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Converting oral narratives into written literature: lessons from the heritage projects in Makgabeng villages in the Limpopo province of South Africa

Mpho Ngoepe, Tlou Setumu


Many commentators argue that African oral narratives are on the verge of being obliterated as most knowledge sources die before transmitting the information to the next generation. Therefore, it is important that this knowledge be codified and recorded to be shared with the rest of the world. The purpose of this study was to capture and share lessons learnt from the heritage projects of converting oral narratives into written literature undertaken in the Makgabeng area, Limpopo, South Africa. This qualitative study utilised participant observation to gather data. The authors were involved in the projects and also drew from the project management methodology that was used to guide the successful implementation of the projects. The key lesson learnt from the projects is that ordinary people should be given the opportunity to document their own stories. It is argued that in this way, the lions will able to tell their stories as opposed to the hunters having the best part of narrating the story. Moreover, as they will be writing their own stories, ordinary people will feel honoured and will readily share their sacred knowledge, which they rarely do. Finally, the study suggests possible solutions by which oral narratives can be converted into written form in such ways as to be useful for future generations in Africa. One such way is to cautiously explore the possibility of storing converted oral tradition in the cloud or, as in the case of the Makgabeng projects, let the people write their stories and publish them.


oral narratives; written literature; heritage projects; Makgabeng area

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