Art, Ritual & Theory
in Mandenka Historiography

By Nubia Kai | November 27, 2020



The Mandenka, also known as the Mandingo or Malinke, are well known in the international world as the former founders and rulers of the Mali Empire (c. 1232–1898) and in more recent times as master historians, musicians and performers. The term ‘griot’ was popularized when Alex Haley’s Roots was published in 1976.1 At that time, the entire world was exposed to the history of Kunte Kinte (Alex Haley’s ancestor) through an elaborate system of genealogical and historical narratives.  The word griot is not an African word per se, but most likely a French corruption of the Fulani word for griot, gawoula.  Griot, nevertheless, has become the popular term for traditional African historians in general and has even been adopted in Western academia to refer to outstanding historians who have excellent memories.2

Before discussing the elements of dramatic art, ritual, and theory and its usage in Mandenka history, I would first like to clarify the meaning of the term griot and their function in Mande society.  The word for griot in the Mandenka language is jeli/jali, and it literally means ‘blood.’ Western scholars have often erroneously defined the jeli or griot as bards or storytellers likening them to the bardic tradition of Medieval Europe. However, the griots have a much broader, diversified, and significant role than that of a mere storyteller. 

First of all, in the traditional, pre-colonial era griots were the principle political advisors to kings, chiefs, and other high government officials. They were the mediators in international, national, and local disputes and conflicts; they served as ambassadors and diplomats to neighboring countries.  They were the chief judicial advisors and advisors of national defense. They were also the officiators of rites of passage ceremonies: naming ceremonies, puberty rites, marriage ceremonies, funerals, as well as national inaugurations, harvest festivals, religious festivals, sporting events, and other national holidays. They negotiated marriage and dowry arrangements between the families of the bride and groom. They were foremost historians, archivists, genealogists, social and cultural anthropologists, educators, musicians, and dramatic performers.3

Training of both male and female griots began at an early age in a peripatetic fashion, through close association with their parents and of other family members who were also griots.  By the time a griot child reaches adulthood they have already learned and absorbed a good deal of Mandenka cultural history.  Then they may travel widely to learn the local histories of specific regions of the empire and become apprentices of master griots where they may study anywhere from ten to twenty years.  By the time a griot reaches the last stage of initiation, achieving the title of Belen-tigi, master of the word, they have amassed a phenomenal amount of very detailed knowledge of every aspect of Mandenka culture, society, history, politics, art, genealogy, and in most cases have mastered a musical instrument[s], elocution, singing, dancing and dramatic performance. They are the repositories of history with a repertoire that can fill a library.  The astonishing amount of information that the griot stores in his or her brain corroborates the disarming fact that human beings use only ten percent of their brain capacity, for the griots seem to use a much larger percent and confirm the seemingly infinite capacity of the human brain to amass knowledge.

The griots, then, are far more than storytellers. They use storytelling techniques and devices in their explication of history, yet that skill is a small component of a multifaceted range of skills and expertise in numerous professions. Indeed, it is the griot’s vast and perspicacious knowledge of culture and history that prepares them with a teleologic vantage to be political advisor, mediator, ambassador, judicial advisor, officiator of rites of passages and so forth.

The musician, performer, genealogist, historian are inseparable in Mandenka historiography; the intellectual and the aesthetic are inseparable.  In a culture where there is no separation between the sacred and the profane, the individual and the collective community, the corporeal and spiritual worlds, this historical/artistic paradigm is only a reflection of the way art is integrated into the daily life of the people.4 History to the Mandenka griot is a form of divine revelation, a sacred text that provides human beings with a spiritual-ethical map on how to arrive by degrees to their initial state of perfection. Since life in this cosmological scheme is sacred, the recording of social and cultural life is also sacred. Thus, the histories in traditional cultures are denoted ‘sacred histories.’

The most important event in history, according to the griot Diali Djimo Kouyate, is the birth of a child, for when a child is born a miniature universe is born.  Hence, Ego, the individual, is the center of the world and the center of history.5 How does the Mandenka griot accomplish the task of infusing history into the souls of every Malian citizen?  The answer lies in a historiography rooted in a correspondent cosmogony and the deployment of aesthetic devices designed to engage the audience simultaneously at an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual level.

