Environmental Concerns in African Oral Literature: The Maieutic of the Quarrel between Heaven and Earth

Ndollane Dione


This paper examines the pedagogical approach of African verbal art in the construction of environmental awareness and sensitivity.  While the wind of modernity, foreign religiosity, and Western imperialism have eroded most of the African traditional philosophy of nature[1], we claim the reevaluation of ancient paradigms and systems of knowledge in education and research, where the African cosmogony has long been presented in a socio-cultural and religious vision, through what Wole Soyinka terms cosmic totality[2]. Based on Yoruba Oral literature, this study evaluates the conditions of existence in the interplay between humans and the environment where is sealed life and cosmic harmony, under the protection of the sacred laws of creation.  Yoruba religious expressions in the quarrel between heaven and earth consecrate, from a literary perspective, those sacred laws made to dismantle the anthropocentric vision of the environment which “forms instrumental reason that view nature and the animal…as external to human needs, and thus effectively dispensable, or as being in permanent service to them, and thus an endlessly replenishable resource[3]”.

[1]The unplanned Industrialization and urbanization process is expressive of a corrupted vision of what modernity should be in Africa, on the basis of the neocolonialist discourse and imperialism, for the profit of foreign powers and corrupt elites. The concept of man as master of nature has been a paradigm of deforestation.  

[2]Wole SOYINKA, Myth Literature and the African World, Cambridge University Press, 1990.

[3]Graham Huggan, Helen Tiffin Postcolonial Eco-criticism Literature, Animals, Environment, 2nd Edition  Routledge, 2015 306 Pages, https://www.routledge.com/Postcolonial-Ecocriticism-Literature-Animals-Environment/Huggan-Tiffin/p/book/9781138784192


Environment, Oral literature, Yorùbá, Pedagogy, Revival.

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