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Searching for Sharing

Daniela Merolla
Mark Turin

2. Technauriture as a Platform to Create an Inclusive Environment for the Sharing of Research

Russell H. Kaschula

Texte intégral

Introduction — Objectives and Setting the Scene1

  • 1 The author acknowledges the contribution of Bongiwe Dlutu as well as the Rhodes team of Keiskammaho (...)
  • 2 Auriture: a combination of aural (what we hear) and literature (from the written word), representin (...)

1This chapter examines the importance of orality in rural communities using the paradigm of technauriture, which describes how technology, auriture2 and literature intersect to transmit educational and other messages within communities. It uses oral literary research that has been conducted in the Eastern Cape region to show how technology can aid the data collection process, and how this technology can return such information to the communities from which it comes. This chapter also explores the process of orality fostered by community meetings, oral histories, oral poetry, beadwork, music and story-telling, and how this culture interacts with the recording process facilitated by modern technology. It will also consider the return of recorded oral material to educational and archival circles. These objectives are pursued using empirical data collected at Tshani near Port St. Johns, an area falling within the Mankosi tribal authority in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. They are also considered in relation to the work of oral poet, Bongani Sitole who lived in Mqhekezweni village near Qunu and Mthatha, as well as against the backdrop of research conducted in Keiskammahoek, and at the Broster Beadwork Collection, now housed at Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha.

2In recent years, oral history and literary research has been reintroduced to the Keiskammahoek community from an educational perspective. This includes research conducted into oral poetry (izibongo), especially the poetry produced by the late Bongani Sitole and the Broster Beadwork Collection, as well as oral literary research conducted within the communities living in specific areas of the Eastern Cape Province such as Keiskammahoek, Mqhekezweni, Mankosi, and the Port St. Johns area. Orality still proliferates in these areas and it is used for the documentation and dissemination of information in schools and archives, as I shall explore in this chapter. The Eastern Cape is largely inhabited by amaXhosa people and they live mainly in the previously “independent” homelands of Transkei and Ciskei respectively,3 although many people migrated to the cities after the end of apartheid in 1994 (Kaschula 1997: 11). These former homelands are today regarded as disadvantaged; most people rely on government support grants and schools are often underresourced and the graduation rates are very low. The primary technological devices used by people in the villages and rural areas are the radio, the mobile phone and, to some extent, the television. The isiXhosa radio station Umhlobo Wenene (True Friend), for example, has 4.6 million listeners; it is the second largest radio station in South Africa and it covers eight out of nine provinces.4 This chapter seeks to understand how mobile phones and the radio can contribute to support learning in an educational context in which even television sets are relatively uncommon.

3Mankosi’s twelve villages are inhabited by amaXhosa people and are situated in the Ngqeleni district in the former Transkei region. Mqhekezweni is situated next to Qunu which is about forty kilometres from Mthatha, while Keiskammahoek is near East London in the old Ciskei homeland. Even though these areas have many problems, their remoteness encourages people to hold on to their cultural values. Elders in the villages are often not well educated in the Western sense (for instance, most cannot read and write, and many do not speak English). They use traditional knowledge to guide their children and families, and are still able to narrate folktales, tell stories of their own experiences during the apartheid era, and describe how they live in the present time. Theirs is largely an oral culture underpinned by the isiXhosa language.

  • 5 Such an approach has been validated by the technologized work of the Verba Africana Series, for exa (...)

4The danger of orality is that the narrated story may change over time and no longer accurately reflect what was initially said. Issues around the notion of “accuracy” are further explored by Bidwell and Siya (2013). The context in which stories and poetry are narrated has altered due to changes in lifestyle. This means that the interpretation of the telling of, and listening to, old stories has also changed, and it is much less likely to communicate the meanings that were originally intended. The use of technology and technauriture can assist in more accurately recording such events for posterity and returning them to the community. According to Starr, “The oral history movement may be perceived as a conscious effort to utilize technology – not only the tape recorder, but […] microforms, the computer and other tools of the age” (1984: 5). Arguably, today these new tools would include mobile phones, tablets, video recorders, computers and the internet.5

5Orality and technology are now integrally intertwined. It remains to be seen just how this link will ultimately influence the performance and the reception, dissemination and archiving of oral forms.