Art, ritual, and theory play a prominent role in the daily life of traditional African society and a special role in enlivening, interpreting, and transmitting history so that history’s powers of transformation are actualized. In order to understand the function of ritual, art, and theory in Mandenka history, it is first necessary to define these concepts from the Mandenka’s theoretical frame of reference. A ritual is the acting out of an established, prescribed procedure. It can range from a family event such as offering prayer before a meal to an elaborate religious ceremony such as the Kama blo performed every seven years in the historical town of Kangaba. But ritual is much more than that. Ritual serves to link the human being in an unbroken, interdependent continuum with the natural world of animals, plants, and other human beings and the spiritual world of planets, stars, gods, angels, spirits, and ancestors.

Ritual enactments reify and reinforce the pre-existing cosmic relationship between man, nature, and the universe.  For example, a marriage ritual which establishes a bond between a man and woman and their respective families is witnessed not only in the human community, it is acknowledged in the natural world and the spiritual world of the angels, spirits, and ancestors who all play a role in seeing that the marriage vows are kept.  Similarly, when a child is born and lives through the transitional period of seven days, it is named in an Akika,a ceremony in which all the spiritual forces and forces of nature invoked are obliged to take part in the infants’ growth and development. The most important event in history—the birth of a child—is always accompanied with a ritual. And since Ego is situated at the center of world, history is constructed to revolve around Ego.  Each member of Malian society is made to feel that they are a central part of Mali’s history through this ritualization of history, that is, the recounting of each person’s genealogy, and the legacies established by their ancestors at rites of passage ceremonies and various other ceremonial venues. There is no citizen of Mali who does not have eponymous ancestors who took part in the shaping of the empire. The griot recounts an individual’s lineage, the significant deeds of their foreparents and at the same time enjoins them to eclipse or surpass their foreparents in character and deeds.6

Most often rituals are reenactments of what Joseph Campbell calls “living myths.”  He uses living myths to distinguish them from the connotative usage of myth meaning “a lie,” a false or fictional narrative. Living myths signifies the opposite of the connotative construct. It is a narrative that expounds the highest level of truth that can be expressed within the limits of language. Bacofen argues that the origins of history can only be revealed through myth since in myth “lies the beginning of all development.”Origination establishes a prototypical model of subsequent development, character, and direction. The primordial power of the original act is recaptured through the narrative performances and rituals that reenact the myths.8 W.T. Stevenson further explains the primacy of mythological discourse.

The essential character of our personal and social lives are shaped by myth, or it is by the power of particular myths which determine, by way of determining our fundamental presuppositions, the way we shape our cultural, social, political, and economic lives.  We do nothing of significance which is not informed by myth in a fundamental way, and the more significant our act, the more this is true.  It is the symbols within the context of myth which give rise to all thought.9

Jung called these symbols “the transformers of energy, their function being to convert libido from a ‘lower’ to a ‘higher’ form.”10  Marcel Griaule, who did extensive research on Dogon-Mande cosmology found that among the Dogon and Mandenka, the symbol, not the object, is alone the essential quality since it reifies the spiritual potency of an object. The Dogon, a branch of the Mandenka people, configure a network of equivalences between all things through an elaborate system of symbols and myths. The universe, to the Dogon, is an orderly, synchronized whole incessantly disturbed and perpetually reordered along the lines of a pre-existing internal harmony. Myth constitutes the aduno so tanie, ‘the astonishing word,’ a history of the universe and man simultaneously. “The whole is illuminated by myth. Structures in it appear progressively in time, the one superimposed on the next, each having its own meaning, each also displaying close correlation with the others.”11  Mythic symbolism attempts to explain the spiritual nature of men and women and their inextricable connection to a universal order.

In traditional cultures, myths, legends, and epics are regarded as real history, while fairy tales, animal fables and trickster tales are generally categorized as fictional. In the modern world, the extreme methodology of Aristotelian logic combined with social Darwinism relegated myth to the fantastic fictions of the infantile, primitive mind. Nevertheless and despite the intellectual hubris that generated the disfigurement of myth, there was an undeniable consensus regarding its transformational power and peculiar ability to shape and transmute consciousness among some of the most influential religious scholars and psychologists. Mircea Eliade, Bacofen, Carl Jung, C. Kerenyi, Sigmund Freud, W.T. Stevenson and Joseph Campbell turned a psychoanalytical eye on myth and formulated, at least, a precise explanation of its functionality. The idea that myths are invented in order to rationalize and explain human existence was radically challenged once scholars isolated and carefully observed the cause-effect relationship of myth and consciousness.  Joseph Campbell, one of the foremost scholars of mythology, defines four functions of living myths and their ritual reenactments.

