VARIATION AS A TOOL OF AESTHETICS IN OKPOSI, OHAFIA, AND AWKA ORAL NARRATIVES
Oral narrative is one genre of folklore that has constantly generated arguments on the basis of its inconsistencies whenever it is performed by the same performer or different performers at different moments. The causes of oral narrative variation have been attributed to diverse reasons by folklore scholars. Some of the suggested causes are loss of memory on the part of the performers, narrative incompetence, audiences’ desire for a multiplicity of themes (to which the performers yield) and the fluidity of folklore itself to accommodate issues that arise in life (in which case it is considered an essence of the genre). The core purpose of oral narrative variation, however, has been omitted by most of the scholars, which is the performer’s intention to please his audience, his desire to present to them something that is beautiful; in other words, his wish to perform a narrative that has got aesthetic value. To achieve this purpose, the narrator intentionally makes effort not to bore his audience with monotony, but constantly embellishes his narrative with varieties that dazzle his audiences and makes them want to hear the same story over and over again. This is to say that the inconsistencies in his narrative at diverse moments of performance are actually not an indication of incompetence. On the contrary, it is an art that is craftily wielded by a master performer to please his audience and make the moment they spend listening to him worthwhile. This research, therefore, is an attempt to reveal how the oral performer wields variation as a tool to reveal an art that can ‘seize the gaze’ of his audience (Akwanya). To show how this works, this research would do a comparative analysis of variants of three narratives collected from Okposi in Ebonyi state, Awka in Anambra state and Ohafia in Abia state. It would reveal the internal patterns of variation in the narratives based on their events, scenes of action, characters, actions and utterances of the characters.