HAVE THE AFRICAN FOLKTALES LOST RELEVANCE?
Geoffrey Ndege, +254714505312- Nairobi, Kenya.
I remember not so long ago I was a small boy, and during such times we knew no other good place than being on our grandparent’s laps listening to folktales. Story telling was an art that had a special attachment to every community in Kenya and Africa at large. As a matter of fact, it was our “unique selling point” for the African culture. The folk songs and tales made up a crucial part of unifying the young; developing minds that were moral and mature in terms of emotional balance from the various ways of incorporating the audience as passive characters in the tales. To promise the children a story after doing the day’s work then was the equivalent of promising the young modern children crisps after doing an assigned task. In schools, such folk tales made part of the activities done during spare time and even during such lessons that demanded illustrations locally. Oral literature which has been part of the Kenyan curriculum is basically a discipline that encompasses the spoken and performed arts whose transmission media is oral /mouth. In yester years, such subjects were practical. Since then time has moved and no more of such tales these days.
What has changed? The difference between those days and these days is quite clear. High school students complain about how hard literature is when we expect them to appreciate such disciplines. These days instead of listening to stories, the children spend long hour watching t.v, chatting and browsing. The effect is seen by such complains and poor performances in the languages. The stories are not narrated anymore, the young boys and girls have no interest whatsoever in such story telling activities terming them “boring.” We have lost our own uniqueness and modern kids cannot construct complete sentences in their mother tongue. John Dewey (1859-1952), an American philosopher and educator said that learning is summed in a phrase, “learning by doing” “education” he said, “is a process of living.”
Perhaps Dewey was correct. Learning by doing means embracing our culture and teaching our children their first language. It means giving those teachings through such models as stories, tongue twisters, riddles and proverbs. The teachings from such models give practical lesson and enable the children to think fast. Holistic formation of a person includes a virtuous and morally upright person. These kinds of people were cultured and molded by our own folktales and storytelling acts; and I believe they still can be used today. Incorporating them into electronic media and our digital systems can reach a large number of youths. I don’t mean people should stop writing story books, no, in fact this is the time we need more of the stories to be written but scope should be widened. Scope will be widened through use of other media like internet, radio and television programs.
The folktales should be relevant today as they were long time ago. Running away from ones way of living doesn’t change their identity. They only realize the far they run is never far enough and that is the very reason why our languages should be taught to our children and our stories narrated to them. For the sake of posterity, let’s embrace our fashions-cultures-as they are. Civilization is there in India yet their dancing stands, it went to England and their dress code did not change. Civilizations came to Africa and we are renouncing our oral literatures, enslaving ourselves to cultures not known to us. Have the African oral literatures and folktales lost relevance? Certainly not, we still have chance to preserve and own what is ours.