Thursday, April 24, 2014

Practically everywhere on the African continent you’ll find a proud history of oral storytelling. From long, long ago the art of storytelling in African culture has helped to keep traditions alive, guided codes of behaviour and helped to maintain social order in and between families and communities. For many of us it’s difficult to imagine what life must have been like before reading and writing let alone before the Internet.

Before reading and writing

Nowadays, the West tends to look at literacy as the determinant between knowledge and ignorance. If you think about it though, words don’t come from books; they originate in utterance and memory. While the written form has transformed our existence, books are in fact, records of these utterances and memories.

People in certain rural communities where oral tradition is still very much a part of daily life, and where literacy isn’t mainstream, don’t necessarily live in ignorant darkness. In fact, the opposite is true.

Under the shade of a tree

Prior to the Internet and before books, people saw things and committed them to memory and passed these memories down from generation to generation, in spoken form. Under the shade of a tree, a baobab perhaps, or around a campfire at night after dinner stories were told. They were used to entertain, to record history, to teach young ones about the principles and moralities of life, and to express feelings. Fireside tales made little ones curious, captured the imagination of people young and old, and helped to create a sense of unity and identity.

The best oral storytellers

The best African oral storytellers are essentially entertainers who know how to captivate and inspire their audience. They often use repetition, rhythm, dance, proverbs, facial expressions and gestures. Storytelling is blended into our entertainment at GOLD Restaurant, especially the performance by our staff at the end of the evening. The real telling of a story is not to simply recite but to internalise the message, embellish and elaborate and add your own personality and inflections. The art of oral storytelling is a major part of what keeps African culture and traditions alive and relevant.

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