African Oral Narratives
Military Intelligence in Apartheid-era South Africa

About the Collection

The Farefari language is spoken by about 1,000,000 people in Bolgatanga, the capital of the Upper East Region of Ghana and the surrounding countryside. Its principal dialects are Gurene, Nankani and Booni. Most of the texts in this collection are in Gurene.

The texts were collected between 1997 and 2009. The initial motivation was to acquire material for linguistic analysis and orthography development. However there was also a deliberate attempt to collect a wide variety of discourse types, from different types of speakers.

All the interviews were conducted by speakers of Farefari, usually in the presence of other members of the language community and M.E. Kropp Dakubu. Transcriptions were made by the interviewer working with M.E. Kropp Dakubu.

Three are interviews with women in the Upper East. This is a culture in which traditionally women are given no public voice at all. Interviews were aimed at eliciting what kind of disputes women had that might land in court, how they were handled, and their opinions about them. A fourth is with a woman from southern Ghana living in the language area, aimed at eliciting her view of the sociolinguistic situation she found herself in.

Two texts are interviews with women from the Farefari-speaking area living in Accra. They focus on the problems that arise when living away from "home". Two texts discuss chieftaincy: one is an interview with the king of Bongo, a few miles north of Bolgatanga, and one with a chief of the Farefari community in Accra. They are interesting for the similarities and differences they portray in the conceptualization and practical functioning of "chieftaincy" in these contexts.

Finally, there are five tales, all of which include songs, and a prayer. They were not recorded in the traditional setting of a market or a funeral, but the performer has a local reputation and other members of the community were satisfied that the traditional style is well reflected.

Formation of the collection was supported by the Language Development Committee of the Bolgatanga District Council, the Institute of African Studies of the University of Ghana, and the Legon-Trondheim Linguistics Project (funded by the Norwegian Programme for Research, Development and Education, NUFU).
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