Literature, society and culture cannot be separated from each other. This paper is concerned with the role that oral literature holds in society with particular interest in Rwandan wedding and burial ceremonies. The researcher reflects on oral genres as a product of society. Observation was used as research instrument besides translation, interpretation and contextual analysis hinged on two literary theories namely expressive theory and didactic theory of literature as spearheaded by Muleka’s Performer Centric Approach. The paper revealed that oral literary genres such as proverbs, elegy, pastoral poems and songs, religious and wedding songs, rhetorical and skillful expressions play a socio-cultural role. They depict the culture and reflect socio- cultural values among Rwandan citizens at a particular occasion. In wedding context, some of these genres reflect a “give and take” culture, thus building the social ties among people of the same society but from different clans. In the death context, the oral genres are didactic as they express the message of the role that the departed one(s) played, their deeds and how they behaved for the community stayed behind to ape.
Department of Humanities and Language Education, University of Rwanda, P.O.Box 55, Rwamagana, Rwanda.