“Grandmother’s Footsteps”

“Grandmother’s Footsteps”

ISBN 978-3-89645-056-2

“Grandmother’s Footsteps”

Oral Tradition and South-east Angolan Narratives on the Colonial Encounter

Edited by: Inge Brinkman, Axel Fleisch. Series edited by: Michael Bollig, Wilhelm J.G. Möhlig †.

Series: HSA History, Cultural Traditions and Innovations in Southern Africa Volume 7

255 pp.
3 maps, 13 b/w photos, 2 tables, glossary, author and subject index
Text language(s): English
Format: 160 x 240 mm
460 g
€ 49.80

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This collection contains narratives told by Angolan immigrants to Namibia about the Portuguese conquest of Angola. The arrival of the Portuguese is a subject which has been treated in different ways in oral literature among people from south-east Angola. This variety results from the individual creativity of each narrator, and reveals how different sets of oral traditions become embedded in local culture. The nine narrative clusters in the book reveal different local concepts; for example, the nature of colonialism and internal politics, tradition and modernity, and magic and religion.

The editors, formerly members of the Collaborative Research Centre 389 Arid Climate, Adaptation and Cultural Innovation in Africa (1995–2007), University of Cologne/Germany, have combined their linguistic and historical insights to link language in context, strategies of story-telling and the relationships between oral tradition and the past.


Under these links you will find publications by the authors and further studies of the (pre)colonial history of Angola and Namibia:

Accompanying material:



Bei der Präsentation von Oraturen aus Afrika wird sonst häufig auf Traditionsverbundenheit des Erzählers und Authentizität des Erzählten geachtet. [...]

Brinkman und Fleisch schlagen bewußt einen anderen, höchst innovativen Weg ein. Sie präsentieren die Erzählungen von Flüchtlingen, von Personen, die aus ihrem traditionellen Kontext gerissen wurden und deren Erzählungen sich auf eine ferne, als Heimat imaginierte Landschaft beziehen.

Michael Bollig in Fabula, 43/2002, 151-152

The narratives themselves (and their introductions) are precious both as specimens of new forms of oral tradition and as examples of a still little known language congeries. As documents about MPLA indoctrination, they will interest political scientists and historians of this period. Students of oral narrative as literature and as history will focus on the exact way in which personal recollections and local traditions have been fused and the latter given meaning by the dominant framework derived from indoctrination, while linguists will be delighted by the availability of a substantial set of texts [...] about these little known language dialects.

Jan Vansina in International Journal of African Historical Studies, 34/1, 2001, 212-213

Oral history, and indeed a more formalized oral tradition, does not change while the auditor is listening, but as soon as her back is turned history and tradition can be radically metamorphosed to suit whatever new circumstances has arisen; hence the title – borrowed from Horton – of Grandmother’s Footsteps.

David Birmingham in Journal of African History, 43/2002, 372

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