The first is what I have called the mystical function:  to awaken and maintain in the individual a sense of awe and gratitude in relation to the mystery dimension of the universe, not so that he lives in fear of it, but so that he recognizes that he participates in it since the mystery of its being is the mystery of his own deep being as well. The second function of mythology is to offer an image of the universe that will be in accord with the knowledge of the time, the sciences and fields of action of the folk to whom the mythology is addressed. The third function of living mythology is to validate, support, and imprint the norms of a given specific moral order, that namely of the society in which the individual is to live.  And the forth is to guide him, stage by stage in health, strength, and harmony of spirit, through the whole foreseeable course of a useful life.12

The history of Mali encapsulates the microcosmic history of its founder whose personal life is analogous to the evolution of the empire. The relationship between epic and history is allegorical, marking the beginning of a new epoch that changes forever the socio-cultural and political geography of a nation. The epic reveals the origin and nature of the world and human culture.  Constructed with the mythic idea, proportions, and functions, whether as a lengthy prose narrative (tariku/maana) or the more commonly rendered poetic form (fasa), the Sundiata epic is structurally a historical myth in that it describes the empire’s origins and nature and establishes precedents or archetypes for the implementation of Mali’s social order, political economy, laws, customs, rituals, arts, etc. By ‘myth’ we must keep in mind that this text is not referring to the current connotative sense of myth as ‘a lie’ but rather the indispensable function of myth as a purveyor of human consciousness represented in the science of mythology.

The predominant venue of expression for historical myths is the epic. Far less symbolic and abstruse than creation myths, historical myths record history as it actually occurs, though they may be embellished with extended metaphors, hyperboles, parables, proverbs, imagery, symbolism, and philosophical analysis. Historical myths are direct descendants of creation myths, inheriting their numinous qualities, internal structure, dialectical movements, and revelation of the spiritual-ethical norms of the society, only instead of the narrative revolving around the gods in the primordial world it revolves around the culture hero. To say the narrative of Sundiata Keita is myth is to say, first of all, that it is substantially true, meaningful, and efficacious, shaping the spiritual, psychological, and social dimensions of culture through the archetypal forms of its origination.  More than an ordinary literary text or an expository history, it is a narrative blueprint of Malinke cultural life, not simply because of its break with the past and reconstruction of a new order but because the epic reaches deep into the primordial and immediate past, excavates its spiritual meaning and reifies it.

A new epoch is never really new; it is a reinterpretation and restructuring of the old at the intersection of an auspicious moment. The epic’s providential timeliness, transparency, and transformative impact situates it firmly within the purview of a sacred text. That is the narrative predetermines the organization of knowledge, ethics, and culture just as the Vedas and The Bhagavad Gita determines the spiritual culture of the Hindus and the Bible informs the spiritual culture of the Judeo-Christian world.

Based on what Campbell calls “a hero with a thousand faces,” Sundiata’s epic reads like a monomyth, the personal journey of the hero whose life adventures are the nucleus of a national rebirth when the burden of oppression culminates in “a cry for the redeeming hero, the carrier of the shining blade whose blow, whose touch, whose existence will liberate the land.”13 For that vast region of West Africa encompassing the Mali Empire, Sundiata was that hero. In the Sundiata epic the narrative is built around the life and deeds of the hero, the circumstances of his birth, childhood, trials, obstacles, triumphs and impact on the course of history. Epics even more than creation myths are constructed to personalize experience through the vicarious revelation of the hero whose acts epitomize the most cherished human principles: faith, courage, integrity, generosity, compassion, strength, loyalty, supreme intelligence. Through these virtues Sundiata is able to subvert all opposition and obstacles and achieve a personal and public victory. Often, the monomythic journey is a national parable explaining the philosophical and ethical ideals of the society through the life and character of the culture hero.

