African Oral Arts in Excilia Saldana's Kele Kele

By Abudu, Gabriel A. | Afro - Hispanic Review, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

African Oral Arts in Excilia Saldana's Kele Kele


Abudu, Gabriel A., Afro - Hispanic Review


It is an accepted fact that African cultural practices have greatly influenced life in the Caribbean. As a prominent Caribbean scholar remarks, "African culture not only crossed the Atlantic, it crossed, survived and creatively adapted itself to its new environment" (Brathwaite 73).1 In the case of Cuba, the dominant ethnic group which came from Africa was the Yoruba of Nigeria, whose religious practices are still alive on the island. The Yoruba became known in Cuba as lucumi, their religion became known as santeria, their deities, or orishas, are active in the lucumi religious pantheon, and remnants of the Yoruba language are still heard on the island.2 As William Bascom notes, it is in Cuba that the Yoruba religion was retained in its purest form ("Shang(delta)" 13). The gods of the Yoruba-inspired Afro-Cuban religion santeria are the main characters in Excilia Saldana's Kele kele.

African people also brought to the Caribbean their oral literature, as evidenced by the African-inspired folktales, proverbs, and poetry that appear in the literature of the region. Since oral literature greatly informs this essay, we should keep in mind the implications of this concept as we examine Saldana's Kele kele. In their studies of African oral literature, Okpewho, Finnegan, Dorson, and Jablow all underscore the importance of the performance aspect in any critical reading of literature derived from the African oral tradition. This is because the African storyteller always needs to incorporate extra-linguistic features that would enhance his artistic performance and maintain the interest of a live audience. It should be noted then, that in analyzing Saldana's Kele kele, powerful dramatizing agents and performance-enhancing techniques such as gestures, movements, and tonal inflection are absent since there is no live audience. However, in shifting from the oral to the print medium, Saldana is aware of the presence of an implied audience, and she exercises a number of rhetorical tools aimed at enhancing the delivery of her narrative and maintaining the interest and participation of her audience.

Excilia Saldana (1946-1999) was born in Havana, where she worked as an editor with Editorial Gente Nueva, a publishing house that specializes in children's literature. She has published numerous books, including the following collections of poetry: Cantos para un mayito y una paloma (1979), Poesia de amor y combate (1981), and Mi nombre (1991). She has also published Compay Tito (1987), an illustrated children's book, Kele kele (1987), a collection of Afro-Cuban myths, and El refranero de la vibora (1989), a collection of proverbs. Several of her books have won literary prizes in Cuba. Saldana informs us: "I am a woman and my work carries that stamp implicitly. [...] And I don't want to only write as a woman, but as a Black woman (Randall 198). Her writings are thus strongly guided by her condition as a woman who expresses her feelings, desires, and aspirations, and by her condition as a person of African descent who seeks to reaffirm the central role of African heritage in the shaping of Cuban and Caribbean identity.

The focus of this essay is Kele kele, a book in which Saldana demonstrates strong mastery of the art of African oral literature. She draws heavily upon Yoruba mythology, giving the book philosophical underpinnings of an African nature. Kele kele is an exposition of the Afro-Cuban people's way of explaining human behavior as well as certain cosmic and natural phenomena. It is made up of five Afro-- Cuban myths called patakines, tales of the orishas, which often carry a moral lesson (Martinez Fure 213; Bolivar 186). What we have in Kele kele are poetic recreations of patakines, where the santeria gods are the dramatis personae. On these mythical scenes where reality is stretched far beyond our temporal and spatial consciousness, the reader receives lessons of moral, cultural, and existential importance. In the process, the reader also gains an understanding of the Afro-Cuban people's relationship with their environment and with the social, cultural, and historical forces that have shaped their thinking and molded their character. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

African Oral Arts in Excilia Saldana's Kele Kele
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.