Griots at War
Conflict, Conciliation, and Caste in Mande
Publication Year: 2000
Published by: Indiana University Press
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The first time I ever met a griot, I had no idea what a griot was or did or even that there was such a person. It was in August of 1978 in north central Coˆte d’Ivoire where I was attending the funeral of a dear friend’s uncle. It was my first African funeral and many strange and wondrous things went on, things I could not explain or make any sense of at the time. ...
NOTE ON ORTHOGRAPHY
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In the Mande texts, the orthography follows that in the most recent publications of the Malian National Oﬃce of Functional Literacy and Applied Linguistics (DNAFLA). Several diﬀerent systems of transcribing Mande languages are now in use in Mali as well as in printed materials throughout the world. The following chart shows the equivalences of the symbols that ...
PROLOGUE: An Invitation to War
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April in Mali is burning and dusty. It is the time of the harmattan, a desert wind that blows from the north, from the Sahara, carrying with it not only inescapable heat but also the grit of desert sand. The temperature can reach a low of 90 degrees Fahrenheit at night and quickly climb from there once the sun is up. It is a diﬃcult month to get through, long after harvest when ...
ONE. Power and Paradox: Griots and Mande Social Organization
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My tɔn-sisters and I joined thousands of griots ( jeliw)1 in the town of Kita, in western Mali, for a three-day period of discourse, song, music, and dance in honor of the installation of the new Jelikuntigi and the opening of a newly constructed Jelibolon. Jelikuntigi, Chief Griot in colonial parlance, is better translated as Head Griot, more faithful to the Mande word.2 We were called ...
TWO. In the Hands of Speech: Mande Discourse
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A Mande proverb states kuma tε mɔgɔ bolo, mɔgɔ de bε kuma bolo, literally “speech is not in people’s hands, people are in the hands of speech.” To have something in your hand is to own it, to possess it, control it. In other words, we may think we control what we say, but in reality what we say exerts some control over us; it aﬀects our lives in many ways, some obvious and overt, ...
THREE. A History of Fadenya: Interpretations of the Kita Griot War
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The war of the Kita griots was, like all wars, an event with many diﬀerent possible interpretations. Both sides in the conflict had fluid, changing rationales for their positions, and the allies of each faction, spread like fingers throughout the core Mande areas and even into the fringes in southern Coˆte d’Ivoire and Gambia, also constructed their arguments, their justifications, ...
FOUR. Making Boundaries: When Griots Speak Before Nobles
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The continual generation of social distance between groups with diﬀerent cultures living together in the same community, or schismogenesis, occurs frequently in heterogeneous societies. In most diverse communities, numbers of groups must live and interact with one another while maintaining their diﬀerences through a kind of mutual agreement that may, at times, permit ...
FIVE. Breaking Boundaries: When Nobles Speak Before Griots
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Throughout the three days of the celebration, the notion of the oneness of all jeliw and their distinction from the hɔrɔnw was repeatedly expressed in speeches, songs, and dances, by both men and women griots. There were celebrations morning and evening on Saturday, including a masquerade by the Guinea delegation, numerous songs praising the clans of the most important ...
SIX. The Healer Who Is Ill Must Swallow HisOwn Saliva: When Griots Speak to Griots
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On Monday, after three days of celebrating the installation of Makanjan Jabate as the new Head Griot of Kita, the leaders of the griot delegations gathered at the home of Simbo Keita along with the principals of the warring griot factions to talk with one another. Their discussion provided them with one more opportunity to arrive at a consensual interpretation of the footing ...
SEVEN. Caste, Mande-Style
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A recurring theme at the 1985 gathering of griots in Kita was the celebration of social diﬀerence. The songs and speeches of the event did not spotlight the distinctions between rich and poor, schooled and non-schooled, farmer and civil servant (although all these distinctions were mentioned at various points) but rather they highlighted the ancient ways of dividing the Mande ...
EPILOGUE: "A Wound Cannot Heal on Pus"
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In July of 1999, I returned to Kita to learn what had transpired since the Kita Griot War of 1983–1985. Most of the bards who had worked so diligently to put an end to that war had passed away by that time, including Kela Balla Ba Jabate, his brother Yamuru Jabate, their cousin Siramori Jabate, the Guinean bard Sanasi Kuyate, and several of the principal participants from Kita. ...
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Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 33 b&w photos, 2 figures, 14 color photos, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2000