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African Traditional Literature Essay

Indigenous literature whether oral or written is the cultural heritage of most societies. Unfortunately, African traditional literature overtime has been treated as something inferior to their Western counterparts. But to a large extent, both traditional African literature and their European counterparts have similar socio-artistic values. Both express interest in the events happening in their society because they recognize their role as social barometer, hence, they need to express themselves properly to their audience no matter the language they use.

African traditional literature shares a lot with similar literature from other parts of the world. More recent studies have indeed revealed that the old view that rural societies are not capable of producing elegant literature expressing the responses of men in an advanced culture to events around them is no longer tenable. This view was upheld by Westerners who studied traditional African literature with racial prejudice. They believed that African culture was still struggling for elementary problem of existence and was yet to attain the level of civilization that will facilitate the pursuit of literary achievement.

But this view was met with a lot of controversial criticisms, as African Scholars began to argue the importance of African traditional literature in the literary world, stressing the fact that traditional literature is not only relevant, but should also be accorded a literary status in the literary world. Their reasons being that African literature perform certain functions in the society; the noticeable variety in the existing genre and; the competent evidence in the elegant use of language exhibited in the cause of performance with the resultant aesthetic effect, and with time, African traditional literature began to be accepted.

But it was not wholly accepted by these Europeans. They began to employ their foreign concepts in the critical evaluation of African traditional literature. They believed that Africans do not possess adequate tools for the appraisal and evaluation of their literature. Hence, they began to employ these foreign approaches in the study of African traditional literature.


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