VARIATION AS A TOOL OF AESTHETICS IN OKPOSI, OHAFIA, AND AWKA ORAL NARRATIVES

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ABSTRACT

Oral narrative is one genre of folklore that has constantly generated arguments on the basis of its inconsistencies whenever it is performed by the same performer or different performers at different moments. The causes of oral narrative variation have been attributed to diverse reasons by folklore scholars. Some of the suggested causes are loss of memory on the part of the performers, narrative incompetence, audiences’ desire for a multiplicity of themes (to which the performers yield) and the fluidity of folklore itself to accommodate issues that arise in life (in which case it is considered an essence of the genre). The core purpose of oral narrative variation, however, has been omitted by most of the scholars, which is the performer’s intention to please his audience, his desire to present to them something that is beautiful; in other words, his wish to perform a narrative that has got aesthetic value. To achieve this purpose, the narrator intentionally makes effort not to bore his audience with monotony, but constantly embellishes his narrative with varieties that dazzle his audiences and makes them want to hear the same story over and over again. This is to say that the inconsistencies in his narrative at diverse moments of performance are actually not an indication of incompetence. On the contrary, it is an art that is craftily wielded by a master performer to please his audience and make the moment they spend listening to him worthwhile. This research, therefore, is an attempt to reveal how the oral performer wields variation as a tool to reveal an art that can ‘seize the gaze’ of his audience (Akwanya). To show how this works, this research would do a comparative analysis of variants of three narratives collected from Okposi in Ebonyi state, Awka in Anambra state and Ohafia in Abia state. It would reveal the internal patterns of variation in the narratives based on their events, scenes of action, characters, actions and utterances of the characters.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title Page
Abstract
Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
1.1.      Background of the Study
1.2.      Statement of the Problem
1.3.      Purpose of the Study
1.4.      Scope and Limitations
1.5.      Significance of the Study
1.6.      Research Methodology

CHAPTER TWO
LITERATURE REVIEW

CHAPTER THREE
3.1. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
3.2. Aesthetic Experience as the Purpose of Variation
3.3. The Art of Oral Narrative Performance

CHAPTER FOUR
A COLLECTION OF ORAL NARRATIVE VARIANTS IN OHAFIA, OKPOSI AND AWKA
4.1.      Ohafia
            4.1.a. Amoogu I
            4.1.b. Amoogu II
4.2.      Okposi
            4.2.a. Ngene Ojia I
            4.2.b. Ngene Ojia II
4.3.      Awka
            4.3.a. Ani Awka and the Monkeys I
            4.3.b. Ani Awka and the Monkeys II

CHAPTER FIVE
ANALYSIS OF THE PATTERNS OF VARIATION IN THE COLLECTED ORAL NARRATIVES
5.1.      The Patterns and Points of Variation
5.2.      Conclusion
Works Cited
Sources of Collected Oral Narratives


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1.       Background of the Study

Oral narrative is one form of oral performance that is hardly overlooked whenever folklore is discussed. Its place as a form of entertainment and, sometimes, as a vehicle for passing on the history of a people and producing answers to mysteries make it people’s favourite. George W. Boswell and Russell Reaves (1962:116) have rightly noted that “all the world loves a story. That is why it could be seriously argued that the folktale broadly conceived is the most universal and common of the forms of folk literature and the most influential of all art fiction.” However, it is one generic form of folklore that is constantly producing different versions of itself whenever it is performed before an audience. The versions may look alike, but to a practised ear, some patterns of variation can be identified. Patterns of variation mean those points of inconsistencies in the story that make it vary each time it is retold by the same or different narrators, to the same or different audiences.


What can actually make different variants of one story to sound alike, or deceive a non-practised ear with its inconsistency is its ability to retain the nucleus of the story each time it is retold, no matter how much it varies from the previous account. The nucleus is the subject matter, or the salient issue around which the story revolves. It could be an act of valour or heroism performed by a character, the wisdom or mischief of a character, the cause or reason for the existence of some mystery, or the origin or history of some occurrence, phenomena or species. A change of the nucleus announces a different tale or narrative. In other words, if the subject matter changes, for instance, from heroism to the cause of some mystery, it means the story has ceased to be the same. But even though the subject matter remains consistent, variation does occur in the language and structure of the narrative. In view of this observation, Chukwuma Azuonye observes that:

   there is no single correct version of any tale and thus no memorization of texts in any kind of fixed form. The variations often affect content, sometimes quite drastically. The events which make up a story might be varied, and so too might be the scenes of actions, the characters involved and their doings and utterances. (The Oral Performance in Africa 55)


a.      The events

b.      The scenes of action

c.      The characters

d.      The doings (actions of the characters) and

e.      The utterances (words of the characters).

In his study of three versions of Nne Mgbafor, an Ohafia heroic tale, narrated by one

performer, Kaluu Igirigiri, Azuonye notices that there are a number of significant variations in some of the details. For instance, in the first variant, the battle is set at a place called Igbe Mmaku (an Igbo territory), while in the second variant, it is set at a place called Nnong (in Ibibio land). Igbe Mmaku is reintroduced in the third version not as an enemy territory, but as a friendly Igbo territory where the heroine is able to stop and secure escorts for her perilous adventures into Nnong, Ibibio land.

The researcher notices similar variation in his study of the three versions of how Aka, the green snake, became a totem in his community, Okposi Okwu. The narrators were two, Mama Grace and Ogbo Okorie. Mama Grace narrated one version the first day and on the....


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