An Introduction to Orature

The history of the traditional West African masters of elocution, widely known today as griots (male) and griottes (female), is extensive and offers valuable insight into the rich oral heritage of West Africans as well as those descendants dispersed throughout the world.

Classical spoken and musical oral traditions, or orature, a term created by Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o, span the entire continent of Africa. This is not to suggest that early inhabitants of Africa had not developed literature, or literate cultures; quite to the contrary, ancient systems of writing do exist amongst the people of the Africa. For various reasons, historical, as well as political and social, a greater honor has been bestowed upon the written word over the spoken word, but it must be remembered that words only maintain and reflect the integrity of the person who has written or spoken them.

The reasons for the rising interest in the classical orature of African Cultures is due to the fact that so much of these ancient traditions have survived the test of time, not only due to the griots and griottes but also by many others whose lives are intimately intertwined with the living, breathing word.

Want to explore a little further? Then choose any of the topics below to learn a little more about the world or griots and the craft of Jaliyaa.

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