Early African societies preserved their histories and values through both written and oral literature. Ancient Egypt, Nubia, and Axum left written records of their past. Later, Arabic provided a common written language in those parts of Africa influenced by Islam. African Muslim scholars gathered in cities such as Timbuktu and Kilwa. Documents in Arabic offer invaluable evidence about the law, religion, and history of the time.
Oral traditions date back many centuries. In West Africa, griots (GREE ohz), or professional storytellers, recited ancient stories. Griots preserved both histories and traditional folk tales in the same way that the epics of Homer or Aryan India were passed orally from generation to generation. The histories praised the heroic deeds of famous ancestors or rulers. Griots often used riddles to sharpen the wits of audiences.
Oral traditions also passed down folk tales, which blended fanciful stories with humor and sophisticated word play. Such stories often taught important moral lessons. Oral literature, like religion and art, thus encouraged a sense of community and common values in the diverse societies across the African continent.
How did literature help to reinforce social ties?