This paper presents the project Multimedia Research and Documentation of African Oral Genres: Connecting Diasporas and Local Audiences that focuses on multimedia as a tool for ‘sharing’ documentation and scientific knowledge with the cultural owners of the collected oral genres. The increasing number of African websites are further augmented by sites created outside of Africa by individuals in the diaspora, who nevertheless remain closely connected to their homeland communities. These tendencies indicate that electronic tools can be used to share documentation and research with local publics within Africa and with diasporic communities outside.
‘Sharing knowledge’, however, involves theoretical and methodological challenges....
Shaw, John; Falzett, Tiber
This paper examines current initiatives aimed at increasing the number of Scottish Gaelic speakers in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, along with their knowledge of local forms of verbal art and oral tradition, through the use of online digital collections of archival recordings in communal immersion settings. These collections include heritage recordings as well as recent collections including The Nova Scotia Highland Village Museum-led project Cainnt Mo Mhàthar (‘My Mother Tongue’) www.cainntmomhathar.com, which recorded oral traditions and local knowledge from remaining first-language Scottish Gaelic speakers in Cape Breton communities with the purpose of employing this material in communal immersion...
In the increasingly technological universe of the Internet and digital technology where sounds and images are sold for the benefit of some (but not others), issues of copyright, intellectual property rights and the commercialisation and marketing of expressive culture on the web have become central. Performer and scholar should agree on an appropriate performance context prior to recording, and both approve the final product. Good sound and image quality is vital if a resultant DVD is to be sold, but this is a challenge in remote, non-electrified environments in which performances are spontaneously composed. Reproductive rights by each party as...
This presentation discusses the present situation of Horchin Mongolian folk narrative songs, based on my fieldwork carried out in the spring of 2010. Most Horchin Mongolian songs are narratives based on actual events, and are a combination of storytelling and singing accompanied by the Mongol huur, a four stringed fiddle. Only bards known as huurchi and a small number of very talented people can perform them in the proper fashion, a process that lasts several hours. While the Horchin Mongolian song tradition still exists, it is at the verge of disappearing and most modern bards now perform their songs in...
Simala, K Inyani
This paper discusses the integration of indigenous knowledge about rain prediction with modern meteorological forecasts in climate risk management to support community-based adaptation. The paper is based on research among the Nganyi community of Western Kenya to increase the visibility, effectiveness, sustainability and acceptability of local knowledge by integrating it with modern science rainfall forecasts. This research found that community memory includes songs, poems, proverbs and legends that are used to describe, protect and archive rain prediction knowledge, practices and beliefs. Accumulated over generations and deeply embedded in the experiential and historic reality of the community, indigenous knowledge is often...
P S, Sachindev
The Mudugar are an indigenous community living in Attappady, South India. Having been displaced from the forest and resettled in the valley, they are now undergoing major transformation, including the corruption of their unique indigenous knowledge systems. It was in this context, and with the aim to create a repository of indigenous culture, that the Mudugar-Kurumbar Research Centre was established.
In this paper, I will discuss the steps and challenges faced by the Centre in documenting and storing cultural knowledge. These challenges include working with the community (and against the weather) in fieldwork, where objections from some community members due...
The Endangered Language Archive (ELAR) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has taken a social networking approach to archiving and disseminating documentation of endangered languages and cultures (ELC) in order to balance two requirements: the sensitivity of many ELC materials, requiring effective but nuanced access control; and the fluidity of ELC materials and their access permissions over time, requiring multiple ongoing relationships between depositors, users, and the archive. I will report on issues that arose during the system’s development and users’ responses to it following its launch in June 2010.
I will also raise the issue of...
This paper will describe the author’s project documenting the Mongghul Ha clan oral history tradition in Qinghai and Gansu provinces, China, by focusing on the purposes, methods and approaches to documentation. Reactions and attitudes towards, and views of, the project on the part of local community members of different age groups will be emphasized. I will present an overview of approaches to the preservation of the collected materials in the form of DVDs, an online database and traditional academic outputs (e.g., transcription, translation, and research papers), as well as the redistribution of the digitised materials back to the community and...
The Ballad of Tejaji occupies an important place in the sung oral tradition of agrarian folklore over large tracts of Rajasthan and into Madhya Pradesh. Tejaji is glorified for the manner of his death in which he gave up his life to fulfil his promise to a snake. In return, blessings are bestowed upon him so that any snakebite victim who ties a thread in his name will be saved. Men come together at night to sing this ballad during the monsoon months, when the possibility of encountering snakes is highest. The author is in the process of recording the...
