“No Place for Old men”: Ikalanga Oral Narratives and Ageism

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Wazha Lopang


“Retired but not tired” is an African aphorism that Professor Moteane John Melamu can wear like
a fitting cap. Is there perhaps something in African folklore that can unravel the enigma of rejection
on account of age when there is much more a person can still offer despite being an elder academic?
Ikalanga oral narratives provide a visual window through which stylistic and paralinguistic features
of a performer coalesce in an arena to impart a particular expectation on the audience and wider
society. These expectations range from mimicking stereotypical behaviour to unorthodox violent
reactions. Have oral narratives been unkind to ageism? In the Bakalanga artistic experience,
characters tend to portray the old with suspicion, derision, and no small amount of fear. This paper
examines the phenomenon of ageism in Ikalanga oral narrative and some narrative types from other
cultural experiences.

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