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Oral Tradition: Importance and Flaws

Written by Tadese Faforiji
Oral Traditions: Importance on Historical Reconstruction.
      Oral Traditions (Oral_Tradition) are traduced mouth-to-mouth stories from generations to generations. These are words of mouth that are targeted towards passing  specific and spectacular messages.  Among Oral Traditions are folk lores, tales, fables, myths, legends, etc and summarily, they are products of an oral society (like Africa). Africa lacked writing culture, and this had summoned unfortunate and smelling remarks on its past. The notorious Hamitic hypothesis mainly targeted the refutations of African civilisations prior to the contact with the Europeans. According to the hypothesis, all forms of developments in African society were as results of European contacts. In other words, the socio-political, economic, cultural, and religious developments in Africa were primarily influenced by the Europeans.
             Africans were tagged as ”barbarous people who had never advanced beyond the first steps of civilisations.” Jettisoning the presence of oral traditions, these racial propagandists handed down, in academic materials, irrational and ridiculous remarks about Africa. Therefore, it was believed that, any form of development on African continent was as a result of external influence. I.e Africans were uncultured to the extent that they could not fashion out a viable milieu to manage their economic, political, religious and sociocultural affairs.
          A late professor of Imperial history, Prof A.P Newton, first stated this smelling assumption before it went viral in academic journals, books, articles, newspapers, magazines and lastly on social media platforms. And now, whether we like it or not, the so called Hamitic hypothesis remains a part of the whole African historiography.
 The birth of African History, as a discipline, was the result of the activities of African scholars in protecting and proving the existence of African history prior to the contact with the Europeans. African history is a “bulwark against European imperialism and racism.” Fortunately, the use of oral traditions has helped in providing the perfect historic credence for the existence of African history. If “no value will be attached to oral traditions,” it doesn’t deprive Africa the credit, it remains an oral society where oral source was effectively utilised for the reconstruction of a continent’s history.
    Oral Traditions can be relied on than written documents. The main attack against oral sources is its proneness to fabrications. Obviously, the state of objectivity can never be sustained in any historical reconstruction under any source whatsover. The Christian missionaries, who handed down stories prior to ‘official’ colonisation(in Nigeria), did not talk about the harsh treatments of the missionaries to the Nigerians  but rather focused on the propagation of religion and commerce, just like the Muslims whose stories  focused on Muslim regions only. The reluctance of the people to foolishly submit themselves to the caprices of the authority of these Christian missionaries made the latter write harsh remarks and all sorts of immorality about the indigenous people. With this, it is undoubtedly true that the subject of objectivity is missing, as in other sources of writing history.
The primary error of researchers and writers while studying both continents’ histories is the application of an erroneous approach. If European history can be easily deciphered with the aid of written documents, Africa isn’t, and vice versa. Studying the past with a parochial mind with the iintentionto to comment on the present “is the source of all sins and sophistries in history.” Researchers and writers should not take lines off track. As the written document is to Europe, Oral Tradition is to Africa.
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About the author

Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.

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