African Tradition: Story Telling

African story tellers have a tradition of entertaining and educating their listeners from time immemorial. The effective story teller has the power to transport you on a journey of discovery. They weave their images into colourful words that paint a picture for the listener. Story tellers are entertainers and educators.Chimamanda Adichie - Story Teller

Africa has a rich oral tradition. Long before the written word, stories were how information was passed down to new generations.

Chimamanda Adichie – modern Story Teller

Stories were mainly told in the evenings, around a fire, under moonlight skies, by the elders in the village. The story teller controlled the moment with the crescendo and decrescendo of their voice. They also employed sing-along songs that captured the attention of even the youngest listeners. Drums provided the sound effects. They would prompt their listeners to groan and grunt and be an active part of the story.

Story tellers came in all shapes and sizes, but they all had one thing in common; they ability to cast a spell over their listeners. Time seems to stand still as they draw you into their story.

Some cultures had particular dress associated with the story teller, but this was not universal.

Some story tellers were very good, others not so good. Listeners often asked for a good story teller to re-tell stories because the listeners enjoyed the way they told their stories.

Poems, songs, aphorisms, riddles, rituals, taboos and chants were all employed to provide variety. Most of the stories had animal characters that could think and talk. The most popular characters in Zambian stories are Kalulu (the hare), turtle, hyena,the elephant and Lion, the King of the Jungle. Each story usually had a moral behind it. 

While times have changed, the functions of the story teller are needed now, perhaps more than ever. The story teller has got to adapt to the changing needs of the listener and to the changing times. Thus the story teller in the village will be plying his trade pretty much the way he always has, while the story teller in Kitwe may find himself or herself including internet cafes in their stories.

Story tellers are in cyberspace and have created an oasis http://www.afriprov.org/ Here you will find a collection of stories from different African countries and anyone can participate.

The story teller has always had a big responsibility in shaping the impressionable minds of young listeners, and in bending the opinions of the more mature audience. Most of them take this responsibility very seriously.

Chimamanda Adichie and Princess Ayo and Oba William are modern Story Tellers with different styles:

Princes Ayo:

Oba William King Story Teller:

Do you know of a great story teller, or are you one? Share with us here.

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