African Oral Narratives

Tags: Africa, Multimedia & Digital Archives, Oral History

African Oral Narratives (AON) is home to seven collections of oral and life histories, folklore, and songs from Ethiopia, Ghana, and South Africa. These collections include interviews with:

1. Over 20 individuals involved in military intelligence operations in South Africa during the apartheid era. These interviews are supplemented and enhanced by selected photographs from South African news photographer Doug Lee.

2. Members of three of South Africa’s poorest communities. These individuals talk about their experiences during the South African transition, focusing specifically on life for the oppressed and marginalized in post-1994 South Africa. Hailing from Maandagshoek, Rammolutsi, and Sebokeng, these individuals represent contemporary “forgotten voices” and their perspective adds an important dimension to current discussions on racial politics in South Africa.

3. Small-scale Ethiopian farmers. This collection of oral interviews and photographs examine the practices of contemporary small-scale agriculture in Ethiopia’s Lake Region. Specifically, the interviews probe questions about the landscape of Ethiopia and the effects of some political policy on agricultural livelihoods.

4. Women traders from Ghana’s Kumasi Central Market. This collection boasts over fifty interviews conducted in Twi in which the women subjects discuss changes in trading practices, family dynamics, and economic conditions. This collection can be used as a lens by which to study Ghanian culture as a whole.

5. Farefari speakers. Farefari is a language spoken in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Few language learning resources focus on Farefari and the materials collected as part of this collection were gathered for linguistic analysis and to collect a variety of discourse types from various speakers. In addition to oral interviews, tis collection also includes traditional folk tales, songs, and a prayer.

Together, these collections represent one of the most extensive contemporary oral history collections that focus on African subjects. Presented in their native languages with accompanying translations and transcripts, these interviews are also important resources for indigenous language acquisition and study.