From Memory and Oral Tradition to the Construction of an African Historiography

Pedrito Cambrão


  • Universidade Católica de Moçambique


oral tradition, historiography, memory


Contemporary social theory has been emphasizing the relationship between memory and oral tradition in the production of knowledge, in its transdisciplinary aspect. This article seeks to bring up some meditations regarding the legitimacy of the contribution of memory and oral tradition in the production of historical knowledge and, simultaneously, its contribution to the formation of an African historiography. For this reason, the recognition of the contribution of modern historiography to the enhancement of a set of memorial and identity practices of a given society opens the way for us to reflect on memory and oral tradition. African oral traditions cover the vast universe of oral literature (proverbs, prayers, mythologies, legends, idioms, etc.), aspects that should not be ignored by historians, as they constitute what Maurice Halbwachs (2008) designates collective memory. Starting from a qualitative-hermeneutic perspective, it is assumed that the oral tradition is not limited to stories and legends, or even mythological reports, but, rather, it also reflects a great school of life, since it relates to and recovers vital aspects inherent to peoples. In this perspective, it is clear that both memories and oral tradition have a common functional substrate, which is to act as an antidote to forgetfulness or sources of immortality. Thus, by offering means for the preservation of collective memory, the oral tradition supports for its resumption and dissemination.

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