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Hadithi Tales

Africa

 :: 

East Africa

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978-1-913500-45-0

978-1-913500-44-3

978-1-913500-46-7

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Hadithi

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Hadithi Tales includes a range of stories that originate in East Africa.

The seemingly simple art of storytelling is incredibly important in African societies. Storytelling helps those societies to understand core elements such as religion, morals, history, purpose social norms.

The collective nature of oral storytelling also helps to cement bonds among generations and family groups, and is significant in the way that it helps people to share experiences and ideas.

As with so many cultures the storytellers of Eastern Africa recount tales of heroes and ancestors. These heroes and forebears continue to influence the lives of the living in very real ways.

Oral traditions in East Africa cover both prose and verse forms, often portraying mythological or historical characters and can include tales of the trickster character. Storytellers in Africa sometimes use call-and-response techniques to tell their stories. Poetry, often sung, includes narrative epic, occupational verse, ritual verse, and praise poems of rulers and other prominent people. Praise singers, bards sometimes known as "griots", tell their stories with music.

Examples of pre-colonial African literature are numerous. In Ethiopia, there is a substantial literature written in Ge'ez going back at least to the fourth century AD, the best-known work in this tradition being the Kebra Negast, or Book of Kings.
As I mentioned earlier, one popular form of traditional African folktale is the "trickster" story, in which a small animal uses its wits to survive encounters with larger creatures.

Examples of animal tricksters include Anansi, a spider in the folklore of the Ashanti people of Ghana, Ijàpá, a tortoise in the Yoruba folklore of Nigeria, and Sungura, a hare found in central and East African folklore.

In general terms Africa has a hugely rich storytelling heritage. From Timbuktu alone, there are an estimated 300,000 or more manuscripts tucked away in various libraries and private collections, mostly written in Arabic but some in native languages such as Fula and Songhai. Many were written at the famous University of Timbuktu. The material covers a wide array of topics, including astronomy, poetry, law, history, faith, politics, and philosophy.

Swahili literature similarly, draws inspiration from Islamic teachings but developed under indigenous circumstances. One of the most renowned and earliest pieces of Swahili literature being Utendi wa Tambuka or The Story of Tambuka.

Traditional African religions have also played a key part in forming the African tradition, including belief in higher and lower gods, sometimes including a supreme creator or force. There is a strong sense of belief in spirits, the veneration of the dead, the use of magic, and in traditional African medicine.

Animism is one of the core concepts of traditional African religions, including the worship of tutelary deities, nature worship, ancestor worship and the belief in an afterlife.

While some religions adopted a pantheistic worldview, most follow a polytheistic system with various gods, spirits and other supernatural beings. Traditional African religions also have elements of fetishism, shamanism and veneration of relics.

Traditional African medicine is also directly linked to traditional African religions. According to Clemmont E. Vontress, the various religious traditions of Africa are united by a basic Animism. According to him, the belief in spirits and ancestors is the most important element of African religions. Gods were either self-created or evolved from spirits or ancestors which got worshiped by the people.

The wonderous thing about such a rich heritage, and such a long history of finding compelling ways to interpret the world, is that it creates a massive melting pot of full of ideas. Just a few of those ideas are what we have here in this small collection. As ever it has been a delight to discover and work with these stories. I hope you enjoy them.

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