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Oral History

Essay by   •  December 31, 2010  •  Essay  •  538 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,287 Views

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The study of traditional oral history is relatively a new concept started in the early twentieth century. Traditional cultures that practice traditional oral history are said to be "preliterate." Although the title "preliterate" may sound offensive, it merely states that they depend on oral transmission rather than printed text. On the other hand, if a culture depends on printed text rather than oral transmission, they are titled "post-traditional." There are many other traits that separate post and pre literate cultures, and I have found similarities, and difference alike, with regards to oral history and religion. Specifically this paper will explore how traditional African religion inhabits many of the same traits as preliterate cultures, while newer religions, such as Christianity and Islam, inhabit the traits of a post-traditional culture.

The degree that traditional African religions rely on oral transmission is extraordinary. This is necessary because there are about three thousand African tribes, all of which have their own religious system (Mbiti 1). Almost nothing is ever written down, instead passed on through story telling, song, dance, and other activities. In traditional African religion there are no creeds to be recited; instead, the creeds are written in the heart of the individual, and each person is a living creed of his own religion. People simply assimilate whatever religious ideas and practices are held or observed by their families and communities. John S. Mbita, author of African Religions and Philosophy, explains that, "these traditions have been handed down from forebearers, and each generation takes them up with modifications suitable to its own historical situation and needs (Mbita 3)". Traditional African religion is always changing and varies from tribe to tribe.

Newer religions rely and depend on written text. Christianity has the Bible, while Islam has the Koran. Each religion relies and depends on the exact words of the sacred texts. Islam, for an example, believes that if the Koran is not in Arabic, it is not the sacred text. This shows how important written text is for newer religions. Muslims and Christians depend on reciting passages in exact words, and the words of the sacred texts never change. Although the Bible may be interpreted differently from church to church, the text remains the same.

Traditional oral culture is greatly community associated,

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