Proverbs, Riddles, and Tales as an Archive of Tubu History

Mahuma’s current project is to deepen his work on Tubu orality, which plays an important role as archive for the history of his people. Mahuma is particularly interested in proverbs, riddles, and tales. Safeguarding this oral literature is essential, because, as Mahuma explains, “today, in the age of globalization, cultures are facing the consequences of standardization—those of minorities are undergoing unprecedented influence from ‘majority’ peoples; in particular, the culture of the Tubu today is increasingly influenced by Arab civilization.”  Moreover, due to processes of sedentarization and urbanization in the Sahara and on its borders, younger generations of Tubu tend to forget their oral traditions, which are of paramount importance for their civilization: “These traditions, and particularly proverbs, are the pillar of our culture, for us they are a code of conduct, honor and judgment; they play a regulating role in people’s way of living and thinking, and serve as a scale of values!”

As part of his project, Mahuma will collect proverbs, riddles, and tales in Northeastern Niger (Central Sahara), as well as explanations of their deeper meanings. To further elucidate the latter, he will also focus on broader local knowledge, concerning e.g., astronomy, pharmacopoeia, or clan brands. The question of how oral literature preserves the memory of Tubu resistance to French colonization is also a subfield of Mahuma’s research. His fieldwork will be followed by the writing of his book including the transliteration, translation, and explanation of the oral literature he collects.