Friday, 30 December 2011

LITERATURE AND CULTURAL PRACTICES

Literature is located in cultural practices as it sets itself in addressing the cultural practices that take place in social-cultural setting of a particular society at different periods of time. Tanzania Literature in English for example has located itself to addressing the issues that took in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Tanzania. Without any particular chronological order we shall discuss some of the cultural practices on which Tanzanian literature in English is located. Some of the cultural practices are traditional artistic forms like folklores, dances, drumming, recitation and rituals. Religion, superstitions, witchcraft, love, corruption, conflict/wars, philosophy of Ujamaa ,forced labor, land alienation, colonial government, colonial education, nationalism and struggle for independence, nationalization, Tanganyika and Zanzibar union just to mention a few. Let us examine these practices as addressed in Literature.

Traditional artistic forms as addressed in Literature. Literature addresses cultural practices like folklores, dances, drumming, recitation, rituals and so forth. Literature shows how the lives of people and culture as passed through as in Topan’s ‘A Test of Heaven’ is an example of the oral folklores common among most African societies, dances like *likida (a war dance) as addressed in Hussein’s ‘Kinjeketile’ and rituals performed by Kinjeketile in hi house to prepare the people for the war after consulting the traditional spirit Hongo, all these indicate how literature is located in cultural practices.

Religion, belief in the supernatural, ancestral spirits and taboos are also common in literature. Another variable mostly addressed in literature is the issue of peoples’ lives as associated with religious beliefs, and taboos. These practices are common in Tanzanian rural communities’ culture, In Kinjeketile, Hussein addresses the issues of beliefs on myths and the power in ‘magic water’ claimed to be given by their spirit Hongo.
He shows how this ideology was effective in bringing the diverse people together but it was ineffective in helping them win the war as Kitunda says “whether they violated the taboos or not that is unimportant, what is important is that people who drank the water have died and that means one who drinks the water can die” Again in the first chapter of “The Gathering Storm” it is shown that the Akolongo people believed on their God called the Anyalungu and when a person died went to serve the Anyalungu until they allowed him to return in form of a baby.

Colonial cultural practices like colonial education, forced labor, land alienation, colonial government and Nationalism in literature. In most cases the colonial Tanzania literature located itself towards addressing the cultural practices of the time. It was meant to awaken the Tanganyikans to take up arms against their oppressors. The literature responded to these experiences as shown in Hussein’s ‘Kinjeketile’ when Mkichi says

“The Red Earth is still in our country. What’s more he has taken our country from us by force…. Now he has forced us to cultivate his cotton plantations …. He has got us paying taxes. We just stare at him”

Conflicts, resistances and wars of liberation in literature, conflicts, misunderstandings, contradictions and eventual wars are very common cultural practices in which Tanzanian literature has devoted itself. Most literatures address the issues of conflicts and wars among tribes, interpersonal conflicts or against colonizers. ‘Kinjeketile’ shows both interpersonal conflicts and war against the oppressors as Mngido says “I say let us kick him out: Let us decide now. There is only one way – and armed struggle- a war. There is no other way” pg.5. These are common practices in literature.

Philosophy of Ujamaa and self reliance and nationalization in Tanzanian literature. These practices also took a considerable attention in post-colonial Tanzania. The country was on the way of building Ujamaa and self reliance and nationalization of all major means of production. Literature therefore was considered a better vehicle for carrying Ujamaa ideas to the audience of Tanzanians. This is clearly evidenced in the ‘Fear of the Unknown’ when the author says “we’ve made marriage proposal to socialism… we’re engaged and we’re in love with her”. (pg 6) and in pg 19 of ‘The test of Heaven’, Topan says “our culture in Bagamoyo is different from theirs… we Tanzanians believe in Socialism and self reliance; theirs is capitalism”. This was the issue in question that clouded most literary works of the time in Tanzania.

Superstition and witchcrafts are also common practices the artists address in literature superstitious practices and witchcraft performances and diseases that that have claimed many people lives and so on. These have taken a central concern in most African literature in African communities. As it can be seen in Ndunguru’s novel ‘A wreath for Fr Mayer’ in which the occurrence of many deaths due to cholera epidemic has led to superstitious association.

To make matters worse, it has led to conflict among members of the community. One young man Adolfo Teodor, who, apparently, is superstitious, does not think it is cholera that’s killing people. He believes it is witchcraft, and he accuses his grandmother of attempting to kill his ailing child. So, he comes to church, where his grandmother is attending prayers for a confrontation.

It can readily be concluded that literature is located in the cultural practices of the society in question from which the artists draw their raw materials and use them to creatively design what comes to be referred to as works or art. The current cultural practices addressed in Tanzanian literature include corruption, effects of globalization, love affairs, issues concerned with unemployment and so forth. Literature cannot be isolated from the cuLture of the people from and for whom it is directed.

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