Oral Forms of Nigerian Autobiography and Life Stories  book cover
1st Edition

Oral Forms of Nigerian Autobiography and Life Stories

ISBN 9780367721664
Published August 20, 2021 by Routledge
252 Pages

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Book Description

Oral Forms of Nigerian Autobiography and Life Stories discusses the oral life stories and poems that Africans, particularly the Yoruba people, have told about the self and community over hundreds of years.

Disproving the Eurocentric argument that Africans didn’t produce stories about themselves, the author showcases a vibrant literary tradition of oral autobiographies in Africa and the diaspora. The oral auto/biographies studied in this book show that stories and poems about individuals and their communities have always existed in various African societies and they were used to record, teach, and document history, culture, tradition, identity, and resistance. Genres covered in the book include the panegyric, witches’ and wizards’ narratives, the epithalamium tradition, the hunter’s chant, and Udje of the Urhobo.

Providing an important showcase for oral narrative traditions this book will be of interest to students, scholars, and researchers in African and Africana studies, literature and auto/biographical studies.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Place of Orí (Head) and Some Foundational Texts on Oríkì

3. Oríkì Praise Tradition in Yoruba Music

4. Niyi Osundare, Oríkì, and the Oral Auto/biographical Form

5. "I of the Valiant Stock": Yoruba Bridal Chant and the Auto/biographical Genre

6. "I am the hunter who kills elephants and baboons": The Auto/biographical Component of the Hunters’ Chant

7. When Witches and Wizards Are Narrators: Oral Auto/biography, Magical Realism, and Memory

8. The Auto/biographical Images of Africa in Udje and Tanure Ojaide’s Poetry

9. On Seeing Africa for the First Time: Orality, Panegyric, Memory, and the Diaspora in Isidore Okpewho’s Call Me By My Rightful Name

10. It Was Oríkì for You: Contemporary Reincarnations of Oral Life Story Genre in the Academy

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Adetayo Alabi teaches African and other world literatures and cultures at the University of Mississippi, USA


Oral Forms of Nigerian Autobiography and Life Stories is a brave and noble effort to identify and affirm the presence and role of an oral and aural way of being and knowing comprising a rich and nuanced ethical epistemology among the Yoruba and Urhobo people of Nigeria. Professor Adetayo Alabi’s heroic struggle against the unwarranted domination of one epistemology over another – intellectual and spiritual colonization – is inspiring in itself.

Rowland Abiodun, John C. Newton Professor of Art History and Black Studies, Amherst College, MA, USA. 

Oral Forms of Nigerian Autobiography and Life Stories foregrounds the oral creative process in Nigerian texts about the self and the community.  This innovative approach extends and challenges autobiographical genres and theories by situating orality as critical to their definitions and formations.  Alabi here simultaneously advances and extends our knowledge of orality, autobiography and African literature in a work that also contributes to the larger current academic decolonization processes, important in literature as in the larger intellectual schema.

Carole Boyce Davies, Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters and Professor of Africana Studies and Literatures in English, Cornell University, USA.