AFRICAN STORYTELLING

Storytelling has always been a product of human evolution that began as a means to amuse, educate, inform, and improve society. Traditionally, Africans have revered good stories and storytellers, much like other past and present peoples around the world who are rooted in oral cultures and traditions.

 

Although there are ancient writing traditions on the African continent today, most Africans nowadays, as in the past, are primarily oral peoples who produce art rather than literary works. African "orature," similar to oral "literature," is orally composed and passed down, and it's frequently created to be heard and performed communally as a part of dance and music.

 

The Oral Arts of Africa are complex and multi-layered, evolving with the inception of African civilizations and remaining vibrant contemporary traditions. Every culture on the planet seems to use stories (narratives) as a means of making sense of the world.

 

African storytelling is one of the most famous and ancient forms of oral literature in the world. Africans have been passing on knowledge, instilling moral values, and entertaining people for millennia with their performances as storytellers.

 

African folklore is a diversified and diverse culture that has been used for centuries to amuse, educate, and convey knowledge. The art of African storytelling may be found across the continent as well as in the African diaspora.

 

In this article, we will explore the history and techniques of African storytelling, as well as some of the most popular African folktales. We will also discuss the importance of storytelling in African cultures and how it can be used to teach kids about African history and culture. We will explore the role of African storytelling and some of its most common forms.

What is African Storytelling?

 

The distinctiveness of African storytelling is represented in its capacity to provide pleasure, satisfy the curiosities of Africans, and teach and shape essential moral lessons about day-to-day existence.

 

Repetition of words, rhythms, and gestures is an essential feature of African oral storytelling. Words, phrases, motions, and stanzas are repeated by storytellers. The use of repetition methods makes it simpler to recall the tales from memory.

 

When the audience is familiar with the stories, they actively participate as they learn important aspects of their culture. Storytelling in Africa has been demonstrated in many diverse manners and was used to serve many different purposes.

 

Storytelling was central to her childhood in Uganda, where elementary school students are required to tell stories to their classes as part of the curriculum.

African Storytelling Traditions

 

Proverbs are an important aspect of African culture and provide a significant role in the preservation of storytelling traditions across the continent. They enlighten concepts and beliefs, support arguments, and transmit messages of joy and comfort from one generation to the next, going all the way back through time.

 

In both African oral tradition and riddles, the ‘proverbing' method is similar in that dissimilar images are combined in a way that is innovative, giving insight into the process.

 

Another term for proverbs is a "riddle waiting to happen." ‘Wisdom killed the wise man' (country of origin unknown), 'Teeth do not see poverty,' and ‘If you pick up one end of a stick, you must also pick up the other' are just a few examples.

 

We will reconnect to African cultures' history, values, and traditions by reexamining African folklore. These oral histories are priceless; we must do all we can to preserve and protect them.

African Storytelling Techniques

 

The practice of oral and written storytelling is a significant element of Cameroonian culture. "Storytelling, like rhetoric, is the use of the mind. Words have a lot of clouts." Folktales in Cameroon keep the community together. They serve as a repository of information, wisdom, and skills that are vital to the culture. The telling of tales takes place after supper at night.

 

The oral legend may be recited, sung, and modified to fit various situations. People in many societies of this region are forbidden from doing any significant labor after dark. Each narrative recited enlightens the minds of its audiences. In Cameroon's Western and Southern Regions, nighttime gatherings provide a chance for matters concerning the land and family to be discussed or planned. Folktales are used to solve difficulties.

 

The three sections of the collection are constituted by the opening formula, the body/expository section, and the conclusion formula. An opening formula is used to begin the storytelling session. Following this, there's a round of wisecracks and riddles. A serious beginning follows after audience participation is encouraged.

 

After the introduction, the storyteller begins telling the tale. Using a variety of methods, the storyteller establishes the context, introduces the characters, and defines the conflict. In Cameroon, people perform a genuine theatrical plays in many locations.

 

The storyteller performs, dancing and shouting to entice the audience to join in. The taleteller uses a rich language full of imagery and symbolism. Many characters in the tale are mimicked by the performance.

 

At the conclusion of the narrative, a moral or final statement on an issue raised in the body/expository section is used to signal the closure. Structure as a literary feature of folktales is demonstrated by the order of events.

