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Non formal education. Sexuality education. Silk road. Slave route. Technical and vocational education. Underwater heritage. In this way the past and the present are blended; ideas are thereby generated, forming a conception of the present. Performance gives the images their context and ensures the audience a ritual experience that bridges past and present and shapes contemporary life. Storytelling is alive, ever in transition, never hardened in time. Stories are not meant to be temporally frozen; they are always responding to contemporary realities, but in a timeless fashion.

Storytelling is therefore not a memorized art.

Bahamian Oral Tradition Essay

The necessity for this continual transformation of the story has to do with the regular fusing of fantasy and images of the real, contemporary world. The artist makes the linkages, the storyteller forges the bonds, tying past and present, joining humans to their gods, to their leaders, to their families, to those they love, to their deepest fears and hopes, and to the essential core of their societies and beliefs. The language of storytelling includes, on the one hand, image, the patterning of image, and the manipulation of the body and voice of the storyteller and, on the other, the memory and present state of the audience.

African oral tradition – University of Wisconsin Press Blog

A storytelling performance involves memory: the recollection of each member of the audience of his experiences with respect to the story being performed, the memory of his real-life experiences, and the similar memories of the storyteller. It is the rhythm of storytelling that welds these disparate experiences, yearnings, and thoughts into the images of the story. And the images are known, familiar to the audience. That familiarity is a crucial part of storytelling. The storyteller does not craft a story out of whole cloth: she re-creates the ancient story within the context of the real, contemporary, known world.

Pretoria looks to preserve oral tradition in modern world

It is the metaphorical relationship between these memories of the past and the known images of the world of the present that constitutes the essence of storytelling. The story is never history; it is built of the shards of history. Images are removed from historical contexts , then reconstituted within the demanding and authoritative frame of the story. And it is always a sensory experience, an experience of the emotions.

Storytellers know that the way to the mind is by way of the heart. The interpretative effects of the storytelling experience give the members of the audience a refreshed sense of reality, a context for their experiences that has no existence in reality.


It is only when images of contemporary life are woven into the ancient familiar images that metaphor is born and experience becomes meaningful. Stories deal with change: mythic transformations of the cosmos, heroic transformations of the culture, transformations of the lives of everyman. The storytelling experience is always ritual, always a rite of passage; one relives the past and, by so doing, comes to insight about present life.

Myth is both a story and a fundamental structural device used by storytellers. As a story, it reveals change at the beginning of time, with gods as the central characters.

African Historiography and the Challenges of European Periodization: A Historical Comment

As a storytelling tool for the creation of metaphor, it is both material and method. The heroic epic unfolds within the context of myth , as does the tale. At the heart of each of these genres is metaphor, and at the core of metaphor is riddle with its associate, proverb. Each of these oral forms is characterized by a metaphorical process, the result of patterned imagery.

These universal art forms are rooted in the specificities of the African experience.