n Institute of African Studies Research Review - The African Epic Controversy : Historical, Philosophical and Aesthetic Perspectives on Epic Poetry and Performance, Mugyabuso Mulokozi : book review

Volume 25, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0855-4412



The African Epic Controversy is as much about interpreting the enanga epic tradition of the Bahaya people of Tanzania and making it available to a wider public, as it is about defining the African epic. The enanga tradition gets its name from its accompaniment: a 7/8 string trough zither that is also found in many other communities in East and Central Africa. The enanga tradition is from pre-colonial times, probably dating back 500-1000 years. The book, which is based largely on the writer's doctoral thesis, provides a comprehensive synthesis and critique of the various arguments in the African epic controversy that Ruth Finnegan unleashed by her claim (1970: 108-110) that the epic does not seem to exist in sub-Saharan African literatures. Using four enanga poems recorded between 1974 and 1983: Mugasha, Rukiza, Kachwenyenja and Mugangala, all heroic narratives depicting the exploits of historical, legendary, fictitious and mythological heroes, kings, noblemen and women, Mugyabuso Mulokozi both supports the argument that the epic exists in Africa and illustrates the characteristics of that epic.

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