The Importance of Orality

6Many forms of orality persist in rural and urban areas, from listening to the radio as an aural experience to performances by oral poets (iimbongi). With regard to the latter, it is especially within the context of contemporary amaXhosa life that the imbongi operates. Traditionally, the most recognized imbongi were those who were attached to the chiefs and who produced oral poetry in their honor, normally located within rural areas. But today the tradition has also moved into the contemporary political arena, where important figures are praised in the same way that traditional chiefs are praised (Kaschula 2002). For example, Bongani Sitole from Mqhekezweni was the first poet to perform for Nelson Mandela after his release from prison in 1991. Indeed, oral poetry played a vital role in the struggle for independence prior to 1994, thereby contributing to the continued importance of orality in South African society (Gunner 1999: 50). In a similar way, the folktale and other forms of orality have adapted to contemporary village life. Arguably the oral word lives alongside the technologized word: orally performed folktales and television and radio programs espouse a similar tradition. The work of performer Gcina Mhlophe6 is particularly well-known in this technologized arena as she previously presented story-telling programs on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) television channels. One can also consider the oral poet, Zolani Mkiva, who has won numerous international awards for his performances and who became known as “The President’s Poet” or imbongi yesizwe (“The Poet of the Nation”). His website ( is a good example of technauriture and the importance of orality in contemporary South Africa.

Technauriture and the Orality/Literacy Debate

7There is vibrant debate around orality and oral literature in South Africa and throughout the world. “If one portrays orality and literacy as incompatible and different, rather than forming part of the same continuum, then one is left with images of literacy versus illiteracy, civilization versus non-civilization, structure versus non-structure and so on” (Kaschula 2002: 66). This debate is exemplified by the conflicting views of Finnegan (1988) and Ong (1982), where Finnegan suggests the two forms interact, while Ong sees them as totally separate, with literacy replacing orality. The new political order in South Africa has introduced a renewed pride in what it is to be African, hence there has been a revival in the status and role of oral literature. This form of literature is fast taking its rightful place alongside written literature and is now studied in schools and universities. Furthermore, it is used in an innovative way to teach people about HIV and AIDS, agriculture, family planning and so on (see Dauphin-Tinturier in Kaschula 2001: 54). The didactic or educational nature of this literature means that it can be studied for its own sake and it can be used elsewhere in South Africa in more practical contexts, for example the use of folktales to impart knowledge to young pregnant teenage mothers by the Eastern Cape Health Department (Zakaza 2014). But if orality is to serve any longterm purpose, it must be taught and recognized as a dynamic, living tradition which has much to offer.

  • 7 The revised and expanded 2012 edition of Oral Litarature in Africa, published by Open Book Publishe (...)

8Oral literature in South Africa finds itself at the centre of the debate about what literature is, and how it is to be taught. The relevance of the oral word alongside the written word is the focus of discussion worldwide. Coplan talks of extending terms such as orature and oral literature to “auriture” which, according to him, encapsulates not only the oral and the written, but the aural as well (1994: 8). In a similar way, Gunner discusses the mixing of genres, the orality-literacy debate, and so on (1989: 49). In an extensive article in which she reviews the state of oral literature in Africa since the publication of her famous book on the subject (Oral Literature in Africa, 1970; 20127), Finnegan states the following in regard to the term “oral literature”:

My own inclination would definitely be to keep it. […] To me the advantages mostly outweigh the costs […]. It highlights the creative, aesthetic qualities and the significance of heightened and formalised linguistic activities in a cultural [sic] recognised setting […] the term also draws the study of Africa into the terminology and scholarship of international comparatives study […] (1992: 42).

9In terms of contemporary oral forms, it would seem that there are three areas of prominence in South Africa. These are: contemporary stories (including media such as the internet, radio and television); entrepreneurial oral art which is sold for capital gain; and oral poetry. The three are linked by commercial value. Forms such as riddles, idioms and proverbs play a less prominent role and are often incorporated into other genres, for example, stories.

10Finnegan (1977 and 2012) and Ong (1982) have long debated the nature of orality and its relationship with technologies such as writing systems. To a degree they represent two sides of the same coin. Both accept the innate value of oral cultures and oral tradition. Ong (1982: 9) states that “human beings in primary oral cultures, those untouched by writing in any form, learn a great deal and possess and practice great wisdom, but they do not ‘study’”. Finnegan however is emphatic in her recognition of the role of oral poetry, and by extension orality, and its innate value to human society: “it is difficult to argue that they [oral poets] should be ignored as aberrant or unusual in human society, or in principle outside the normal field of established scholarly research. In practice there is everything to be gained by bringing the study of oral poetry into the mainstream of work on literature and sociology” (Finnegan 1977: 2). Perhaps Finnegan’s statement could now be adapted to include not only work on literature and sociology, but also to modern-day technologies.

