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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 09:17 GMT
Achebe: Oral tradition not needed
Zambian storyteller and children
Many African communities have a long tradition of oral storytelling
World-famous Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe has said that Africans should not be overly concerned if the long-established tradition of oral storytelling dies out.

Achebe, once described by Nelson Mandela as "the writer in whose presence prison walls fell down," told the BBC that he agreed that the art was dying out - but insisted it could be revived "if we decide that the oral story is absolutely necessary."

"Oral storytelling was important when I was writing - it may not be important when the next generation is writing," he said.

"Obviously I believe in the importance of stories, but whether oral, or written, or televised, I cannot lay down the law.

"We are fascinated by the oral tradition, and it's right that we should be fascinated. But if it's not going to work any more in the future, then rather than sit and weep and mourn, why don't we find out what has come to replace it?"

Maintaining Igbo

But Achebe, who last year rejected an award from his home country on the grounds that the country was in a "dangerous" state of affairs, also spoke about the need in Nigeria to continue telling stories in Nigeria's native languages.

Achebe, who is very critical of colonialism and its aftermath in Africa, explained that he himself writes in English because he is a victim of linguistic colonialism.

But he added that he felt it was important not to "lose sight of the need for our mother tongue."

Chinua Achebe
I hope I have shown it is possible to show respect to English and Igbo together
Chinua Achebe
"The situation may well develop in the future, in which the different languages of Africa will begin to reassert themselves," he added.

"I have made provision for that myself, by writing certain kinds of material in Igbo. For instance, I will insist my poetry is translated back into Igbo while I'm still around."

He insisted that he wrote in English not to attract a wide international audience, but simply because he had been educated in English.

But he added that his use of English was inspired by his Igbo background.

"When I'm writing in English, Igbo is standing next to it," he added.

"I have therefore developed, I think, this possibly, in which these two languages are in communion.

"I hope I have shown it is possible, in these two languages, to show respect to English and Igbo together."

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