THE ROOT OF AFRICAN LITERATURE
African literature possesses a rich and diverse history that dates back thousands of years. It encompasses a wide range of literary forms, including oral traditions, folktales, poetry, and written works. African literature has been shaped by various factors, such as colonisation, independence movements, and cultural traditions. It shares the source of our history, independence, and traditions, as well as the global trend (the digital economy) and technological advancement.
One of the oldest known works of African literature is the ancient Egyptian text called the “Instructions of Ptahhotep,” which can be traced back to around 2400 BCE. This text provides guidance on moral and ethical behaviour. It is also part of African literature. There’s the pre-colonial African literature, which can be traced to at least the fourth century AD. The most common theme during the colonial period was slave narrations that were either written in French or English. Among which the literature “Things Fall Apart” was first given worldwide critical acclaim, a book written by Chinua Achebe. Another striking one written in English was done by Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford in 1911 from the Gold City (now Ghana), who published the first book to be written in English, Ethiopia Unbound: Studies in Race Emancipation.
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With colonial liberation and increased literacy, postcolonial literature has emerged dramatically in reconsideration and quantity since most Africans gained independence. Literature was written in English, French, Portuguese, and other traditional languages of Africa, which has over 50 countries with different languages. Ali A. Mazrui and others brought seven themes into place. They may include: the clash between African past and present; the clash between tradition and modernity; the clash between individualism and community; the clash between socialism and capitalism; the clash between development and self-reliance; and the clash between Africanity and humanism. In 1957, Albert Camus won the Nobel Prize in literature, before Wole Soyinka of Nigeria became the first post-independence African writer to win the Nobel Prize in 1986.
Throughout history, oral storytelling has played a significant role in African literature. Griots, who are oral historians and storytellers, have passed down stories and traditions from generation to generation. These stories often convey important cultural values, religious beliefs, history, and other historical events. In the 20th century, African literature experienced significant growth and recognition. Many African writers came up and began to write about their experiences and the social and political issues faced by their communities. Some notable African authors include Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
African literature has also been greatly influenced by the struggle for independence and the post-colonial era. Many writers have explored themes of identity, cultural heritage, and the impact of colonialism on African societies and even external religious beliefs. African literature isn’t history-based. There are many other writers who can weave werewolf romance, sci-fiction, and many other forms and themes of literature. To sum it up, African literature is a vibrant and diverse field that continues to evolve and contribute to the global literary field with it’s unique writers and poets. African literature is global and will never get outdated!