The Perspective Of Oral Literature And African Culture In Benin Kingdom As Portrayed By Different Authors In Some Selected Book

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

The Perspective Of Oral Literature And African Culture In Benin Kingdom As Portrayed By Different Authors In Some Selected Book


This work is on the perspective of oral literature and African culture in Bini Kingdom as portrayed by different authors in some selected books. The western colony hold on the view that African has no literature and they termed it “dark Continent”. This work reveals to us that Africa is rich in oral tradition and the Binis are more of it. The study attempts to explicate more explicitly on oral tradition by reflecting on all multitudinous problems oral tradition has helped to proffer solution to. The work is split into five chapters, chapter one is on knowing oral tradition, chapter two centers on literature review, the works of earlier Africa orature, chapter three examines the research methodology, chapter four provides answers to the research questions posed in chapter one which guides the study and chapter five presents summary findings and suggestions.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

Oral literature or folk literature correspond in the sphere of the spoken (oral/word to literature as literature operates in the domain of the written word. It thus forms a generally more fundamental component of culture, but in many ways as one might expect literature to do. The Uganda scholar Piozirima introduced the term oratory in an attempt to avoid an oxymoron, but oral literature remains more common both in academic and popular writing. Africans, Benin in particular, before the advent of literacy had their own forms of culture and societal norms, but there were no forms of formal knowledge of reading and writing that could be used in documenting and transmitting this rich cultural and historical background of the people rather than the use of oral in transmitting and preserving the custom and cultural beliefs of the people from one generation to another. Oral literature is a creative text delivered by the word of mouth. It refers to the heritage of imaginative verbal creations. Stories, folk-beliefs and songs of preliterate societies which have evolved and passed on through the spoken word from one generation to another. It also comprises riddles, pins, tongue-twisters, proverbs, recitation, chants, songs and stories, in short, it represents the verbal aspect of folklore. Often the Benin Oral Poet composes and performs his art vocally, and comes face-to-face with his audience.

Lore is seen in societies with vigorous oral convergence practices to be general term inclusive of both literature and any written literature and any written literature including sophisticated writings, as well potentially, as visual and performance art which many interact with these forms, extend their expression, or offer additional expressive media. Thus even where no phrase in local languages which exactly translates ‘oral literature’ is used, what constitutes oral literature as understood today is already understood to be part of all of the lore media with which a society conducts profound and common cultural affairs among its members orally. Oral literature as a concept after CE 19th century antecedents, was more widely circulated by Hector Munto Chadwick and Nora Kershaw, Chadwick in their comparative work on the growth of literature (1932-40), in 1960, Albert B. Lord Published the singer of fluidity in both ancient and later text and oral formulaic principles Benin used during composition in performance, particularly by contemporary narratives.

Identification “Edo” is the name that the people of Benin Kingdom give themselves, their language, and their capital city and kingdom. Renowned for their art of brass and ivory and for their complex political organization. Linguistics affiliation, edo belongs to the edoid cluster of language that is part of kwa language family and the Niger Kardofanian super family. Edo speaking people include not only the edo people but also ishan, the ivbiosakon, the akoko edo and the inem, many contemporary speakers speak English as well as language of neighboring Nigerian groups.

History and Cultural Relations

The Edo have undoubtedly lived in the same area for many centuries. Channels archaeological investigation (1975), at a site in what is today Benin city. Suggest that large population with degree of political organization may have existed as early as the end of the late eleventh century but was certainly in place by the end of the fifteenth. Oral traditions include reference to an early dynasty of kings called Ogiso (a term that can apply to the dynasty as a whole or to individual rules written that dynasty), which ruled. It was suggested until the twelfth and thirteen century, when oranmiyan dynasty, of Yoruba origin took over the fifteenth and sixteenth century were an age of conquest and cultural flowering. Many of the sculptures for which Benin is famous were created for the monarchs. Ewuare, Ozolua, Esigie Orhohogba, and Ehengbuda. Under the rule of the kings, the empire imposed varying degree of domination over neighboring Yoruba-Igbo and Edo speaking populations and even extended its influence to Badagry and Ouidah (now in the republic of Benin, was called Dahomy until 1976). This expansion was in process when Portuguese explorers arrived in their quarter of fifteenth century. They were interested in spreading Christianity and developing commerce trade with the Netherlands, France and England followed.

Oral traditions records indicate that power of the kingdom fluctuated over centuries. A dynastic crisis in the seventeenth century led to a civil man lasting from about 1690 to 1920, which disrupted the political and cultural life of the kingdom but peace was restored by kings Akenzuwa I and Eresoyen in the mid-eighteenth century. Benin came into conflict with British, who viewed the kingdom as an obstacle to their economic and political expansion in the area. In 1987 a British consular official instituting on visiting the city in spite of requests by the king to delay until the completion of an important religious ceremonies. The consular and his party were ambushed, and most of them were killed. The British immediately assembled the “punitive expedition” a retaliatory force which attacked and caputured Benin City in February of 1897, setting fires throughout the urban area and taking as war booty thousand of brass and ivory sculptures.

The reigning king, Ovonramwen, was sent into exile where he died, and the Benin Kingdom was incorporated into the southern province of the Nigerian protectorate. In 1914 the British amalgamated the new country of Nigeria in the same year, they restored the monarchy in Benin allowiung Ovonramwen’s son Eweka II to assume the throne. They instituted a system of native administration (a form of indirect rule) introduced a uniform monetary system and direct taxation, established government schools and built a communications network of roads and railways. Early in the twentieth century., the church missionary society and the society of African Missions arrived in Benin but they had less success there than in other parts of Nigeria, Ngeria gained independence in 1960 and at that time the kingdom became part of the western political boundaries of the territory and its name had changed several times. In 1963 it was separated from the western region and then, in 1976 it was renamed Bendel State. In 1993 Bendel State was split into two and today the Benin Kingdom is part of Edo State.

