.
There is often a lesson or a value to instill, and the transmission of wisdom to children is a community responsibility. Parents, grandparents, and relatives take part in the process of passing down the knowledge of culture and history. Storytelling provides entertainment, develops the imagination, and teaches important lessons about everyday life.

World Affairs Council of Houston
PO Box 920905
Houston, TX 77292-0905
Voice 713-522-7811
Fax 713-522-7812 www.wachouston.org A storyteller’s tools are not just words, but gestures, singing, facial expressions, body movements and acting to make stories memorable and interesting. Sometimes masks and costumes are used to enhance a performance. A storyteller performs epics that can be hours or even days long that relate history and genealogy, battles and
political…...

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