13TH International Society for Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA)

Transitions, Transformations, and translocations in African oral traditions and (re)imagined boundaries

From 8th to 10th July, Nairobi, Kenya

African scholars like Isidore Okpewho, Bayo Ogunjimi, and Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, have spent their scholarly lives researching and educating the academy about African oral cultures, which owing to their transient nature, are often perceived as relic genres, but which are very much alive in contemporary oral and written forms and on digital platforms.

On their part, Francis Mowing Ganyi and Idom Tom Inyabri aver that “in the past, oral performances of the so-called preliterate societies were erroneously classified as fossils and lacking artistic or aesthetic appeal.” Consequently, the two scholars set out to assess these artistic performances “within their contextual performance situations with a view, not only to bring out the artistic and creative potential of the artists but also to portray the contemporary relevance of the artists and their compositions.”

African oral traditions are still relevant today as expressions of worlds and worldviews. Given that history is continually being rewritten, with each generation asking new questions, oral arts in Africa play a significant role in the identity reformations and revisions as in a world where questions of belonging are still rife.  Historically, African oral traditions have been a key source for the written histories of the continent, especially about cultural boundaries, and these have mostly been at odds with colonially inspired political national boundaries. Further, migrations, relocations and transitions of various forms have impacted on African culture performance on the continent and in the diaspora. As Africa grapples with issues of ethnic and continental identities, the oral artistic spaces have provided sites for discourse on oral traditions and the re-mapping of cultural identities.

The 13th ISOLA conference seeks to engage scholars and researchers in oral cultures on the interdisciplinary discourse on representation, interpretation, and evaluation of African oral traditions which impact on re-imagined identities, histories, and ideological boundaries. It proposes to interrogate these issues within three broad areas: research, practice, and theory under the theme: Transitions, Transformations, and translocations in African oral traditions and (re)imagined boundaries.

Abstracts of individual papers and panels are invited on, but not limited to, the following sub-themes:

  1. Translocations and melting boundaries: cross-ethnic, cross-regional, and cross-continental translocations of African oral traditions
  2. Reconstructions of identities, marginalized identities and re-imagined cultural boundaries through oral traditions
  3. Transformations, distortions, and deflections in oral traditions: the role of African and other languages in the production of oral arts; contemporary African writing and African oral traditions
  4. Oral memories and preservation of cultural boundaries: digital and physical archives and museums, shrines and ritual spaces, orators, curators, and oral historians
  5. Transitions in adaptations and metamorphoses in performance of African oral traditions
  6. Gender re-orientations in African oral arts
  7. African oral arts and spaces for children in the 21st century
  8. African oral arts and the unity agenda
  9. Theorizing African oral arts: 21st century: thoughts and approaches to African oral traditions.
  10. Contemporary fieldwork and research methodology in African oral traditions

ISOLA is committed to the promotion of excellence in scholarship. Proposed papers should have a clearly defined thesis, show familiarity with research trends, and address the Conference theme, highlighting Africa and the African Diaspora.

The working languages of ISOLA are English and French. Abstracts of no more than 500 words in both languages, bearing the author’s name, institutional affiliation, and brief bio note should be sent to:

Professor Peter Tirop Simatei (Chair, Organising Committee)

+254 (0)722 556 476

Dr. Rose Akinyi Opondo (Convener, 13th ISOLA Conference).

+254 (0)726 297 461

Notifications of acceptance will be sent beginning mid-September, 2019.

For further information – registration fee, membership, transportation, lodging, and all-conference updates, please, visit our website:

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