Oral Literature for Children

Rethinking Orality, Literacy, Performance, and Documentation Practices


This book is the first ever major effort to document and study hundreds of texts from an African (Ugandan) oral culture for children – folktales, riddles, and rhymes – and at the same time to make them available in the local languages and to focus on their cultural and national value. The author surveys the history of collecting in Uganda and situates the texts in their broader geographical, historical, socio-cultural and educational setting, including the early collecting efforts of heritage-minded Ugandans and European missionaries. Most of this preservational work is elusive and under-explored – so that the present book constitutes a major pioneering summary of Ugandan oral culture for children.
The book addresses key questions such as: What happens when we collect, transcribe, and translate an oral text? How do we transfer components of the oral text to the page? What are the challenges of translating oral forms targeting specifi¬cally a child audience, and what choices ought to be made in the process? The book provides possible ways of rethink¬ing the debate about orality and literacy as modes of representation – the generic interrelationship between the oral and the written text, and how the two can enter dialogue through transcription and translation. The latter are effective means to archive these oral forms for children and use them to promote literacy and numeracy skills in predominantly oral communities.
In the current institutions of formal education in Uganda, this coexistence of orality and literacy is evident in the class¬room environment, where the oral text is turned into words on the page to encourage literacy. Through transcription, the collector is able to capture oral texts in other forms – audio, written, visual, and digital. With the new technologies available, the task is not as arduous as in the past, and the information thus captured is made available in all its wealth for purposes of instruction or entertainment.

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Aaron Mushengyezi is currently head of the Department of Journalism and Com¬munication at Makerere University. He has published books on literary theory and African society, and specializes in African writing for children and Ugandan folklore, as well as coordinating textbook projects for Ugandan primary schools.
List of Figures
Oral Forms for Children: Audience, Form, and Social Relevance
“Let Me Tell You a Story, Let Me Tell You a Story!” On Text Structure and Narrative Strategies
From Tape to the Page
On the Translation Process
Appendix: Texts
Runyankore–Rukiga Riddles
Runyarwanda–Rufumbira Riddles
Luganda Riddles
Runyankore–Rukiga Children’s Songs
Runyarwanda–Rufumbira Children’s Songs
Luganda Children’s Songs
Runyankore–Rukiga Folktales
Runyarwanda–Rufumbira Folktales
Luganda Folktales
Informants for Oral Narrative and Interviews
Works Cited