Storytelling in African Cultures

 

African People have used tale-telling for thousands of years. For hundreds of years, Africans have used storytelling to share their thoughts, ideas, and emotions with one another. Storytelling is a method of passing on customs, and norms of conduct and keeping society in order.

 

The writing was not an invention in ancient Africa, but there were methods for people to communicate their ideas, sentiments, and beliefs. Africans utilized a variety of art forms, myths, and rituals. African storytelling is one of the oldest traditions in African culture.

 

Storytelling has played an essential role in the development of African culture, and it continues to have a significant impact on how we think about the world today. Storytelling is an important aspect of many Africans' lives and has served as a method of preserving family customs.

 

Storytelling has had a significant impact on how we think about the world today and is an essential aspect of African culture.

African Storytelling for Kids

 

In Ghana, after a long day's work, people have been performing storytelling as a way of relaxing. Ananse folktales educate future generations to be good citizens of the African nation.

 

"Exposing children to storytelling is a valid psychological purpose in Ghana, as it serves the goal of teaching folktales." Adults generally tell Ananse stories creatively. Family members and youngsters from the neighborhood are in attendance.

 

The quiet nights and sitting around the fire provided the perfect backdrop for storytelling. The audience's attention and active participation make the tales fascinating. The Ananse legends are not told in chronological order. After the tale's description or theme is chosen, the stories are recounted subjectively.

 

The Ananse stories are accompanied by music, singing, drumming, percussion instruments, clapping, and dancing. The characters' sentiments are expressed through the songs. The Anansi tales are intended to convey a moral lesson to the audience, particularly the youngsters.

African Storytelling History

 

Africans have historically been rooted in oral cultures and customs, which has led to great tales and lively storytellers being valued.

 

Although ancient writing traditions exist on the African continent, most Africans today, just like in the past, are primarily oral people with their art forms and tales being instead of written.

 

African storytelling, which has been practiced for thousands of years, is a means of passing on traditions, norms, and values of acceptable conduct and maintaining good social order.

 

Africans have used storytelling to preserve their history, traditional culture, and ritual ceremonies since ancient times. The practice of African storytelling is one of the most enduring in African tradition across the continent.

Oral Storytelling in African and Indigenous Cultures


Documents are a valuable source of history. Letters, diaries, and even old grocery lists can provide great insight into how people lived, what they believed about the world around them, and so on. People have long thought that something could only be researched as history if it is penned down.


How may we discover civilizations without written records, where people did not read or write? Many societies have never recorded their history. They recited stories to their children instead, and as a result, it was passed down from generation to generation. In this manner, history was preserved. This is referred to as oral tradition.


Oral traditions are highly valued today by historians. It's one of the few methods to learn about what occurred in these civilizations. Oral history is the second type of oral tradition, which concerns itself with who, when, and why events took place to a person or community.


The second sort of narrative is one that emphasizes the message rather than facts. These made-up stories attempt to provide answers for issues in life over which the community had no control. It might be anything from a minor problem, like why leopard got its spots, to a major issue like what happens when people die. Fairy tales and folklore are the terms used to describe these fables.


Both types of oral tradition are vital. Oral history informs us what occurred, while folklore aids in the comprehension of people's beliefs and emotions about their surroundings. Oral history recounts how a tribe named rivers, mountains, and other features, as well as the significance of performing natural practices like rainmaking dances.


Medical procedures of the previous oral eras were passed down through word of mouth. People in the San, Black, and Afrikaans cultures knew how to cure certain ailments or injuries from what their elders had taught them. It was typically the medicine men in the San and Black peoples who understood this, but it is known as ‘boererate'.


The oral traditions of South Africa are enormous. They have been passed down from generation to generation and now have been recorded to safeguard them. The tales may have various versions, as they were told repeatedly over time.


They could have omitted something, inserted a new piece, or altered things to make them simpler to understand. Oral tradition is notorious for this. However, the core of the stories stays the same, and they provide us with important historical information.


Cultural storytelling is a great way to learn more about the world around you. Every culture has its own stories, which can teach you a lot about the people and their values. In my article about Cultural Storytelling, you’ll be able to read how other people live, preserve their culture, and what their customs are.

African Proverbs about Storytelling


Single sentences, commonly known as proverbs or sayings, are often passed down from one generation to the next in every nation. While these maxims might differ from one nation to another, the knowledge they convey is timeless.