11It is against this backdrop of the interplay of orality and the influence of technology that the term technauriture has been coined (Kaschula 2004a; Kaschula and Mostert 2011). In terms of the etymological roots, the “techn” represents technology, the “auri” is derived from the word auriture, whilst the “ture” represents literature in the more conventional sense. Auriture, used by Coplan, implies the use of a range of senses in one’s appreciation of the oral word: hearing, speaking and the more abstract aesthetic analysis of the word (1994: 9). Auriture has been suggested in place of orature, orality or oraural, the latter a term used by Kishani (2001: 27).

12Technauriture attempts to embrace the implicit dichotomies that Ong and Finnegan acknowledge, and to place the debate regarding orality firmly in a twenty-first century discourse; one that will offer a coherent nomenclature that can seamlessly traverse various disciplines to locate orality in an interdisciplinary paradigm that promotes the capture, nurture and harnessing of orality, oral histories and oral traditions. The term encompasses orality and extends beyond it, which allows other disciplines to address issues of orality and oral tradition without being constrained by the nature, definition and applicability of orally based knowledge and knowledge systems in relation to their particular academic discourse.

13Kaschula (2004a, 2004b, 2009, 2012c) and Kaschula and Mostert (2011) define technauriture as an attempt to capture the modalities associated with the three-way dialectic between primary orality, literacy and technology, thus moving the debate into a more sophisticated realm that expands what has essentially been a tension between orality, writing and the use of technology in re-inventing the oral word. This discussion now includes the implications of technology as a general and alternative category. The term includes all technologies that can be brought to bear on the issues of orality, oral history, community meetings with headmen and oral traditions more generally. It also encompasses the implications of the application of technology to contexts that should be characterized by a sympathetic perspective towards orally based cultures. This is an attempt to recognize that human culture has evolved to be more aware of the implications of technological advances.

Case Studies in Orality

14What follows are case studies of recorded orality in villages in Mankosi and surrounding areas. Arguably, the mere recording of this material transports it into the realm of technauriture. All case studies were part of a technology design project instigated by researchers who are not isiXhosa, some of whom have spent very little time in Mankosi and who sought to design and deploy prototype technologies to support local communication (Bidwell et al. 2013).

15The first two cases occurred very early in the process of generating data to inform the design of technologies. Local researchers, aged fourteen to eighty years old, recorded over fifty items in total, which featured some sixty people in interviews, conversations, storytelling, and presentations. The external researchers were not provided with written translations at the time, rather they were provided with two video recordings. This included the original video recording (O) and a video recording (T) of one of the local researchers, who had recorded O, watching and listening to O and orally translating the spoken words into English. Local researchers prepared the translation, T, within three days of making the original recording, O.

16The first study involved a story told by a village elder, an old and respected woman filmed seated on a grass mat inside her rondaval (the mud-brick traditional dwellings that comprise most homesteads). Two local researchers were involved in the recording. This is in line with the commonly held definition of orality as a communicative event which is handed down from generation to generation by respected orators who are drawn from the older generation.

