Journal of
Languages and Culture

  • Abbreviation: J. Lang. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6540
  • DOI: 10.5897/JLC
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 130

Full Length Research Paper

Invoking the community: Orality and cultural diversity in biographical narratives for children in Kenya

Colomba Kaburi Muriungi
Department of Arts and Humanities, Chuka University College, P.O Box 109 – 60400, Chuka, Kenya.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 28 November 2011
  •  Published: 30 November 2011



This study aimed to examine how orality was utilized in biographical narratives.  The study argued that orality as a stylistic device not only helped in creating a narrative structure that tells the stories of specific personalities, but this device also helped in summoning literature from different Kenyan communities. The study examined three biographies from the Lion’s series of biographies for young readers in Kenya through close textual reading. It maintained that the appropriation of oral features from different Kenyan communities, like the grandmother figure as a narrator, songs, oral poems, proverbs and other oral art forms evoked not only a specific society’s collective identity, but was further read as an expression of cultural diversity in the Kenyan nation. These oral elements were viewed as certainly creating an illusion of fiction in personal narratives like biographies, and in addition, worked to shape the imagination of the young readers.


Key words: Biographies, children’s literature, Kenya, cultural identity, cultural diversity, orality