From Oral Literature to Technauriture: What’s in a Name?

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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.


Russell H. Kaschula is Professor of African Language Studies and Head of the School of Languages at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. His doctoral research focussed on African literature, and his works of creative writing have received a number of prestigious literature and short story prizes. Professor Kaschula is an author of both English and isiXhosa academic and literary works, with novels including The Tsitsa River and Beyond and Mama, I Sing to You. In 2011, his short story Six Teaspoons of Sweetness was included in the International PEN-Studzinski award.

Andre M. Mostert is a research associate at the School of Languages at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, where he recently completed a master’s thesis on the literary work of the poet Bongani Sitole. Mostert’s interests focus on entrepreneurship and enterprise in schools, the use of ICT in education and training, and the role of ICT in promoting the capture and dissemination of oral poetry. Mostert is the gaming scientist for the EU Player project to support young entrepreneurs and, together with Professor Kaschula, co-developed the ‘publish and thrive’ model of supporting the research records of emerging academics.

oral literature, technauriture, Africa, poetry
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World Oral Literature Project
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