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The study of African orature in the form of animation : the case of Sankuru in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Inga, Lodi Paul
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The research aims to demonstrate the extent to which animation can be used to depict the performance aspect of African oral literature by taking into consideration the various forms of meaning-making that accompany a typical oral literature event. Oral tradition is among the oldest traditions in African culture; it is the channel through which the moral values and belief systems of African peoples were transmitted from older generations to younger ones. African oral literature, or simply orature1, has arguably survived the risk of extinction through publication. Libraries throughout the world feature books on African poetry and written collections of African folktales. However, the one aspect that cannot be depicted in a written format is the element of performance2. Finnegan (2007) states that performance is intrinsic to African oral literature; and, without it, the oral experience cannot be fully realised and still maintain the identity of African narration. Using a selected instance of orature in the Sankuru district in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this autoethnographic study explores the extent to which animation can be used to capture the intrinsic components of African oral literature. To incorporate the various semiotic devices that are displayed during an orature performance, a multimodal framework was used as a means for 'looking beyond' spoken language. The findings of this exploratory research point to the fact that Sankuru performers embody the essence of their respective performances. The latter are a combination of signs and signifiers which are deeply rooted in the culture as they are imbedded in the performer's words, in the clothes he or she wears, and in the settings within which the performances are held. Thus the performances cannot be divorced from their cultural context. The practical component that resulted from the research suggests an approach in which animation is used to depict and stage the world of the storytelling performance by bringing elements of the story 'into existence' while weaving said depiction with essential semiotic components of the performance.