Recorded Folk Tale: Capture and Dissemination

Once upon a time!
There was a woman who had only two daughters, the first one was Dengekazi and the second was Qhaqha. One day the woman sent her daughters to fetch inkciyo (a garment worn by virgin girls as underwear which has a beaded front) from her brother’s wife in a village far from theirs. She gave her children food to eat on the way and instructed, “You will walk a very long distance my children and when you are about to reach the village you will see a junction; one will be a road to the left and on the right you will see a walkway. Please do not use the walkway; take the big road then you will get to your uncle’s place, do you get me beautiful daughters?” The daughters nodded their heads, as a sign that they had understood their mother. They left their home; it became dark while they were still walking, and suddenly they approached the two-way junction, a road on the left and walkway on the right. They stood and argued as to which way to go.
Dengekazi: “We must take the walkway.”
Qhaqha: “But mother said we must use the road to the left and that will take us straight to uncle’s place.”
Dengekazi: “Mother said we must turn to the right and I won’t argue with you as you are young.”
Dengekazi took the walkway while Qhaqha was standing, left puzzled by her sister’s decision. She then decided to follow her older sister because she was scared to walk alone in the dark, “Khawume khe ndilandele isidenge sikaMama” (“Wait then, let me follow my Mother’s fool”). They walked until midnight and then they saw a light in a onehut homestead. They decided to stay there and get a place to sleep. They went inside and found a woman called Nomlenzana; she had one arm, one leg, and one eye. Nomlenzana asked the children, “Why are you here, little girls?” Qhaqha answered, “We want a place to sleep; we are from a village far away; mother sent us to uncle’s place but we lost our way.”
Nomlenzana replied, “Little girls, this is a dangerous place; a woman who owns this hut is Nomahamle, a cannibal; she hunts and eats people. She has eaten my other parts but could not finish because I am fat and she always comes home late with her stomach full. You can sleep in the big bucket over there, but be cautious; when she asks who you are, you tell her you are her brother’s daughters; when she is sleeping you will hear a very big noise of a man who sings inside her stomach; at that time you must try to escape. When she comes home you will hear a big wind and noise.”
Dengekazi and Qhaqha went inside the big bucket and they closed it. In a minute they heard a big wind blowing, Nomahamle entered the hut. She was very tired and drowsy, but she sensed that there are people inside the hut except Nomlenzana, and she asked, “Who are you, you must be fat?”
Qhaqha answered, “We are your brother’s daughters.”
The cannibal continued, “But my brother’s daughters cannot sleep in the bucket, why are you hiding from me? Anyway sleep, I will see you in the morning.”
Qhaqha could not sleep; she heard loud music and knew Nomahamle was sleeping. She then woke Dengekazi, so that they can escape. Qhaqha opened the bucket quietly. They ran as fast as they could. They ran in the desert, they could not hide. When they were far they wanted to slow down but they saw smoke behind them, it was Nomahamle with a shining axe. They ran, and saw a big tall tree. They climbed; Nomahamle tried to climb, but she fell. Nomahamle then tried to cut the tree down so that the girls can fall. She chopped and chopped… When the tree was about to fall a voice of the Drongo bee-catcher bird called and sang:
Ntengu, ntengu macetyana, hazuba. (“The drongo (bee-catcher) bird has a plan.”) Abantwana babantu benze ntoni na? (“What have the people’s children done?”)
Yima mth’omkhulu uthi gomololo. (“Stand up straight big tree.”)
The tree stood again, and every time the tree started to fall the bird sang. Nomahamle looked up and saw it and she swallowed it. When she was about to chop the tree again, men who were hunting animals with dogs came along. The dogs ate Nomahamle and the men took the girls. Among the men there was Qhaqha’s uncle. He took them to his home, gave them food, and they slept. The following day, their uncle’s wife gave them inkciyo to give to their mother. She gave them directions and told Dengekazi to listen to Qhaqha this time and to obey her. They left the village and arrived safely at their home. The end!

Fig. 2.1 Mama Mdzolo – a storyteller who narrated the above folktale. Photograph by Bongiwe Dlutu.

17Arguably, recording and translation allows the transportation of this folktale to a wider audience as a result of making use of modern recording technologies. For someone who is not from Mankosi the material offers insight into local history, myths, and values. The linguistic translation depicts stylistic aspects of communication while the video, O, illustrates qualities of speaking, listening, and recording. It also reflects the relationships between speaker, listener and camera person. The video-recorded translation, T, illustrates qualities of speaking and listening, and their relationship to media or technauriture. For instance, the video, O, focuses entirely on the elder woman speaking and the only other visual content is the mat on which she sits, her blanket which she sometimes picks up and handles to illustrate a feature of her stories, and a pair of shoes neatly propped up against the wall of the rondaval behind her (Figure 2.1). A simple written translation of the story would not have communicated all that the video, photographic and vocal translation did, and the recording medium offers the opportunity to disseminate the story widely. The extralinguistic features such as gestures are therefore captured for posterity by the camera. The picture of the storyteller can also live on through a technologized archive which can be accessed by future generations.

Recorded Oral History as Social Commentary

18The second study is a directly translated interview with a Mankosi male elder. This was captured on video prior to transcription and translation. Again, the use of technology allows societal insights to be captured. Such insights may also be important in creating an understanding of society at a particular time in history. It creates a visual experience which again can be archived using modern technologies.

