World Oral Literature Project Occasional Papers


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  • ItemOpen Access
    Encyclopaedia of Literatures in African Languages
    (World Oral Literature Project, 2013-02) Baumgardt, Ursula; Lorin, Marie
    The Encyclopaedia of Literature in African Languages (ELLAf) project focuses on oral and written literature in African languages. The project proposes the creation of a website presenting and analysing literary texts in African languages, in order to make a wide range of these written or oral texts, in Sub-Saharan African and Malagasy languages, available to enthusiasts, students and specialists from around the world. The project aims to build up a research database based on literary works produced in their original languages, translated into French and/or English and presented in their linguistic, social and cultural contexts. This paper considers the relevance of ELLAf’s technical and archival structure to its impact on improving widespread knowledge of literatures in African languages.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger: Context and Process
    (World Oral Literature Project, 2012-06) Moseley, Christopher
    As General Editor of the third edition of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, Christopher Moseley came to an already-existing project that had been evolving and expanding over two editions, but had yet to truly encompass the whole world. The opportunity to keep continuously abreast of the threats to the world’s weaker languages was created by providing an additional version of the Atlas, accessible online for the first time through the UNESCO website, with an option for users to submit comments and suggestions for amendments and corrections to the more comprehensive data provided in this third edition. In this paper, Moseley retraces the Atlas back to its origins and explain the process of expanding its coverage and enhancing its accessibility to the interested lay user.
  • ItemOpen Access
    From Oral Literature to Technauriture: What’s in a Name?
    (World Oral Literature Project, 2011-05) Kaschula, Russell; Mostert, Andre
    Oral traditions and oral literature have long contributed to human communication, yet the advent of arguably the most influential technology—the written word—altered the course of creative ability. Despite its potential and scope, the development of the written word resulted in an insidious dichotomy. As the written word evolved, the oral word became devalued and pushed to the fringes of society. One of the unfortunate consequences of this transition to writing has been a focus on the systems and conventions of orality and oral tradition. Although of importance, a more appropriate focus would be on ways of supporting and maintaining the oral word, and its innate value to human society, in the face of rampant technological development. Yet it is ironic that technology is also helping to create a fecund environment for the rebirth of orality. This paper offers an overview of the debate about the relationship between oral literature, the written word and technology, and suggests that the term technauriture may offer a suitable encompassing paradigm for further engagement with the oral word and its application to modern society. We discuss the late Bongani Sitole, a poet whose oral works were transformed into public and educational resources through the application of technology, and we consider the utility of the term technauriture for describing the relationship between orality, literature and technology.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Epic of Pabuji ki par in Performance
    (World Oral Literature Project, 2010-10-19) Wickett, Elizabeth
    In the spectacular performance tradition of Pabuji ki par, duos known as bhopas and bhopis, members of an indigenous musician caste of Rajasthan, sing the epic of Pabuji to nomadic communities in honour of their patron deity, a fourteenth-century hero, at venues across the Thar desert. Standing in front of a resplendent painted scroll called a phad, the husband bhopa strums his fiddle-like ravanhatta, providing lead rhythm and melody while his wife, the bhopi, veiled and normally silent, dominates the performance with her high-pitched, emotionally charged vocal power. The bhopas' livelihoods are now under threat. Their main patrons, nomadic herders, still believe in Pabuji's divine ability to cure animals and bring rain to Thar desert dwellers, but pasture and water sources have been encroached upon and their survival is in jeopardy. This study comprises two distinct parts. The first explores the aesthetic, religious and historical roots to this pictorial narrative tradition, how the phad functions as a sacred temple to its devotees for healing rituals and considers how the performance of Pabuji's epic had become a vehicle for social critique by the disempowered. The significant role of the bhopi in articulating the woman's voice, the reincarnation and incorporation of famous revered characters from the Ramayana in the epic of Pabuji and its socio-cultural transformations post Indian independence are considered in the wider context of Indian epics. The second part provides summaries of four live performances of the epic, illustrating its stylistic and textual diversity.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Sabah Oral Literature Project
    (World Oral Literature Project, 2010-09-29) Appell, George
    George and Laura Appell were prevented by the Sabah government from continuing their research among the Rungus, which had begun in 1959-1963. But in 1986 they were permitted to return to the Rungus and visit their friends. By then little of the traditional Rungus social organization and culture remained unchanged, except for their oral literature. Consequently, George and Laura Appell formed the Sabah Oral Literature Project to collect the various genre from the Rungus and related ethnic groups. The project was so constructed as to be run by the Rungus for the Rungus, with the Appells providing equipment, direction and training. It was hoped that this project would form a model for ethnic groups in other areas of Sabah and in other regions of the world to begin collecting their own oral literature. This article covers the various genre of Rungus oral literature from the extensive religious poems performed by priestesses to cure illness and promote fertility, to the prayers for the rice spirits, to historical narratives, songs, and word play. It discusses the selection of personnel to collect texts, their training, the equipment used, the payment of performers, the transcription of texts, the archiving of the recordings and problems in translating the texts. Translation and exegesis requires a detailed knowledge of the culture, which may necessitate study and analysis by scholars outside the society.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Faroese skjaldur
    (World Oral Literature Project, 2010-06-17) Leonard, Stephen Pax
    Faroese skjaldur are a genre of oral literature and music comprising rhymes, lullabies and short tales that have existed for centuries and played a part in the transmission — and survival — of the Faroese language. Rich in content, skjaldur illustrate how folklore, language and local knowledge were passed down the generations.While the origins of the genre remain opaque, they were part of a wider tradition of oral literature that included ballads, kvæ ir (poems, tales) and tættir (satirical ballads, often rude and insulting). The nineteenth century, when the Faroese language was most threatened by the colonial language, Danish, saw the flourishing of verbal arts, ethnic music and ballads.The influence of skjaldur and other forms of oral literature on the vernacular language has been disproportionately significant, as Faroese did not develop a written tradition until the nineteenth century. Faroese was never a minority language as such and survived the onslaught of Danish through its position as an oral form in a bilingual environment, with its use restricted to the homestead where oral literature continued to thrive. The contribution of skjaldur to the development of the Faroese language is thus beyond doubt. At present, however, in the increasingly urbanised society of the Faroe Isles, the custom of parents narrating nursery rhymes, counting games, lullabies and folktales to their children is rapidly giving way to more mainstream entertainment media, transmitted in either English and Danish.