"Ahyu" Special Issue call for papers: Indigenous Verbal Arts: Thoughts, Systems and Lore


The indigenous peoples of the world, especially in Africa, are daily undergoing erasures of their verbal worlds and autochthonous systems. These peoples are found in most parts of the world but particularly, in their deprived sorry state, in Africa. In Nigeria, owing to the influence of foreign systems, indigenous languages and their verbal arts are endangered. Some languages have gone extinct and with them, the identity of the peoples who once spoke it. Victims of this loss would become anthropological orphans and would have to depend on the cosmology of the Other to navigate their futures. It is time to stem the tide. Hence, Ahyu is considering a special issue devoted to indigenous verbal arts from any part of the world.

Indigenous verbal arts loosely refer to spoken or sung language of peoples indigenous to their respective regions and who by the historical accident of modernity have been or are being denied representation, visibility and recognition in contemporary discourses. They refer to oral genres such as folktales, myths, legends, puns, poetry, proverbs, fairy tales, lullabies and other literary forms or phenomena falling within the broader idea of folklore. Indigenous verbal arts could also exist in the space between language and literature as forms necessary for ventilating models, knowledge systems and lore as well as the ethno-poetics of the thoughtlines and processes and the ideational structure of a group.

The above statements show that exploring verbal arts scholarship provides a wide-ranging record of a people’s language and linguistic creative inputs. The collection, documentation, and interpretation of a people’s verbal art can strengthen indigenous ideas long ignored for western ones and utilised in the teaching of linguistics, phonology and several other subjects.  The intricacies of verbal arts, systems, thoughts and lore include but not limited to special – archaic and esoteric – codes, special formulas, figurative language (metaphor, metonymy), stylistic devices  (rhyme, metre, vowel harmony or disharmony), and paralinguistic patterns (voice quality, vocalization). These and many more transmit thoughts, knowledge systems, lore, and artistic blueprints on which indigenous expressions thrive.

The Special Issue Editors believe that exploring the above urgent area of knowledge is long overdue; it thus devotes the next volume (vol. 7) of Ahyu to be published in December, 2024 to these contemporary phenomena. Amongst others, the following themes/subareas are suggested:

-diversity, shared features and functionality of indigenous verbal arts

-indigenous communities and indigenous thought processes

-epic inside out – thoughts, systems, and lore

-grammar and ethnopoetics in Africa

-oral styles, genres and ideas in indigenous verbal arts

-verbal arts: dynamics, old ways and present-day uncertainties

-dilemma tales and their functionality

-untying uncertainties through indigenous verbal arts, systems, and lore

-a micro/macro ethnography of the use of proverbs and proverbial language in Africa

-stylistic devices in indigenous knowledge systems

-worlds of words of truth, power, and authority in verbal arts

-verbal arts: myths and mythical codes

-transmissions and transitions in indigenous verbal arts in Africa

-the translation of verbal arts in Africa

-performance, oral tradition and improvisation in indigenous verbal arts

-telling fairy/dead tales of life in indigenous verbal arts

-re-territorialising culture in indigenous verbal arts

-language/linguistics structure in indigenous verbal arts

-orality and intertextuality in indigenous verbal arts

-the how of indigenous verbal arts

-waltzing into the future with indigenous verbal arts

-negotiated solidarities through indigenous verbal arts

-language and literature mechanisms in indigenous verbal arts

-perspectives in indigenous verbal arts

-silent voices reechoed in indigenous verbal arts

-interpretative modes of verbal narratives

-indigenous verbal arts and the persistence of indigenous thinking

-ghost narratives in African lore

-the knowledge power of a tale in the tale

-adaptations of narratives across cultures and media

-practical jokes and jokers in indigenous thought systems and lore

-indigenous science and technology through verbal arts knowledge

-ethno-medicine and indigenous verbal arts

-sacred landscapes and cultural complexes in indigenous verbal arts

-indigenous knowledge systems and scientific research

-interpreting the past and claiming the present through indigenous knowledge systems

Because we are anticipating an omnibus volume that would curate as well as archive all possible indigenous verbal arts anywhere it can be found, we solicit more than research articles. We will accept notes, field reports, observations, annotated bibliography for works (dissertations, etc) in indigenous verbal arts, research/case reports (technical or scientific – describing a novel occurrence in indigenous verbal arts), book reviews of works in indigenous (verbal) arts, images/sound resources, research notes, opinion article (op-eds), short report (findings), position paper, species paper – a description of a new form of indigenous verbal phenomenon.

Contributions should focus on the above thematic scopes (and others not listed) which border on the peculiar changes that the indigenous verbal arts irrespective of genres and modes. First, abstracts of not more than 200 words on studies proposing to deploy interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches should reach the special issue editors through the following email addresses: [email protected].ng and [email protected] on or before 30 February, 2024. Next, manuscripts developed from approved abstracts and not exceeding 5,000 words conforming to the 7th edition of the MLA style sheet to the SI editors are due by 30 April, 2024. All manuscripts will receive reviewers’ comments and editorial decisions by 30 July, 2024.

Articles and other types of submissions sent in should be the authors’ original work and not be under consideration in any other journal at the time of submission. Consideration will be given to articles that not only adopt a clear theoretical lens but produce fresh and compelling new readings of data, while establishing a persuasive sense of what is at stake in doing so.

Special Issue Editors’ Bios:

Ignatius Chukwumah, PhD, is professor of English in the Department of English and Literary Studies, Federal University Wukari, Taraba State, Nigeria. His research interests centre on African literature, literary theory (fashioning indigenous African interpretive codes), children’s literature, and the new media joke culture. His numerous articles have appeared in African Literature Today, Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, Forum for World Literature Studies, Arcadia, Journal of Narrative Theory, English Academy Review, Matatu, The Wenshan Review, and a host of other reputable learned journals. His recent volumes, Shadows of Interstitial Life: Essays on African Literature in Honour of Rev. Fr. Professor Amechi N. Akwanya (Galda-Verlag) and Sexual Humour in Africa: Gender, Jokes and Societal Change (London: Routledge) were published in March, 2022. 

Aondofa Godwin Ikyer is a lecturer of the Department of English and Literary Studies, Federal University Wukari, Nigeria. He has taught for more than a decade and has research interests in applied folklore, new media studies, cultural joke forms, performance studies and mimetic cultural codes. His works have appeared in journals such as Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, Matatu, International Journal of Language and Literature, Ahyu: Journal of Language and Literature, Imbozo. He has over forty-five journal and book chapter publications. He is currently a Fellow of Recalibrating Afrikanistik Programme at Moi University, Eldoret Campus, Kenya.  Email addresses: [email protected], [email protected]