The life of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali Empire  who died in 1255, is a national parable. He is a leader of men, on intimate terms with the gods, and possessed with divine qualities that give him a transcendental link between the contingencies of the social world and the world of spirits. Though the Epic of Sundiata is cast in secular narratives, there is an implicit religious ideal embodied in the heroic themes. The finite and the infinite, man’s mortality and immortality, virtues and iniquities are brought into conflict with each other through the hero’s actions, but the two worlds, the material and spiritual also overlap and the conflicts are resolved through him.  His ideas, visions, inspirations, and actions come naturally from the primal springs of human life and thought through which society is reborn.  Sundiata, the founder and first emperor of Mali, overcame a debilitating illness during his youth, evaded the attempted murder initiated by his father’s first wife, Sassouma Berete, went into exile for several years with his mother, Sogolon Conde and finally vanquished the despot, Sumanguru Kante who had ruthlessly conquered and subjugated the Mande kingdoms.

Under Sundiata Keita’s rule the Mande kingdoms were reorganized into the great empire of Mali. He restored peace, order, justice and autonomy to the Mandenka kings and established alliances and solidarity with neighboring nations who were installed in the empire.14  Trade expanded exponentially under his reign as Mali’s international connections extended into the Middle East and Europe. Timbuktu was a well known site of Muslim intellectual activity as early as the ninth century. Gaoussou Diawara, who spent years researching Manding Bokari II’s (Abubakar Muhammad II) expedition to the Americas and many years studying in Russia, has access to historical works written in Russian that discuss Russia’s diplomatic relationship with ancient Ghana and Mali. 

During Sundiata’s reign embassies were installed representing nations throughout the Muslim world. There are many documents from the southern Muslim states of Russia (Ubekistan, Khajekistan, etc.) written by ambassadors who were assigned to embassies in Mali and recorded Mali’s history.15 Most Western scholars ignore these Eastern European sources of eyewitness history which in similar circumstances related to European history would be more than sufficient evidence of its historicity.  There is still a question among some scholars as to whether Sundiata is a real or fictional character.  Even those historians who demand written validation from external sources do not accept the written references to Sundiata when they appear in the chronicles of Ibn Battuta or the Songhay texts Tarikh Al-Fettash and Tarikh Al-Sudan.16

Sundiata’s greatest achievement, which until recently was guarded in secrecy by a consensus of Mandenka griots, was his abolition of slavery and the slave trade. His numerous conquests in West Africa were launched in order to enforce the “Oath of the Manden,” the edict officially banning slavery and the slave trade in the empire.17 Unfortunately, the slave trade and slavery were resumed twenty years after his death, and apparently the national shame of the breaking of the oath compelled the griots to censure this significant event in its entirety from the annals of Mali’s official history. Yet this effacement was public, not private, and initiated griots (the belen-tigi) were taught the history but had to swear never to reveal it. Wa Kamissoko, the chief griot of Mali in the 1970s and ’80s, made the decision to break the vow of silence and divulge this hidden history to Yousouf Tata Cisse, a modern Malian historian, who collected and published Wa Kamissoko’s texts in French in the 1990s:  L’empire du Mali, Soundjata, La Gloire du Mali, and Le grand geste du Mali.

The Manden Oath

1. The hunters declare:


All human life is one life.


It is true that one life may appear to exist


Before another life.


But one life is not more “ancient” or more


Respectable than another life.


In the same way no living being is superior to another living being.


2. The hunters declare:


All life being one life,


All harm caused to a living being requires reparation.


Consequently,


No one must cause harm to his fellow man,


No one should kill his fellow man.


3. The hunters declare:


That everyone must watch over his fellow man.


That everyone should venerate their ancestors,


That everyone should educate their children,


That everyone maintain and provide for the needs of their family.       


4. The hunters declare:


That each guard the country of their fathers


Through country or homeland


He must also understand and especially men


That every nation, every land where men disappeared


From the face of the earth


Became immediately nostalgic.


5. The hunters declare:


Hunger is not a good thing.


Slavery is no longer a good thing.


There is no greater calamity than slavery in the present world


As long as we are in possession of the bow and quiver,


Hunger will no longer kill a person in Manden,


If by chance famine raged against us,


War will never again destroy some village


To take away slaves,


From now on no one can force a bit in the mouth


Of another human being to sell into slavery,


A person will no longer beat, let alone, put to death another


Because he is son of a slave.


6. The hunters declare:


The essence of slavery is extinguished this day


“From one end to the other” of Manden.


Raiding is banished and reckoned with this day in Manden.


The torments born of these horrors have ended this day in Manden.


What tribulation, what torment!


Especially when the oppressed have no other recourse.