In our times, long before you were born, boys were wearing izitshuba. They were not allowed to walk with circumcised men because they would not be allowed to talk about similar topics. Boys like chatting about girlfriends and unimportant things, like stealing and killing pigs for fun. Even girls were not allowed to walk with married women. Gender roles were very important in teaching what to do and what you are not supposed to do.
Women were not allowed to reveal what is happening in the
Intonjane (entering womanhood) ritual in the same way as circumcised men were not allowed to talk about initiation to those who had not yet been circumcised.
Long ago a man would go to
eGoli (Gauteng) to seek work on the mines and when he came back the first time he would get circumcised and his father would secure him a wife. The working man was not allowed to take any money from his wages or salary except transport fare from Gauteng to Transkei. We used to keep the money in our underwear when we were on the train home, so that thieves didn’t find it as crime was very high on the train. Even if you had a wife, you had to give money to your father. The wife was not allowed to see how much her husband gets as a salary. After giving the money to your father, he would ask you to count the money with him and his wife (your mother) standing next to him. He would sort the money and take out money for food, for buying cattle and then give you a small amount to buy yourself tobacco or traditional beer. When it was time to go back to Gauteng then your father would provide you with your train fare.
I remember in other years there was a disease called
Ingqakaqa. It left people’s faces with holes. Only doctors knew the cause of this disease and there was no cure for it. In other years it was very difficult for us to grow crops because of the locusts that were everywhere. I don’t know which year it was because I am uneducated; we name things including babies according to events that happened. That’s how educated people trace an event. A baby who was born in the year of locust was called Nonkumbi. A locust in Xhosa is called Inkumbi.

Fig. 2.2 Narrator (known affectionately as Tata Sparks) telling the story of his life in Johannesburg, as documented and transcribed above. Photograph by Bongiwe Dlutu.

19This video as well as the photographs can be archived for years to come: it captures an oral history which can then be returned to the community and which can be used for further research. Such narratives illuminate particular historical periods. In this case, one gains insight into the migrant labour system which was used under the apartheid regime, in which men were sent away from their families to work primarily on the gold mines in the present-day Gauteng Province. This sort of data collection therefore enables the opportunity for such oral histories to be preserved and disseminated among future generations using contemporary technology.

Recorded Orally-Based Court Case

  • 8 Rural communities are run by Chiefs, someone (normally the eldest son) who inherits this position f (...)

20The diagram below depicts participants in a traditional court case. These cases are heard orally and decided orally, but decisions are recorded in written form by the Chief’s Secretary.8 Examples of court cases involve pregnancy damages, the misuse of natural community resources such as building sand, fishing without appropriate licenses, or unsustainably and illegally harvesting sea mussels. Court cases can also involve the misuse of community trust funds and other infringements. Recordings made by participants of court cases, using the Audio Repository, is a good example of an ethnographic study where participants form part of what Hymes refers to as an ethnographic framework in order to analyze a communicative event (Hymes 1962: 101). Saville-Troike supports this approach by stating that the ethnography of speaking posits language as a socially situated cultural form (Saville-Troike 1982: 2–3).

Traditional court case participants

Traditional court case participants

Ward councillor (part of the jury)

Headman/Chief (officiates at court cases)
Offender and victim (seated in front, normally on the ground)

Ward committee members (part of the jury)

Sub-headmen (part of a jury)

Church leaders (part of the jury)


Headman’s secretary (recording officer; takes the minutes and records the decision)

Sub-headmen and witnesses

Community members (who came to listen)

Community members (who came to listen)

21The above diagram shows that court cases are held as communicative events, and are inclusive of all members of the community who are called on to voice their opinions in an inclusive way prior to a verdict being reached. This allows for any verdict to have the approval of the community. These court cases are examples of powerful orality, in which decisions are made about individuals. Such decisions are then set down in writing or, in the case of the Audio Repository, audio recordings, through technology such as electronic tablets, thereby facilitating a move towards technauriture by capturing and disseminating of orally based material.

