n Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems - Orality : opportunities and challenges, a case study for research in Thembuland, Eastern Cape, South Africa




This article seeks to highlight the importance of using oral history and oral tradition in presenting history as a reality. It shows how the use of oral sources - oral evidence and oral testimony - can help historians re-write South African history, dispelling myths that characterise our past. The repetition of the orthodox version of history necessitates the use of the voices of the voiceless people who had acquired information from their forebears, contemporaries, witnesses or participants in the past events. Challenges and opportunities that impact on oral research are brought to surface. This article shows that oral history can rectify or close gaps in historical narratives and that oral research can contradict with written sources. It discusses how and why oral sources should be subjected to critical analysis in order to produce a balanced historical narrative. It provides researchers with the essential ways of using oral sources, identifying interviewees, conducting oral interviews, comparing with written sources, weighing up evidence and putting each informant under a microscope and ask the following questions:

  • Who was s/he?
  • Could s/he have known the truth?
  • Did s/he want to tell the truth?
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