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Aissatou Bouba-Folle

To person

Dr. Aissatou Bouba-Folle is a German scholar abroad. She comes from Cameroon and has been teaching at the University of Bremen since 1998. She also works as a freelancer in the Bremen Überseemuseum.

The literature in Anglophone and Francophone Africa is very diverse. Starting with oral literature, it has lyrical, dramatic and prose forms. Literature in written form in turn includes lyric poetry, short stories and, above all, the novels of popular literature (e.g. protest novels, educational novels).

Poetry, poetry, short stories: African literature spans different genres. (& copy Antje Fiehn)


In addition to the already existing linguistic and cultural areas in Africa, the arabophonic, anglophone, francophone, lusophone and hispanophone language areas emerged during the colonial era. Each of them has its own literary characteristics. The focus of the article is on today's Francophone and Anglophone Africa, in which many Europeans have long refused to find any real culture, let alone literary products that deserve this name. The following words by the German Africanist Carl Meinhof at the beginning of the German colonial era in Africa serve as an illustration: "When Elli Meinhof's fairy tales from Cameroon were published in 1888, many did not want to believe that an African could really tell such ... graceful fairy tales , and that they were so similar to our fairy tales. Yes, we saw sharp protests from Africa from people who dealt with natives on a daily basis and who therefore had to know. "[1]

With the publication of her collection of fairy tales, Elli Meinhof tried to correct this discriminatory point of view, even if the ideological and colonial-political background of such collections cannot be overlooked. Among other things, it was hoped that this would provide access to the thinking and knowledge of Africans; also in order to be able to control them better. In addition to fairy tales, other literary genres served as sources of this knowledge, which also formed part of a spiritual cultural asset that was passed down almost exclusively orally until the colonial era. These literary works are summarized under the term oral literature and they still exist today - albeit in a different form. They offer the written literature that emerged in the course of colonization under the influence of the French and English a solid basis and a wide variety of possibilities to distinguish oneself from its European models.

The African oral literature

The African oral literature is diverse, includes lyrical, dramatic and prose forms that were functional or purpose-oriented and to that extent anything but "l 'art pour l' art" [art for the sake of pure art, note d. Red.] Are to be understood. They entertain, fulfill educational and didactic functions depending on the context and situation, serve to strengthen social ties and moral edification. They help to create a sense of togetherness, convey the values ​​and norms that are valid in society and support the maintenance of ritual and cultic customs and traditions. They also explain natural phenomena, offer concrete ways of life, create a connection to a metaphysical sphere and tell of the origins and development of peoples. In short, they still make an important contribution to cultural continuity in many ways.

All mentioned forms of traditional oral literature are common property or collective property of the group; their composition, symbolism and metaphor as well as their themes are fixed and not the result of the creative work of individual freelance artists. The latter are only entrusted with the role of keeping certain genres of this literature in memory and passing them on or presenting them as part of a performance that they realize according to certain rules and with the help of a variety of techniques and means. This includes, for example, the use of music, dance, facial expressions and gestures, with which connections are strengthened and the lecture or narrative rhythm is supported. There is constant interaction with the audience during the performance.

Even after the fundamental changes in living conditions in Africa, these forms of oral literature usually live on in different or even completely new forms. This also includes the performance poetry that emerged in the course of apartheid and has dominated South Africa since the 1970s, which is novel and in which people's fears and worries are collectively processed. For this purpose, they are processed in songs (as with Salif Keita) and distributed via the radio, in videos and on cassettes. They also play an important role in other respects: their elements and techniques, such as narrative, symbolism or metaphor, as well as their themes offer the written literature that emerged in the course of colonization an indispensable source of inspiration.