'Exchanging with South-partners in the framework of VLIR-UOS Team-proposal: 'Storytelling and Young People Coping with Crisis: Oral Narratives and Crisis Management in Kenya and Ethiopia'

01 January 2022 → 31 August 2022
Federal funding: VLIR-UOS
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • African literature
    • Oral literature
Jimma Nairobi Grant writing exchange
Project description

This project proposal takes a Communication for Development-approach, bringing in ‘Oral Literature for Development’(OL4D) as a new line of thinking in this, firmly based on the belief that Culture and Creativity are central for all people’s development. We also build the resolve to introduce OL4D on Lewis et. al. (2008), emphasising the need to consider fiction as an influential source of knowledge for development.

As a team, we see huge potential in the cultural-historical ways in which people have dealt with crisis situations through their history of literary expression, but at the same time notice that especially urban adolescents in Kenya and Ethiopia do not connect to this literary history when faced with crisis situations. Through performative learning procedures we aim at enabling young people to engage with living oral traditions of storytelling, thereby reflecting on the potentialities of facing crisis situations. The overall aims of this project are:

(1) developing educational tools for an Oral Literature for Development-approach in narrative genres, and

(2) (re)connecting adolescent audiences with oral literatures, thereby

(3) (re-)valuing the potential of popular storytelling in preventing and dealing with current crisis situations

We will focus on four domains in the narratives, namely:

(1) Crisis situations between men and women; (2) Poverty; (3) Disease; (4) Ecological crisis.

We view these domains as interconnected, and want to especially analyse how in popular traditions of oral storytelling, reflections on poverty, gender, ecology and disease are linked to each other.

With the project we wish to contribute to the full respect for cultural diversity that the Agenda 2030 envisages, based on the principle of decolonisation. We aim to change the assessment of cultural traditions of storytelling by(re)connecting urban adolescents in Ethiopia and Kenya to oral narratives as a practical tool to deal with crisis situations. We thereby view literature as a lever for change: the aim is to empower adolescents in their skills to deal with crises situations, based on indigenous epistemological models.

C4D is by now an established field of ‘doing development’: communication is regarded as a way to realise change. Here we take this further to analyse and employ oral literary genres as forms of cultural and creative communication for development. Such an Oral Literature for Development (OL4D)-approach is innovative. There are links here with Theatre-for-Development and Artivism, and with development projects focusing on indigenous knowledge systems and/or artistic expression, sometimes with oral performance as part of this. Storytelling as a procedure is also gaining ground in organisations, yet oral literatures have not been strategically used for development purposes and our narrative analysis of oral traditions as a tool for crisis management has not been employed so far.