Wednesday, January 26, 2011

PostColonialism: The importance of the spoken word

Reading Achebe’s novel, “Things Fall Apart” opened up my eyes to the differences amongst cultures and the importance of belief. Okonkwo and his tribe pride themselves on strength, honor, loyalty and tradition. They demonstrate great love for their tribe and great faith in their gods and natural spirits. The arrival of the white missionaries created a stark contrast within the novel. Immediately we saw the educated white man and his unyielding desire to transform a seemingly subordinate species. As the reader, we find ourselves hoping the tribe can ignore the advances of the white man and continue maintaining their lifestyle. Before the white man introduced himself into the Igbo nation, the Igbo learned through story-telling, oral traditions and past experiences. They had developed their own language and were proud in their success.
Bill Ashcroft’s article, “Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies” addresses the different ways in which post colonialism is defined. A concept that stuck out most prominently in my mind is the concept of “orality”. Ashcroft stressed that oral traditions have proved to be just as important as the written word. We see this demonstrated through the various proverbs and tales the Igbo people have passed down from generation to generation. I soon found that there are a number of other ways in which “orality” has impacted our modern-day society. During slavery, slaves often sang songs of hope and freedom that were passed on through the years. Lacking a formal education, these slaves relied on the spoken word in order to educate their children. Another example of the importance of oral tradition is the Bible. Early disciples spoke of the good word and through their words the many stories of the Bible were recorded. It was interesting to me to consider oral tradition as important as written tradition. Nevertheless, I think Ashcroft has a wonderful argument in claiming that a combination of both is necessary to develop the postcolonial world we are living in today.

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