Despite all the political, social, cultural unrest that took place and the invasion of the kingdom by the British who looted the kingdom of its symbols, the people still carry on the various cultural practices of their forefathers some of which includes Izomo naming ceremony, Igue festival, Ekasa dance, Oluko dance, Bini Proverbs and adages etc.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

This study at a time like this, when people have diverted from their cultural values and have embraced the culture of the western countries, becomes a necessity. In the course of this study, we shall attempt to expatiate more on oral tradition and the various oral literature that were used in transmitting it from one generation to another. This study shall also bring out the contributions of oral tradition and its influence on our political, academic and the social life of the Africans and Benin in particular.

1.3 Significance of the Study

Since oral literature forms a generally fundamental component of culture, this study becomes useful in terms of promoting the cultural believes of the Bini people which is at its verge of extinction. Ethical revolution which our country needs to remold her citizens could also be achieved through this study. This study is to be found as reading materials to many who have deeper understanding of oral literature. It would help the government through its findings as inputs to her mass literacy campaigns in reducing the cultural and social disputes among Africans and the Binis in particular.

1.4 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study includes;

  1. Examining critical the oral tradition and the historical background of the Edo People.
  2. Identifying the role of oral literature in the development of the society and in Benin in particular.
  3. Examining critically the communities of origin.
  4. Examining the commitment of oral tradition to community cooperation and development.
  5. Examining critically the commitment of oral tradition into solving communal disputes and bringing out the norms in the society.

1.5 Research Questions

In order to give direction to the study, some research questions were formulated to which answers would be sought to help give direction to guide the researcher in carrying out the study;

  1. What is oral literature?
  2. What are the treats and resilience of oral tradition?
  3. What are the vital issues in the criticism or oral literature?
  4. What are the speech behaviour in oral tradition?

1.6 Limitation of the Study

In the course of carrying out this research, some difficulties which hampered a smooth undertaking of the work include;

  1. Identifying and selecting the available text materials within the limited project writing period was not easy.
  2. Materials: Availability of adequate and relevant books.
  3. Epileptic power supply: The inadequate power supply by PHCN limited the smooth undertaking of the research.

1.8 Definition of Terms


It is all part of an expression, not what is being expressed but the ways and ,manner in which its being expressed.


What is not written down but it is being said and passed by the words of mouth.


A person from Africa especially a black person.


It is the customs and beliefs, arts, ways of life and social organization of a particular country or group.


A country ruled by a king or queen or an area controlled by a particular person or where a particular thing or idea is important


The ability to think about problems and take decision in a reasonable way without exaggerating their importance.

Chapter Five

Summary and Conclusion

5.1 Summary

Oral literature in this context includes stories, histories, myths, drama, riddles, songs, proverbs, and other form of expression which were frequently employed to educate and entertain the Africans especially the binis in the pre-literature days. Although, most Nigerian know and could recount part of their genealogy and local native history, only a few oral artists had skill to treat the lengthy oral literature, oral literature forms the integral part of any of the culture of any group of people. Before printing was invented, communities sought to preserve their identity and culture as a group by handing it down oralty from generation to another. It was only orally that the elders in the communities could continue to transmit to the young ones the customs, beliefs and indeed norms of the race. In particular they have been types of oral tradition. This oral tradition has come to take specific forms and had often become identified with certain localities situations and fore ceremonies.

Many forms are easily identified and some are more important than other, some like incantation and passwo45d are used only on special occasions and have only a limited currency. Oral literature is still very much practiced although it has tolerated and still tolerates some metamorphosis. The chief of those consist of the frequent translation through which oral literature reaches Africa as a whole and the outside world. Western influence began affecting Nigeria literature as early as the eighteen century A. D. when Arabic ideas and culture were introduced to Africa. The Benin as elsewhere in Africa are so rich in culture and values. This is the reason some people called Bini a center of culture. Human beings have always been strengthened when they have not read the bible, history books, novels, or short stories and before such literacy forms were devised, they had entertained themselves, instructed younger generations and kept their records with the many faceted takes. It is to be reiterated that all culture have oral tradition, so the Bini have their own oral tradition. The Igue festival, Ekosa dance the Oba coronation etc can still be seen today as oral tradition among the Benin. As a part of arts, Oba sponsored the creation of some Benin Most famous art work and artist in the African Kingdom of Benin case bronze plaques that documented key figures and events in the kingdoms history.

5.2 Conclusion

Based on the literature and findings, one could conclude that African are very much rich in tradition and culture as a result of the evidence presented above through findings and analysis of data, and the Bini’s proves to be very rich in traditional and culture.

5.3 Recommendations

As a result of the literature review and the result of the findings from the analysis data, the researcher made the recommendations that;

  1. Oral literature should be taught at the different school level in Nigeria.
  2. The learners should be exposed to the historical development of their place of origin
  3. The mother tongues should be taught as a compulsory subject at the different school levels.
  4. Books that teaches the tradition and cultures values on a group of people or the Africa people should be within the reach of everyone who are interested.
  5. Government should be moiré involved in the promotion of culture and tradition of its people.

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