Oral Performance, Globalization, and Africa
by Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah
I have heard people say Africa is the most troubled continent, and that its culture and people have been more endangered than any culture and people can claim anywhere in the world. Culture, people, science, technology, politics, economics, aesthetics, food – African traditional oral performance is the custodian and recorder in all areas. Ruth Finnegan, Isidore Okpewho, and other scholars educate the world about the invaluable essences of African traditional performance, but Globalization today is the central threat to the survival of the preservation of African values and aesthetics.
Finnegan’s recent work opens up interesting issues relevant to human communication and human values of life and meaning, and one wonders whether the continued bombardment of Africa by the forces of Globalization will leave Africa with any truly traditional language and locally valuable meaning left. For example, former South African President, Nelson Mandela; Ghanaian President at Independence, Kwame Nkrumah; and former Zimbabwen President, Robert Mugabe; whatever their contribution, had every minute of their activities recorded by their people’s oral performance. People knew that Nkrumah was praised by his praise poet as Osagyefor, the Savior, as a metaphor for economic, political, and cultural survival.
Contemporary Globalization has refocused the attention of African traditional performers away from their roles as protectors of African values. In West Africa, consider Ghana’s enfolding political stability or Nigeria’s political turmoil and the process of its stabilization. The cultural value in peaceful transition, in political stability, the new slogans in Nigeria of card reader, vote buying, and herd men's violence need traditional African poetry and narratives to record them for posterity. When Dauda Kahutu Rarara, the Hausa popular oral poet sang of Masugudu su gudu, “those who would run better run,” addressed to corrupt politicians in Nigeria that may be fearful of President Mohammadu Buhari (or when he first criticized and cursed the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission and later praised him on Nigerian elections), the questions in the face of global forces are which of the factors of Globalization are in play on the traditional poet and is he being truthful to the true values of the African peoples and downtrodden? Globalization, Oral Performance and African Traditional Poetry opens up discussions centered around this crisis at the grassroots of Africa for the survival of African values in the face of Globalization.
Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah is Vice-Chancellor, Chief Executive Officer, and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Kwara State University, Nigeria. He is co-author of Introduction to African Oral Literature and Performance (2005), and author of Africanity, Islamicity and Performativity: Identity in the House of Ilorin (2009), African Discourse in Islam, Oral Traditions, and Performance (2010), and Cultural Globalization And Plurality: Africa and the New World (2011). Globalization, Oral Performance, and African Traditional Poetry (Palgrave, 2018) is available now.