From Oral Traditions to Written Records: The Loss of African Entitlement to Self-Rule and Wealth

Keywords: oral traditions, documentation, archives, colonialism, rights, land ownership


The establishment of written records and archives in Africa has somehow eclipsed and even replaced oral traditions which were the norm on the continent. Prior to colonisation, entitlements to wealth, land and succession, among other things, were all transmitted orally. Thus the establishment of written records and/or archives, which deliberately excluded African people’s entitlements and rights, established the settlers and their governments as the rightful and legitimate owners and custodians of wealth, land and rule in Africa. This article postulates that archives and records were used by settlers to dismantle traditional African governance systems and also establish and legitimise settler rule. In conducting the relevant study, which was an opinion piece, the author reviewed literature to buttress the arguments put forward.