African literature portrays a holistic African experience. Social, economic and political themes touching on the African continent are highlighted and discussed in literature about Africa. Different authors (born within and outside Africa) have captured and continue to shed light on the African experience, touching on themes that characterize dealings on the continent. In order to determine whether a piece of art fits within the category of ‘African literature’, it is important to examine the themes addressed.
Orature in African Literature
An important aspect of African literature is its combination of oral and written literature. Oral literature occurs in spoken form and is passed on from one generation to another through word of mouth. The Ugandan Scholar, Pio Zirimu, coined the term ‘Orature’ in reference to oral literature. Written literature is transferred through the written word. The combination of Orature and Written literature gives African Literature its uniqueness. Other categories of literature from around the World (Such as European Literature) lacks this approach of combining oral and written literature. The controversy of whether African literature is literature at all is based on the aspects of form and content.
Form and Content in African Literature
Content refers to what is said/written, while form refers to how it is said/written. In African Literature, art is used as a tool for teaching and learning in society. It is rarely art for art’s sake. Other literature make the attempt of separating form and content. This marks a difference between African Literature and others from around the world. Continue reading on form and content in African Literature.
Phases in African Literature
Different phases have inspired the themes addressed in African Literature. Pre-colonial, Colonial and post-colonial phases. Each of these phases highlighted social concerns that were the main topics in literature of the time. The kind of literature produced concerning the African experience often mirrors the experiences of the African people. In order to understand the shared experiences of Africans in each of these phases, one can study Literature produced in each of the stages.
Recent developments on the African Literary scene have resulted in the rise of contemporary African literature. In the contemporary forms of African literature, current themes impacting on the African society are highlighted.This leads to a better understanding of how the continent is changing.
Importance of African Literature
The importance of African literature lies in drawing attention to, and relaying African experience to the rest of the world and future generations. One of the ways of ensuring African values and traditions are communicated and passed on to posterity is by record keeping. Literary works categorized as African literature will prove instrumental in shaping the African way of thought. It is challenging, if not impossible, to study African literature away from the people and environment it talks about – Africans and Africa.
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