04.11.2012 Feature Article

Preserving African cultural heritage using ebooks

Preserving African cultural heritage using ebooks
04.11.2012 LISTEN

"Europeans assume that, given the right knowledge and ideas, personal relations can be left largely to take care of themselves, and this is perhaps the most fundamental difference in outlook between Africans and Europeans." Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya, from his book Facing Mount Kenya, 1938.

Africa is not only a land of rich natural resources, but a land of rich culture dating back to the existence of the first man on earth which archeologists believe lived in Africa.

Egypt, the home of civilization had written sources dating back to prehistoric times (hieratic, demotic and hieroglyphics) which they used to preserve their customs and traditions for future generations.

Africa's rich and diverse culture must be preserved for posterity; in the words of Gandhi "A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people." From Dakar to the Horn of Africa and from Cape Town to Alexandria, different cultural heritage and arts exist which however are gradually losing value as a result of 'modernization' and varying levels of interest shown in their preservation.

African arts and culture, though rich are sometimes “thrown to the dogs” and some governments appear to only become interested in them at the time of an important personality visiting the country, then, they quickly organise an arts and culture group to welcome them. Many children are not interested in learning the language and culture of their people. This is very unfortunate and we must not allow our culture to die. In the words of an anonymous writer, "Africa can only be as strong as the institutions she creates and sustains to feed her mind, body and soul".

Swahili, Dagaare, Hausa, Yuroba, Akan among other languages can all be preserved at low cost using a simple technology called 'an ebook'. An ebook is a ''book in electronic format. It is downloaded to a computer, PC, Mac, laptop, PDA, tablet, smartphone or any other kind of reading device, and is read on the screen. It can have numbered pages, table of contents, pictures and graphics, exactly like a printed book''.

This means that, the traditions and customs of Africa including the languages of the various ethnic groups can be preserved in this simple technology which can last for thousands of years for the future benefit of our children and children's children.

In Scotland, for example, a media company called Giglets Limited is helping to preserve the modern heritage of an ancient language of the Celtic people called Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic), and ebooks are now playing a part of this strategy. How are they doing it? Giglets in partnership with the Gaelic Books Council (Comhairle nan Leabhraichean) and Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig is working tirelessly to encourage the use and support of this culturally rich language. Ebooks are used to teach and encourage the use of this language, within Scotland as well as in communities and by individual speakers as far afield as Nova Scotia in Canada, the United States, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.

It is in this light that Giglets Lmited would like to partner with organisations and governments in Africa to help preserve African cultural heritage for posterity and to promote ebook education on the continent.

Francis Xavier Tuokuu is a Freelance Journalist and a Postgraduate Student in Corporate Social Responsibility and Energy (MSc) at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland. Francis is also public relations intern with Giglets Limited, a media company in Ayrshire, Scotland ( He can be reached via [email protected]

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