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The most complete guide ever assembled to folklore across the African continent from ancient times to the present

Philip M. Peek and Kwesi Yankah, Editors

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Focusing on individual countries, ethnic groups, religious practices, artistic genres, and many related topics, this encyclopedia provides a singular resource on Africa's many forms of folklore. Spanning the entire continent, African Folklore: An Encyclopedia uses an inclusive definition of folklore to introduce readers and students to the diversity of Africa's peoples and customs, both throughout history and in the present day.

Unlike existing sources, which examine a single form of folklore such as myths or tales, the Encyclopedia is the only reference work that covers the variety of forms of folklore across all of Africa. Over 300 entries, ranging from 500 to 5,000 words, are organized alphabetically by topic, including large sub-groupings that treat categories such as women's folklore, theater, and musical expression. With essays contributed by an international group of folklorists and scholars, the Encyclopedia offers a depth and balance of perspectives on its subjects. The Encyclopedia's broad coverage includes:

  • Entries on beadwork, food customs, oral narratives, architecture, and many other manifestations of folklore

  • Examinations of nearly 100 peoples across the African continent

  • Culture-specific articles that focus on a particular aspect of folklore among individual countries, regions, and ethnicities

  • Factual articles that provide helpful introductory overviews of each African country

  • Survey essays that explore such themes as epics, medicine, performance, and religion

  • Appendixes including an African folklore filmography, a listing of original field recordings, and a directory of academic institutions involved with the study of African folklore

With original field photographs, a comprehensive index, and thorough cross-references, African Folklore: An Encyclopedia is an invaluable addition to any library's folklore or African studies collection. An ideal introduction for general readers, it is also an indispensable reference work for students and scholars of folklore, cultural anthropology, and African studies, including visual, musical, and performing arts.

  • Contains over 300 cross-referenced entries written by more than 150 scholars, including over 60 international contributors

  • Provides an introduction and commentary on every African nation

  • Includes seven regional surveys with maps locating major ethnic groups

  • Numerous entries devoted to the African Diaspora, with special emphasis on African-American arts and religion

  • 87 original field photographs and 7 maps

  • Detailed filmography of documentary films on Africa

  • Catalog of the complete African holdings of the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University

  • Includes a survey of African folklore collections and African Studies Libraries in the USA and Africa, as well as a list of key early folklore scholarship at U.S. universities



Philip M. Peek is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Drew University. His other edited works have focused on African divination as well as the uses of silence in African cultures. Most recently he co-curated Ways of the River: Arts and Environment in the Niger Delta, an exhibition and catalog that was named the best show of 2002 by the Los Angeles Times.

Kwesi Yankah is Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ghana. He is the author of numerous books, including Speaking for the Chief: Okyeame and the Politics of Akan Royal Oratory.

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