Oral Narratives as a Means of Educating the Society

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Oral narratives, as part of oral art, dramatize situations and advocates ideas. Oral art is literature expressed in words. As Roberts (1995:2) writes: “Before the invention of writing, literary works were necessarily spoken or sung and were retained only as long as living people performed them. In some societies the oral tradition of literature still exists, with many poems and stories designed exclusively for spoken delivery.” In some societies, especially African, traditional oral art still plays a dominant role in shaping their lives. Oral art exposes the listeners to realities of human situations, problems, feelings and relationships. Therefore, oral art and oral narratives in particular, link people with the broader cultural, philosophic and religious world. It is obvious that the purpose of oral narratives is to entertain. However, they are also important for training listening skills. Oral narratives have a moral function. The youth are taught to be responsible adults. They mould children into persons their parents would like them to be. They teach the young rising generation about matters affecting their history.

However, the dramatization of oral narratives is diminishing among the Africans. With the introduction of the radio and television, the present youth do not have time to sit down and listen to narrators of tales. The decline of the narration of oral narratives has led to the decline of morality among the present generation of youth. The aim of this paper is to highlight the importance of oral narratives in educating the society and to recommend strategies of retaining this art in the society.


Keywords: Oral Narratives, Oral Art, Literature, Society, Culture, Religion, Morality, Radio, Television, Africans
Stream: Art and Education, Art in Communities
Presentation Type: Plenary Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Prof. Munzhedzi James Mafela

Lecturer, Department of African Languages, University of South Africa
South Africa

Munzhedzi James Mafela is a Professor in the Department of African Languages at the University of South Africa. Munzhedzi James Mafela has been teaching at the University of South Africa (UNISA), South Africa since 1985. Before he joined UNISA as a junior lecturer, he had worked as a teacher at a high school for four years. He completed D.Litt. et Phil in 1993 in the field of Literature. His field of specialisation is African Literature and Culture, and Lexicography. He is a creative writer and has published several books on traditional literature in his home language, which is Tshivenḓa. He is currently researching the institution of marriage among the indigenous people of South Africa, with special reference to his ethnic group, Vhavenḓa.

Ref: A07P0124