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African Story Telling – Lessons and Entertainment
In the old days in Africa, we taught ourselves values through stories. We have quite a lot of history. We use all the means we can then. Some stories are songs that tell about the heroic battles of our heroes. We have heroes that everyone in the community can identify with. We have stories of animals through which we tell our children the virtues of life like honesty, honor, loyalty and courage. Animals represent different things and ideas. For example from my side of the world, we have stories of turtles that are portrayed as wily, cunning, sometimes funny but always with an underlying lesson for us. It is natural every evening after the day’s work to sit by the fireplace, or under a large tree and listen to the snapping of turtles. However, in all these turtle stories, a thread of moral code is woven for us. It is normal at the end of each story for the storyteller to ask us children listening, what is the lesson of the story.
In a broader way at the government level, we have ceremonies, which are used to teach leaders the importance of honor and integrity. Such festivals are often a kind of screen in which the wrong leaders are lit in songs, plays and such devices that send the message home. It is clear that artists of any masque cannot suffer. The victim who is very saddened by being a lamp will naturally keep to his farm for a few days and weeks depending on how severe the satire is. He returns to the larger community after a while hoping that everyone has forgiven or forgotten that wrongdoing. However, he noted that in his desire not to have the same experience next year, he will change his ways.
The community is friendly, aware of its place and managed in many friendly and inclusive moments. Storytelling has its uses and is a simple form of entertainment and an instructional tool. Sadly however, the story is completely different today in my part of the world. The only viable story we can tell ourselves these days is that of poverty, sickness, (some very strange ones our ancestors never heard of) and of neglecting ourselves. In those old golden years, a thief could not find help anywhere unless he changed his ways. His family disowned him. His community will reject him, no matter how rich he is, they never give him a title. Society will look down on him if he even tries to contribute to the common wealth.
Today, no story is told. No more sitting by the big tree to watch the moon, sing to the moon or tell stories of turtles. There are no moon games or wrestling or melodious songs or beauty games in which we show off our hair in Africa. What we have now is television that makes African apes respectable, a culture that has stripped us and left us behind. Thieves now take titles of nobility and sometimes determine the course of once proud and self-supporting people.
We can also go back to the storytelling days. We can also use stories to transform our ideas into something noble and uplifting. We may not be able to physically sit by the big tree, but we can still tell stories about honor and integrity for these stories are as timeless as the virtues they preach. It is the essence of real civilization. Do we still have good storytellers?
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