There are an infinite number of inspiring quotations from all over the world, many of which offer a fascinating look into the vibrant and diverse cultures that produced them. Here are some of our favorite African proverbs:


”Teeth do not see poverty”. Even when circumstances are dire, people still manage to find something to smile about.


”Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet”. Don’t leap into a situation without first thinking about the consequences.


”Do not look where you feel, but where you slipped”. Rather than dwelling on your mistake, look at what caused you to make the mistake.


”The best way to eat an elephant in your path is to cut him up into little pieces”. The best way to solve a problem is to tackle it bit by bit, one step at a time.


”He who does not know one thing knows another”. No one can know everything but everyone knows something.


”Rain beats the leopards skin but it does not wash out the spots”. No matter how hard you try, you cannot change another person’s character. Similarly, if you behave badly and develop a poor reputation, it’s difficult to change other people’s opinions of you, regardless of how many good deeds you perform.


”No matter how hot your anger is it cannot cook yams”. While anger can prompt a positive action that may resolve an issue, the act of getting angry resolves nothing.


”A roaring lion kills no game”. Sitting around and talking about something gains nothing. The saying also implies that you should work towards your goals quietly rather than bragging about your achievements prematurely.


”Do not call the forest that shelters you a jungle”. Do not disrespect or insult someone who shares your burdens and responsibilities or who takes care of you.


”Rain does not fall on one roof alone”. Trouble does not discriminate. It comes to everyone at some point.


”Ears that do not listen to advice, accompany the head when it is chopped off”. A person who does not heed advice will suffer the consequences.


”Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it, chased it”.


”If you want to know how the true story goes, wait till the arguments start”.


”The day is never cursed before it finally comes to an end”.

West African Storytelling

 

The practice of music and oral storytelling has kept West African cultures alive for centuries. Griots, sometimes known as Jalis, are musicians, poets, and historians who have passed stories from one generation to the next over the ages.

 

The Shabatuso family of griot musicians will begin an Africa immersion that focuses on the continent's diversity and interconnectedness over time and across the world. The Griot was created in the Mande Empire (present-day Mali) in the 13th century.

 

Griots were musicians, genealogists, advisors, instructors, interpreters, and historians who preserved the oral histories of entire communities through storytelling.

 

Griots were held in high regard by the people of their time, and their position evolved into a hereditary social class. The job was given from parent to child, like an apprenticeship.

 

If you were born into a Griot family, you would begin training at an early age to learn hundreds of songs and tales, putting in years of study memorizing the records of births, deaths, and marriages through the generations of your village and family. Music was used by Griots to tell their stories, accompanied by instruments such as the belief.

West African Storytelling Traditions

 

The oral traditions of West Africa, which included folklore, proverbs, and storytelling, have had an influence on writers in our culture. Griots were West African poet-musicians who helped to preserve history and the legacy of their people by telling tales as well as playing music, dance, and drama.

 

The griots were thought to be the keepers of history and tradition, and their tales frequently included moral teachings or lessons. Many of these stories have been handed down through the generations and often include animals or other natural features.

 

The griots' skilled use of language, as well as their capacity to enthrall a crowd, made them revered figures in West African culture. The art of griot storytelling persists today, and its impact may be seen in contemporary writers such as Chinua Achebe and Toni Morrison.

African Folklore and the Role of Storytelling

 

For generations, the practice of music and storytelling has been used to preserve West African communities' history, customs, and mythology. Dance is a significant part of daily life for people in Western Africa, where it serves as therapy, storytelling, religious practice, and recreational activity.

 

A griot is a historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet, or musician from West Africa. The griot is often regarded as a guide owing to his or her position as an advisor to royalty. As a result of these two jobs, he or she may be known as a bard.

 

Griots originated in the Mande empire of Mali during the 13th century. They have been telling and retelling the history of their empire for hundreds of years, ensuring that their tales and customs continue to live on.

 

Although griots are known for praising, they may also utilize their voices to spread gossip, satire, and political criticism. Griots can be found throughout West Africa and among a variety of different cultures today.

 

Griots are an endogamous group, which means that the majority of them married other griots. They transmit the art of narration from generation to generation. Every aristocracy of griots accompanied a warrior king or emperor from a higher-ranking family.

