Oral cultures of pre-colonial Africa

IN oral cultures of pre-colonial Africa, historical trends, myths, religious, metaphysical ideas and prominent events were passed on from one generation to another by word of mouth.
The means of transmission varied from community to community and, therefore, the choice of form would either be traditional theatre performances or narrations or poetry or a blend of forms.

Riddles, for example, were a common feature during household night –fire oral performances. Riddles, conundrums, brain teasers were fierce battle fields for wit and wisdom; for example, between two performers one would start by challenging another: “Cho” (There it comes, literally, Take that!) whereby another would respond, “Chise” (Let it come or I am ready for it!) The first performer would then say: “A beautiful round house which has no door,” and thereupon, if the rival performer was knowledgeable and witty, he/she would respond: “Aah! you think I can fail to answer that: ‘it is an egg, it is round and has no door.’”
Then other listeners would give a round of applause. There were unspoken rules for the game, though, and one was that the performer would not speak until the challenge received a response even if it was a wrong answer. / Hildah Lumba, Times of Zambia

One Comment on “Oral cultures of pre-colonial Africa

  1. Much of this and related oral Africa & beyond poetries available in English in Jerome Rothenberg’s magnificent 1969 anthology TECHNICIANS OF THE SACRED (still in print, while a new, expanded edition of which will be published later this year by University of California Press)

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