CGAfrica | African stories as Carriers of Culture and Values: Unveiling the Universality of Human Fears and Desires

African stories as Carriers of Culture and Values: Unveiling the Universality of Human Fears and Desires

CGAfrica | Tobi Ayegbusi
Tobi Ayegbusi
12 October 2023

Stories, in all their forms, have played a profound role in shaping societies throughout history. Beyond mere entertainment, stories are the vessels through which culture, values, and wisdom are transmitted. It is important to understand the intricate relationship between storytelling and culture, emphasizing how narratives serve as carriers of collective identity and morality. Additionally, we explore the fascinating universality of human fears and desires embedded in these tales, transcending their African origins to resonate with people worldwide. 


Stories as Carriers of Culture, Identity, and Morality   

Reinforcing Cultural Identity 

Stories are the mirrors reflecting a community's essence. In the African context, storytelling is a cornerstone of cultural preservation. Through tales, the unique histories, traditions, and beliefs of diverse African cultures are passed from one generation to the next. These narratives serve as a binding force, fostering a shared identity among community members. 


Moral Compass Guidance 

African moonlight tales are not just entertaining; they are didactic tools, imparting essential moral lessons. Within the captivating narratives lie ethical dilemmas, consequences of actions, and examples of virtuous behavior. Listeners learn to navigate complex moral terrain, often mirroring their real-life challenges. These tales thus serve as compasses, guiding individuals toward righteous conduct. 


The Universality of Human Fears and Desires   

Universal Themes in African Stories 

Despite their African origins, the themes embedded in these stories transcend geographical boundaries. They delve into the fundamental aspects of human existence, unveiling universal fears, desires, and the enigmatic boundary between the mundane and the supernatural. 


Fear of the Unknown 

One of the most pervasive human fears is the fear of the unknown, deeply rooted in the human psyche. It transcends cultural boundaries and has been a driving force behind countless tales throughout history. In the rich tapestry of African storytelling, this fear finds a powerful voice, unravelling the enigmatic and delving into the supernatural.   

African narratives often venture into uncharted territories, where mysteries abound, and the supernatural reigns supreme. They awaken a primal fear that resonates within every culture and generation. The fear of the unknown taps into our shared human vulnerability, reminding us that, despite our advancements and knowledge, we are all bound by the same innate fears. 



In these African stories, we find the eerie presence of ancestral spirits, bridging the gap between the living and the departed. These spectral encounters create a sense of both dread and reverence, exploring the uncharted realms of the afterlife, a place shrouded in mystery and uncertainty.   

Moreover, African stories introduce us to malevolent creatures that lurk in the shadows, their existence defying rational explanation. These stories play on our deepest fears, evoking a sense of foreboding as we navigate the dark corners of our imagination. The fear of the unknown, magnified by the presence of these sinister entities, stirs our primal instincts, reminding us that some things are best left untouched. Through African stories, we learn to acknowledge and confront the fears that bind us all as humans, providing a unique and thought-provoking perspective on the age-old, universal fear of the unknown. 


Desire for Love and Connection 

Love, the heartbeat of human existence, courses through the veins of these captivating narratives. These timeless tales have an enchanting way of portraying love as a force that transcends all boundaries, be it the constraints of time, the vast expanse of space, or even the boundaries between different species. 

In these stories, love is not just a mere emotion but a binding thread that weaves its way through the very essence of existence. It is a universal language, a common chord that resonates with every human heart, regardless of age, culture, or background. These stories teach us that the profound desire for love and connection is a unifying force that knows no borders, and it binds humanity together in a tapestry of shared emotions. 

The love stories found within these African tales are not limited to romantic love. They encompass a broader spectrum, ranging from the love between friends, and family members, and even the connection between humans and nature. These tales showcase the transformative power of love, and how it can heal wounds, mend broken relationships, and bring about profound change. 

In the narrative of Oya and Shango, we witness the intense, tumultuous love between two divine beings, their emotions echoing the storms they control. This story, although set in a mythical realm, reflects the passionate and often complicated nature of human love. 

In 'The Lion's Whisker,' love is depicted as the unwavering determination of a woman to save her ailing husband. Her love drives her to undertake a perilous journey, showcasing the extraordinary lengths to which love can propel us. 

Ultimately, these tales remind us that love, in all its forms, is a fundamental aspect of our shared human experience. It bridges divides, heals wounds, and unites hearts across time, space, and even species. It is a force that transcends the boundaries of our individual stories, making it a central theme in the rich tapestry of African storytelling.   

In the grand tapestry of human storytelling, African tales stand as vivid threads, weaving together cultures, values, and shared human experiences. They are not confined to a single geography or people; instead, they are bridges connecting humanity's universal fears, desires, and moral dilemmas. As we delve into the haunting beauty of these tales, we are reminded that, at our core, we are all storytellers, and our stories are the carriers of our collective culture and timeless truths.