Oral literature refers to literature which is disseminated/transmitted or spread by word of mouth. It refers to any form of verbal art which is spread by speaking. This unwritten literature is carried in the memories of members of different communities and it is passed from one generation to another by word of mouth. Oral literature existed even before the invention of writing. It appeared with the human existence in this world. This form of literature includes poems, songs, riddles, tongue twisters, proverbs, fairy tales, chants, myths, legends, spells, recitations, among others.
For instance, the continent of Africa had a long history of oral literature before colonization. Most of the literature of this period was oral – it was unwritten. This literature includes folk tales, myths, legends, epics, animal stories, songs, oral poems, proverbs, riddles and tongue twisters. Those forms of literature were very interesting to children, and the youths were entertained as well as educated by them. Although the oral literature tradition belongs to the pre-colonial period, it must be remembered that its forms continue to flourish in Africa today. For example, performances of oral tales are featured on radio, television, and in films. African schools continue to teach oral literature, and students often engage in storytelling and oral performances in their schools.
In addition, the oral literature tradition has been carried over into contemporary written African literature. Even today, different forms of oral literature play the role of educating and entertaining the children of the African descent through learning the heroic deeds of the founding fathers (ancestors) of their community. This also acted as a reminder of their origin thereby aiding the sustenance of their cultural heritage.