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Storytelling in Northern Zambia

Robert Cancel


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1This has been a project of such long duration that it is difficult to properly recall and identify all the people who have in some way contributed to its realization. Obviously, most heartfelt gratitude goes to the many performers who gave their time and considerable talents to the narratives discussed in this book. Many of them have since died and i can only hope that they are represented here in ways that both accurately reflect their performances and honor their memory.

2People who have provided aid and comfort in Zambia are, again, too numerous to realistically list here. Among the Tabwa people, Chiefs Mukupa Katandula, Nsama and Kaputa all graciously supported my efforts and granted me access to their respective territories. Local friends and contacts included Paul Nsama, Rabbon Chola, Jameson Mpundu, and William Musonda. Work among the Bemba was greatly facilitated by Paramount Chief Chitimukulu Mutale Chitapankwa, Stephen Komakoma and Father Michel Genelot. At Ilondola in 2005, a small group of Catholic priests and brothers of the Missionaries of Africa (formerly the White Fathers) provided a great deal of assistance to me during my stay at the Bemba language center, as did my tutor Evans Bwalya. Collection and the ongoing analysis of material from the Bisa in Nabwalya was made possible by Stuart Marks and Kangwa Samson. My work in the village of Puta among the Bwile was facilitated directly by Chief Puta Kasoma and, many years later, by the current Chief Puta and his two councilors, T.D. Koti and Ferry Chansa. In the Lunda region, two, then, graduate students, Anthony Kafimbwa and Samuel Ng’andwe provided valuable introductions to local verbal artists, while in 2005 Job Kachingwe aided in providing background on the performers and interpreting themes of the narratives collected in 1989.

3Zambian friends and colleagues at the University of Zambia have provided logistical, intellectual and moral support for this project. Old friends Professor Mwelwa Musambachime, his wife Phoebe, Dr. Moses Musonda and Dr. Mwesa Mapoma were invaluable in sharing their knowledge of the Bemba-speaking societies covered in this work. Colleagues and some students in the Department of literature and Languages at UNZA provided a sounding board for my ideas and were also supportive of my teaching efforts during the 1988–89 academic year. Administrators at UNZA and the Institute for African Studies, including Professor robert Serpell, Dr. Steven P.C. Moyo, Dr. Jacob Mwanza and Mrs. Ilse Mwanza continually provided material and intellectual support to this project. While numerous Zambian colleagues contributed to the transcription, translation and analytical efforts of this study, special thanks are due to Mr. Dickson Chishimba Nkosha who very quickly meshed his translation skills with my own style so that he seamlessly worked over and improved my initial efforts as well as transcribing and translating a few narrative texts on his own. Here in San Diego, our great friend Mrs. Josephine Mabula Huckabay supplied a convenient and always sensitive source of transcription and translation assistance for a number of narrative performances. In Lusaka, Dr. Joseph Mwenya Mwansa, newly returned from his doctoral studies abroad, made some last revisions on one or two narrative translations that i had been trying to finish.

4Sincere appreciation must be expressed for the institutional and financial assistance that made the project possible. CIES Fulbright provided a lecturing/research award for the 1988–89 year in which these performances were collected. US Embassy staff in Lusaka were supportive in many ways, and these included T.J. Dowling and Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow. The University of Zambia provided housing and official affiliation status to ease our time in and out of Lusaka. The University of California, San Diego has generously supported this project with a number of research and equipment grants over the last twenty years. Specifically, the Dean of arts and humanities, Stanley Chodorow and the former Provost of Muir College John Stewart, provided funds to purchase a vehicle in 1988. Cecil Lytle, former Provost of Thurgood Marshall College more than once contributed financially to stages of this research. The UCSD Department of Literature has been steady in its financial support, including equipment, travel funds and regularly granting leave and sabbatical time to sustain my research. Moreover, the UCSD Geisel library has nearly completed the digitalization of over thirty years of my Zambian research material (audio, video, text and slides) and the physical archiving of the original data. Special thanks must go to library staffers Vickie O’Riordon, Larry Andrews, Reid Otsuji and Cathy Li. The UCSD Media Center has always been ready to assist me in technical matters and former Director Sherman George and engineers Jim Smith and Bill Campagna have been particularly supportive of my work.

5Our three month stay in Kasama in Northern Province in 1989 would not have been nearly so comfortable or successful without the unstinting hospitality of Viv and Brigitte Shone. In Mansa, Booker Kapapula and his family gave their time and hospitality to me and my family over many years. Numerous school teachers and head masters assisted us with accommodation during short stays at Mukupa Katandula, Mbereshi, and Kasongole. Four different groups of Dutch medical volunteers living in Kaputa graciously provided accommodation on numerous occasions. Officers of the government Fisheries helped us with housing and transportation in Nsama, Sumbu and Mukupa Katandula.

6Colleagues who have read and offered suggestions on early drafts of this project include David Westley, Allen Roberts and, especially, Kenneth Harrow, Stuart Marks and Stephen Belcher. At Open Book Publishers, Alessandra Tosi has been unstinting in her enthusiasm and support for completion of the manuscript. Similarly, Mark Turin at the World Oral Literature Project generously encouraged me and facilitated the use of their site to make available the initial video recordings of the narrative performances examined in this study. Finally, my work and life overall have been sustained and enriched by my wife Donna Cancel and our sons and their families.


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