Oral literature in a ritual setting: the role of spirit songs in a spirit-mediumship cult of Mombasa, Kenya.
This thesis examines the role of spirit songs in a spirit-
mediumship cult of Mombasa, Kenya. It does this by analysing the
meaning and function of the songs within the context of the rituals
in which they are sung. The first part describes in detail the
context of these rituals, the beliefs and practices underlying them,
and it provides an outline history of the Swahili community in which
the rituals occur. In the second part of the thesis, the songs are
divided into four broad categories on the basis of their themes
and functions. An analysis of the songs is then attempted by
adopting, and adapting for this purpose, the approach originally
used by V.W. Turner in his study of the Ndembu circumcision ritual.
This study treats the songs as a genre of oral literature.
Their status as such is discussed and an attempt is made to show
the literary features in them. There is also a brief discussion on
the grammatical structure of the songs and, though a point of minor
importance in this thesis, an approach to the grammatical study of
Swahili poetry is also suggested. So far as I know this is the
first attempt to deal systematically with a genre of Swahili literature
in a ritual setting. The thesis is original in that respect.