Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kenyan Folktales

           The lecture about Kenyan folktales by Dr. Ochieng was very interesting and informative.  It was much more interactive than any other guest speakers we’ve had previously.  We all had to stand and sing and dance to a song.  This makes sense as many African folktales are told in a communal setting, probably similar to the circular layout of our classroom.  I really enjoyed the way that Dr. Ochieng told the various tales within his presentation.  He seemed to just know them and exactly the right tone and intonation to rely on to convey the stories and their meanings.  He also told us that most Kenyan folktales were told in the evening.  I found this very interesting, because the voice of the storyteller would become the most important aspect of a tale told at night if that sound is all a listener has to rely on. The storyteller must learn to paint a picture and convey a message just with the sound of his voice.    


            He also discussed the various aspects of Kenyan folktales.  Called orature, meaning oral literature, the tales have evolved and been passed down over time through being spoken.  This is different from almost every other folk or fairy tale we have discussed so far.  Most of those have been written down, but African culture differs from Western culture in that it is much more orally based. 

            Some of the things that these oral tales do for a community include describing or explaining the origin of some event or occurrence, enforcing social foundation, telling the meaning behind present beliefs, or affirming who the people are as a culture or group.  Many of the tales focus on the celebration of wit and other quick thinking characters.  Some African examples include the spider and the hare.  This seems to parallel the idea of trickster characters in various Western tales we have looked at before.  These tales also help parents to teach their children the values, beliefs, rules, and taboos of their people. 


            We sang a song in an African language at the beginning of the lecture.  Song is important to these folktales because it helps to emphasize certain elements and ties the whole story together.  This also makes the story telling experience more participatory and involved for all the listeners. 
           African cultures have been sustained by their oral story traditions.  People have to pass on tales and other knowledge if they want to educate the next generation.  In using these stories as a tool to educate children, it is essential in ensuring a common understanding of certain phenomena.  This parallels nearly every other culture in which parents must creatively devise answers to the questions that their children pose.  And like many other tales we have studied, sometimes African tales are told simply for their entertainment value.  This seems to be the case with many European tales today.  Their morals and messages can be a bit outdated in modern society, but they remain timeless and are told and retold for many generations.      

            In conclusion, this lecture was very good at providing me with information on a topic and culture that I am very unfamiliar with. 


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