The Value of Oral Tradition to a Researcher of African Historiography

Alexander C. Ugwukah


Despite the fact that oral traditions have been treated with contempt and intellectual disdain by Eurocentric scholars and writers in the past, evidences available and utilized by African scholars have shown that the use of oral traditions have contributed immensely to the reconstruction and value of African historiography. While some criticisms were obscurantist in their approach, others did not see the African as one that has gone through changes. Yet until very recently, the histories of the continent, its cultural patterns and even the potential of its people have been the subject of monumental distortions, ridicule and amusement among the intellectual community.

The purpose of this work is to raise some questions about the authenticity of its use as a vital source and make some suggestions about their collection and use in African historical reconstruction in order to stimulate its better use, adaptation and functionality to contemporary scholars of African historiography. In the study, attempt have been made to put the records straight by towing the line of argument that scholars of African origin has utilized oral traditions in the reconstruction of the histories of several localities not only in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole.

While highlighting problems associated with the use of oral traditions, the work has been able to suggest that the most hopeful direction in which oral tradition studies needs to go is to strengthen their interdisciplinary base. Such an interdisciplinary team work within the framework of which oral tradition could be collected would involve anthropologists, archeologist, linguists and scholars of oral literature working cooperatively and carefully with local historians over a long period. The result of such academic exercises would be multi-dimensional and result oriented as a result of the combination of the various faculties to check the limitations that could arise from a single researcher’s effort and on the whole make the work more beneficial and valuable to people generally.

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3178 ISSN (Online)2225-0964

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