The Broster Beadwork Collection

22A further contemporary example of the digitization, archiving and dissemination of oral art is the Broster Beadwork Collection of the Eastern Cape Province. Beadwork is indeed a form of oral literature as it is a skill which is handed down from one generation to another by word of mouth in the same way that other oral literary forms are handed down orally. Contemporary bead makers have also created a niche for themselves as entrepreneurial art makers, selling their beadwork to the general public. The Broster Collection could have marked the beginnings of this process, though it is noted by Broster that it was sometimes difficult to acquire these items as the local community was often not keen to sell them to her (interview with the author, December 1992). This magnificent, authentic and original collection was acquired by Joan Broster in the mid-1900s. The beadwork dates back to 1875. It is carefully catalogued and was purchased in 1992 by the former University of Transkei, now Walter Sisulu University, to be housed in the Bureau for African Research and Documentation. For many years thereafter this beadwork lay in storage.

23The collection began when Joan Broster’s grandfather pioneered a trading business in the Engcobo district of the Transkei region in 1875. Four Clarke generations lived among the Thembu before Broster, as a young bride, moved to the village of Qebe in 1952 to run a family trading store. There she studied abaThembu traditions and developed a passion for their beadwork. Broster accumulated and documented her extensive collection, particularly the local costumes and beadwork of abaThembu, which demonstrated how beadwork mapped social identity within this isiXhosa-speaking community (Lusu 2015). She also used her contacts with the network of traders in the region to collect beadwork from other Xhosa-speaking groups, such as amaMpondo, amaMpondomise, amaBomvana, amaGcaleka, and a refugee amaXesibe group that had settled among the abaThembu in the early 1800s and adopted their customs, dress code and way of life.

24With the advent of technauriture, this beadwork collection is again in the process of “coming alive” as part of the “Specifically Declared Broster Beadwork Collection”. This is a collaboration between the National Department of Arts and Culture as well as the Walter Sisulu University. A climate-controlled building has been built in order to house the collection, which can now be returned to the community via technauriture and contemporary archival systems. Interviews that I conducted with the late Joan Broster can now be digitized and used to support the archive via screenings through television monitors. Newspaper interviews and books published by Broster can be used to augment the archive and add to the value of the project once digitized. The Broster Collection has resulted in necessary engagement between the university and rural communities of the Eastern Cape, and will undoubtedly facilitate research in indigenous knowledge systems that will benefit both the scientific agenda and the communities from which this knowledge was derived. It is also envisaged that postgraduate research in the form of M.A. and Ph.D. research (based on the collection) would serve to develop the academic potential of the project and to create awareness around the importance of preserving our heritage through technology. This is an ongoing initiative. The digitization and cataloguing of this archive, the creation of a building to house the collection, and the easy access afforded to the public follows cutting-edge archival procedure, creating educational links between collector, academic and community.

Extract from the 1992 interview with Joan Broster. Duration: 7.40 minutes.9​product/​590#resources

Digitization and Dissemination: Further Comment

25It is especially within the context of contemporary amaXhosa life that the imbongi or oral poet operates. For example, as indicated earlier, Bongani Sitole from Mqhekezweni was the first poet to perform for Nelson Mandela after his release from prison in 1991. In a similar way, the folk tale and other forms of orality have also adapted to contemporary village life, including in Keiskammahoek, Mankosi and other research sites. Technology such as the printed word, television, mobile phones and the internet allow this material to be re-accessed by the community from an educational and entertainment point of view.

26In this chapter I have outlined and defined the notion of technauriture and how it can apply to a rural community. Analysis of communicative events such as a folk tale, social commentary, oral poetry, and beadwork, as well as traditional court cases, have been used to depict the emerging relationship between orality, literacy and technology. The analysis suggests that involving locally-based researchers from the community in communicative events, by translating and interpreting them, and in research design decisions, can lead to technologies that return the oral word to rural communities, but might also enrich the potential for technauriture. In Keiskammahoek this involves using community members as research assistants and interpreters to assist students and academics when collecting research data, thereby creating employment. These communicative events in Keiskammahoek include the following: oral poetry performances, story-telling or folk tale performances, dances and songs sung by diviners, games played by children, women singing traditional songs, village choirs performing, traditional instruments being played such as the harp or uhadi and the playing of traditional home-made guitars as well as mouth organs, and the singing of initiation songs by young boys. All of these performances, once recorded, are digitized for safe-keeping and dissemination within the community by the International Library for African Music (ILAM) where such digitization facilities exist. Likewise, the Broster Beadwork Collection will attract postgraduate students to further document the beadwork, the role of beadwork in society and the societal value of the specific beads at hand.

