Oral Tradition

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What is the influence of oral tradition in written Kenyan literature?

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In Kenya, as in many parts of Africa, the oral tradition has an enormous impact on written literature. Throughout history, the majority of African stories were told orally. Many African languages were never written, and only lately have been modified so that they can be studied and categorized in dictionaries. In many parts of Africa, traditional oral storytellers are highly valued and continue to preserve oral traditions.

Therefore, you can consider that almost every Kenyan author is coming from a background steeped in the oral tradition. This comes out when reading contemporary African literature. For example, oral stories are often told in a melodic, almost poetic fashion. This element can often be found in written literature by African authors. An oral tradition also supposes the storyteller is sitting in front of his audience, and they are listening raptly to his words. Therefore, it takes the form of a direct and arresting tale; there is no physical separation between the story and the audience.

This sense of being "inside" the story, and telling it from within, is also a notable characteristic of authors writing from a background of oral traditions. Repetition, too—a common element of poetry and oral storytelling—often makes an appearance in modern literature. There are many ways you can connect the spoken and the written word, and this is quite notable when looking at the work of African authors.

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