Based on observations during years of fieldwork in Manding dating back to 1988, this presentation analyses a recording of one person as a group or team performance. I will show how those not involved in the actual recording position themselves in order to have a claim on the recording. The argument is demonstrated with a video recording (of themes from the Sunjata epic, recited by a person officially inaugurated as the ‘Master of the Word’ of his family) made in Kela (Mali), January 2007, recently published as Volume 3 in the Verba Africana series. I argue that these ‘overlooked’ aspects...
Rendón, Jorge Gómez
Ecuador is linguistically diverse: it is home to thirteen indigenous languages besides the official language (Spanish). All of Ecuador’s indigenous languages, including the one with the largest number of speakers, are endangered. Due to a century-long history of invisibility and shrinking of native territories, these languages remain largely anchored in orality.
In this paper, I discuss two new approaches to orality. One is my proposal of a laboratory of indigenous languages, an initiative that was launched in 2008 for Kichwa in its pilot stage by the Ministry of Education. The second proposal has to do with the management and safeguarding of...
Foley, John Miles
Although the proposition may at first seem counterintuitive, humankind’s oldest and newest technologies of communication are fundamentally homologous. To put it succinctly, oral tradition (OT) and Internet technology (IT) share the core dynamic of navigating through networks, of blazing a trail through webs of potentials. Rather than tracking along the fixed, linear sequence typical of texts, OT and IT foster co-creative, participatory, contingent, and ever-emergent experiences. In other words, they mime the way we think. In this lecture I will explore the homology between OT and IT, and their contrast with textual technology, by introducing Agora-theory, a perspective that highlights...
Oral traditions serve as linguistic structures that help reinforce cultural values and group identity. This is particularly true of American Indian stories that contain moral content, and are typically aimed at young audiences. This paper discusses how such stories, commonly known as ‘coyote stories’, form an important body of knowledge that not only represents cultural values and philosophical orientations, but teaches them to their listeners.
Communities view their oral traditions as public evidence of a communal identity, and it is therefore incumbent upon academics to find ways to build bridges between existing bodies of scholarship and the needs of traditionally oral...
The Philippines is extremely rich in oral literature genres, in particular elaborate epic recitations. When UNESCO was seeking ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ in Southeast Asia, it chose the hudhud epics of the Ifugao people of Northern Luzon based on a recording by a professional performance group rather than by actual hudhud performers. Consequently, there are now substantial offices manned by civil servants intent on ensuring that the only versions of hudhud that are disseminated correspond to the requirements of the urban elites.
The choice of hudhud is unfortunate in many ways, since non-hudhud genres—and there is a wide variety of oral...
Aston, Judith; Matthews, Paul
This paper reports on a collaborative project between the authors and the historical anthropologist, Wendy James. The authors are developing strategies through which James’s fieldwork recordings from the Sudan/Ethiopian borderlands can be digitized and archived in such a way as to make them relevant to contemporary contexts. Most of the original recordings are in the Uduk language, but there is also material in other minority tongues, as well as national languages. While this archive needs to be relevant to academic users and the wider general public, most particularly it must be relevant to the people themselves who are now starting...
The recording of oral tradition performances aims at a full and complete document of performances that are given by storytellers belonging to a specific tribe, village or clan. The purpose of the recording is to enable multi-disciplinary analysis. Ideally, these stories are performed and recorded in an intimate setting. Registration or recording involves, by definition, disturbing the conditions in which the verbal art is normally performed. Local conditions will differ in the extent that they accept disturbances. The larger the amount of technical equipment, the larger the disturbance will likely be. Anthropological recordings should be realised with a minimum amount...
This workshop explores key issues around the dissemination of oral literature through traditional and digital media. Funding agencies, including our own Supplemental Grants Programme, now encourage fieldworkers to return copies of their work to source communities, in addition to requiring researchers to deposit their collections in institutional repositories. But thanks to ever greater digital connectivity, wider internet access and affordable multimedia recording technologies, the locus of dissemination and engagement has grown beyond that of researcher and research subject to include a diverse constituency of global users, such as migrant workers, indigenous scholars, policymakers and journalists, to name but a few.