  • 10 By Via Afrika Publishers with funding from the Foundation of Human Rights sponsored by the European (...)

27In summary, returning the oral word to communities, or else the artifact produced via oral messages handed down over generations, has been done in a number of ways. Firstly, there is the publication of books which are used in the education system. Bongani Sitole’s transcribed and translated oral poems were published in the book Qhiwu-u-u-la! Return to the Fold which was reprinted in 200610 and made freely available to schools in the community. Furthermore, there is the use of websites (which can be accessed via mobile phones) to record and disseminate this material, as well as the digitization of recordings which are then uploaded onto television sets, for example at Cata village in Keiskammahoek. This is done in the community centre where members of the community can see themselves in action and where the material can be used for educational purposes.


The need to develop and harness indigenous knowledge systems across the developing world is a central aspect of the maintenance of cultural identity, while widening the exposure to the traditions and customs of indigenous societies through technauriture will ensure that the momentum of globalization is of benefit to all the world’s communities (Kaschula 2012b: 36).

28The analysis in this chapter suggests that the researcher, the material, the subject, the community and various technologies are now becoming intertwined. This allows for innovative technological links between the researchers and the material, and it furthermore presents ways of disseminating research data back to relevant communities.



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1 The author acknowledges the contribution of Bongiwe Dlutu as well as the Rhodes team of Keiskammahoek researchers led by Lee Watkins. The financial assistance of the National Research Foundation (NRF) towards this research is hereby acknowledged. Opinions expressed and conclusions arrived at are those of the author and are not necessarily to be attributed to the NRF.

2 Auriture: a combination of aural (what we hear) and literature (from the written word), representing the relationship between orality and literacy.

3 These were separate and so-called independent areas of South Africa that were inhabited by black people under apartheid. It was part of the divide-and-rule policy of the apartheid regime at that time.


5 Such an approach has been validated by the technologized work of the Verba Africana Series, for example. In 2012, I noted that: “Further examples of groundbreaking work in terms of technauriture would be the Verba Africana series which has been developed at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) as part of the project Verba Africana; E-learning of African languages and Oral Literatures: DVDs and Internet Materials. The aim of this project is to document African oral genres (poems, narratives, songs and so on) for both teaching and research purposes […]. There is also the project Encyclopaedia of Literatures and Languages of Africa (ELLAF) supported by various organisations and coordinated by French scholars. This project provides an online encyclopaedia devoted to the dissemination, archiving and study of African oral literature (” (Kaschula 2012a: 236).


7 The revised and expanded 2012 edition of Oral Litarature in Africa, published by Open Book Publishers, is Open Access and freely available to read and download at To date the book in its free editions has been accessed more in Africa than in any other continent. See also Turin: 147 in this volume.

8 Rural communities are run by Chiefs, someone (normally the eldest son) who inherits this position from his forefathers. In certain instances a Headman is appointed and this is not an inherited position, i.e. where the Chieftancy is not already in place.

9 This embedded video is also available at

10 By Via Afrika Publishers with funding from the Foundation of Human Rights sponsored by the European Union.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 2.1 Mama Mdzolo – a storyteller who narrated the above folktale. Photograph by Bongiwe Dlutu.
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Légende Fig. 2.2 Narrator (known affectionately as Tata Sparks) telling the story of his life in Johannesburg, as documented and transcribed above. Photograph by Bongiwe Dlutu.
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Légende Extract from the 1992 interview with Joan Broster. Duration: 7.40 minutes.9​product/​590#resources
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Professor of African Language Studies and he holds the National Research Foundation (NRF) Chair in the Intellectualisation of African Languages, Multilingualism and Education hosted at Rhodes University, South Africa. Research pertaining to this Chair covers Applied Language Studies, Theoretical Linguistics and Literature. He obtained his Ph.D. in African Oral Poetry from Rhodes, a University to which he returned in 2006, having previously taught in the US. His most recent book, edited together with Ekkehard Wolff, is titled Multilingual Education for Africa: Concepts and Practices (2016). He also developed the literary term “technauriture” in order to create links between technology, aurality and literature. This research was published as a position paper by Cambridge University. His most recent literary work is a collection of short stories entitled Displaced (2013). One of his projects was a critique of the translation of Alice in Wonderland into nine African languages, which was published in the Journal of African Cultural Studies (2015), Email:


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