Despite the ignorance of most so called "literati" to the domain of African literature, African literature in fact is one of the main currents of world literature, stretching continuously and directly back to ancient history. Achebe did not "invent" African Literature, because he himself was inundated with it as an African. He simply made more people aware of it.
The Beginnings of African Literature
The first African literature is circa 2300-2100, when ancient Egyptians begin using burial texts to accompany their dead. These include the first written accounts of creation - the Memphite Declaration of Deities. Not only that, but 'papyrus', from which we originate our word for paper, was invented by the Egyptians, and writing flourished. In contrast, Sub-Saharan Africa feature a vibrant and varied oral culture. To take into account written literary culture without considering literary culture is definitely a mistake, because they two interplay heavily with each other. African oral arts are "art's for life's sake" (Mukere) not European "art's for art's sake", and so may be considered foreign and strange by European readers. However, they provide useful knowledge, historical knowledge, ethical wisdom, and creative stimuli in a direct fashion. Oral culture takes many forms: proverbs and riddles, epic narratives, oration and personal testimony, praise poetry and songs, chants and rituals, stories, legends and folk tales. This is present in the many proverbs told in Things Fall Apart, and the rich cultural emphasis of that book also is typically African.
The earliest written Sub-Saharan Literature (1520) is heavily influenced by Islamic literature. The earliest example of this is the anonymous history of the city-state of Kilwa Kisiwani. The first African history, History of the Sudan, is written by Abd al-Rahman al-Sadi in Arabic style. Traveling performers, called griots, kept the oral tradition alive,... [continues]
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