 

In the past, no griot could live without a king, and no king could survive without one. The king, on the other hand, may lend his griot to another ruler. The majority of villages also had their own griot who recounted stories of births and deaths, marriages and fights, hunts and pursuits.

 

There is so much to learn about the griot and their history. They are a vital part of African culture and have been for centuries. My article on African Griot will teach you everything you need to know about these fascinating storytellers.

African American Storytelling

 

From the dawn of time, storytelling has always been a major event in the African and African American communities. Stories were used to answer questions, pass on history, and impart life lessons and acquire them.

 

Africa is the second-largest continent, with over eight hundred distinct languages spoken by its multitude of ethnic groups. Each group has its own name for the storyteller. The most popular term in the West is griot, which refers to an authority on oral performance. The term Akewi is used among the Yoruba, Maroka among the Hausa, and Imbongi among the Xhosa.

 

The archives of the past have been entrusted with the duty of preserving the beliefs and values of society. They are musicians, poets, public speakers, educators, genealogists, and custodians of people's history and customs.

 

Within their memory lies centuries of folklore, epics, myths, and legends passed on through oral tradition. It's in this light that a scholar might say, "When an elder dies, it's as if a library has been destroyed."

 

Africans were persecuted and enslaved during the notorious slave trade, in which slavers kept them from practicing many of their customs for thousands of years. The enslaved African was cut off from his rich African history. His name, which had substance and meaning, was erased.

 

He was not permitted to pray to his gods or speak his native tongue, according to the record. The clothing on their backs and the accounts they had heard and told in Africa were brought across the Atlantic by those who survived the horrors of the Middle Passage, which was a slave ship route from West Africa to the West Indies and America. They also recounted them.

 

The most popular type of storytelling among these enslaved people was the folktale. The lion, elephant, monkey, and trickster Anansi are some of the characters found in African folktales. The hyena, lion, elephant, monkey, and spider were among the characters mentioned in Africa's stories.

 

Among the most outstanding components of the I Ching is its ability to reproduce, reflect, and transform in order to adapt to a new environment. This text did not differ significantly from those produced during previous eras; however, the characters altered to match the animal life of this new terrain.

 

The lion, elephant, and hyena now had tales of the rabbit, fox, and bear that are recognized as the Brer Rabbit stories. These fables amused the plantation owner, therefore there was no issue with allowing this sort of activity.

 

The Brer Rabbit stories became a source of identification for the African slave. The rabbit, being one of the smallest and weakest creatures in the forest, had a special relationship with the Africans. Despite being one of the tiniest and weakest animals in the jungle, the rabbit was also one of its fastest.

 

He outwitted the larger and more powerful animals with his cleverness. These variants of African folklore were amusing to the enslaver, but they also served as a source of information and planning for enslaved Africans.

The Style and Structure of African Storytelling

 

The majority of African stories are divided into three sections: an introduction, a body section, and a conclusion.

 

The storyteller begins the tale by describing the characters and defining the conflict in various ways and gestures, after which he or she invites audience participation.

 

The indigenous audience in many countries, such as South Africa and Zimbabwe, for example, acts out a full-fledged dramatic play by signing, dancing, and rhythmically shouting in response to the storyteller. A language that is colorful and vibrant with images and symbols is utilized by the storyteller.

 

In this tale, the narrator copies many characters. The conclusion of the story emphasizes a moral or final statement that was first suggested in both the introduction and the body part.

 

The structure of the tale emphasizes its importance and significance. The storyteller makes a choice in terms of style, and the audience responds accordingly.

African Storytelling - Conclusion


Oral African storytelling is an interactive collective experience and occurrence. It's a community gathering where people gather to listen and contribute to accounts and stories of past actions, ideas, wisdom, advice, morals, taboos, and beliefs.


The environment in which African storytelling is usually hosted, where the storyteller and the audience interact, and both parties have rights and responsibilities.


The 2012 case study, which equals the contemporary western focus group set-up, serves as an apt illustration. In most conventional African communities, everyone participates in formal and informal storytelling through interactive oral performance.


Participation is an important element of traditional African communal life, and basic instruction in a particular culture's oral traditions and talents is an essential component of children's traditional indigenous education as they prepare to become full humans.


Most accomplished storytellers in many of these African cultures are well-respected members of the community who have mastered numerous intricate verbal usages of proverbs and parables, as well as musical and memory skills after years of communal-traditional education.