Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

Introduction

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

Introduction

Article excerpt

In many parts of Uganda, the bulk of oral literature texts for children remain uncollected. Over the last decade local publishers, often in conjunction with Uganda's Ministry of Education, have worked to publish some folktales and use them as instructional materials in primary schools. For example, Fountain published the "Our Heritage" series of tales from different regions of Uganda as storybooks for young readers.1 For the most part, writers who were familiar with the oral culture retold the tales in English but no effort was made to provide the original texts in the local languages as well. Such efforts to publish stories for children drawn out of their oral tradition thus underlie their cultural and national value.

In order to contextualize my own work of collecting oral materials for children, I will first survey the historiography of collecting in Uganda and then situate the texts I collected in a broader geographical, historical, and socio-cultural setting. I will begin by focusing briefly on the work of Ugandan collectors and relate it to that of European missionaries who worked in Uganda over the twentieth century.

Collecting in Uganda: An Overview

Early efforts by Ugandans who sought to preserve oral culture can be traced to the beginning of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of information on their works, most of which are out of print. The little that we know is based on texts that were reproduced in English translations by Europeans. For example, in 1902 a Luganda tale originally narrated by Tefiro Kisosonkole was translated by Reverend Ernest Millar and published under the title, "On the Slaughter-Place of Namugongo, Uganda"2 No information is available on the original version. The first seminal work was perhaps Engero za Bagando, a collection of some fifty-four folktales published by the Katikiro (Prime Minister) of Buganda, Sir Apollo Kaggwa, in 1927. Some of the tales in this book were translated into English by the Reverend Rosetta Gage Baskerville, a missionary who worked in Uganda at the beginning of the twentieth century.

While Kisosonkole and Kaggwa' s tales were only Luganda versions, Hosea Akiki Nyabongo's collections, Africa Answers Back published in 1936 and Winds and Lights: African Fairy Tales which followed in 1939, were both English translations only.3 Winds and Lights retells Rutooro stories for children: the tales are said to have been narrated to children by wise men in the palace of Tooro. Nyabongo later published another collection of Rutooro legends and myths translated into English. Similarly, Musa Mushanga's Runyankore tales, which appeared in Transition in 1964,4 were English translations; only his later book, Folk Tales from Ankole (1969), included twentytwo tales in Runyankore, along with English translations. Works such as Mordecai Kaizi's Ebikokko Eby'Edda mu Buganda (1948), and Ssebato Bafiima a collection of eighty folktales by Edward A. K. Segganyi, Erasmus K. Kizito and Jechoada K.S. Mukalazi first published in 1959, included only folktales in Luganda with explanations of new words at the end, as did Engero Amakumi Abiri Mu Ebbiri published in i960 by Ekibiina Ky'Olulimi Oluganda, the Luganda Language Association. The book is a collection of twenty-two Luganda folktales that were a product of a writing competition organized by the association in 1958. Tuula Tufiime (1964) by Jackson Kaswa also records thirty-two folktales, legends and myths in Luganda language. The book includes notes at the end to explain new words and lessons leaned from the tales. Kesi Nganwa's Runyankore Emitwarizeya Wakami (1951), on the other hand, detailed hare trickster tales from Ankole in the Runyankore language. Livingstone Walusimbi and Phoebe Mukasa's Ebitontome Eby'Edda - a collection of Luganda rhymes published in 1966 - similarly did not include English translations of the children's play songs. It was perhaps E.K. Magala' s Erigerò Zikuwoomera? (1961) which incorporated for the first time tales from various Ugandan cultures, although he does not identify the cultures from which all the stories are taken. …

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