What decadence that slavery!


The slave is not shown any consideration in this world.


7. The people of the past say:


“Man in that he is an individual


Made of bone and flesh of marrows and nerves.


Nourishes himself with food and drink:


But his soul, his mind lives on three things:


To see what it wishes to see,


To say what it wishes to say,


And do what it wishes to do;


If even one of these things is missing from the soul,


It suffers and will surely waste away.”


Consequently, the hunters declare:


From now on each person arranges his own affairs


Everyone is free to do what he wants


In respect of the prohibitions


Such is the oath of the Manden


For the benefit of the ears of the entire world.18


Mali was the offspring of Sundiata’s genius, a perfect union of ngara (creative intelligence) and ngana (action), the mastery of the word and of action that filled the symbolic deficiency that was debilitating the Mande people. His heroism, howev er, should not be seen as an isolated, transcendent act of omnipotent dimensions but as a wholely symbolic one representing the collective consciousness, actions, and genius of the Malinke people, an outpouring of creative, spiritual energies no longer repressed by historical limitations that must continuously circulate into the world.  Sundiata’s victory was the people’s victory; Sundiata’s self-consciousness was the people’s consciousness; Sundiata’s genius was the people’s genius; Sundiata’s peace and prosperity was the people’s peace and prosperity, and this is no better demonstrated than in the epic itself with its amazing cast of extraordinary characters who each play a vital role in the great movement of Mali.

The Kuma Lafolo Kuma, a derivation of the Quranic Arabic kum faya kum ‘be and it is’ is the name the griots have entitled Sundiata’s history; it is the activating formula for divinity’s creative manifestations. Sundiata’s life and the movement he inspired is regarded as a divine act, a providential response to the prayers of a people in anguish. Their gratitude is shown in the countless songs that immortalize Mali’s heroes.

                             He has come

                             And happiness has come

                             Sundiata is here

                             And happiness is here.19



From this outpouring of creative energy the classical music and dance of Mali was born giving rise to subsequent musical traditions in present day Senegal, Guinea, Gambia, and eventually to blues and jazz in the United States.20

The Epic of Sundiata, like the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer, became a major source for dramatic adaptation. Griots dramatized the text using music, dance, masquerade, and storytelling techniques at rites of passage ceremonies, national festivals, inaugurations, sports events, hunting, fishing, weaving, and harvest ceremonies.  In Mandenka society every social ceremonial whether secular or religious gave rise to colorful, flamboyant, and elaborate theatrical/artistic performances that involved the entire community and lasted for days or weeks. As Balandier noted, “everything in them is displayed and performed; social practices are in a state of permanent dramatization.”21 

Ritual drama permeates the society on a daily basis and infuses its members with an experiential sense of history, culture, morality, and spirituality.  History, culture, politics, and social practice are consistently explicated through multiple forms of dramatic performance: masquerade, music, spoken drama, dance theatre, dramatized narratives, recitations and civic and sacred rituals.  The Epic of Sundiata and many other epics popular among the Mandenka are reenacted in all these artistic forms. Griots primarily recount Mali’s history through dramatized narratives, music, dance, and recitations.  The written word holds a secondary place in their historiography. Why? Because the world was created through the Word, and history is transmitted through the creative word, the spoken word.  Thus, history in the Mandenka language is called kuma, the word or word force. The primacy and preference of an oral recitation of history—in a culture that had two written scripts, Mandenka and Arabic—is predicated on a theory of the power of the spoken word that contains an abundance of nyama, the vital force, or vital energy that creates, that pervades and effectively impacts consciousness in a way that the written word does not.  The fire, earth, air, and water contained in speech have the numinous power to transform consciousness.

Mandenka historiography as we are defining it is a combination of a philosophy of history and a methodology of constructing history.  Here are a few of its precepts:


Philosophy

1. Malinke philosophy of history is rooted in its cosmogony; history is an ongoing manifestation of the first creative word, kuma, that brought creation into being.

2. As a structure or paradigm of cosmogony, history follows the same principles of motion, gender, polarity, dialectics that govern the natural laws of the universe.  History is modeled on Mandenka metaphysics.

3. Nothing in history is new; every idea, human activity and event is a reconfiguration of something that took place in the past.

4. History’s purpose is to teach people to know themselves.

5. A nation is a massive body of interrelated families with Ego at the center. History addresses each individual and ties them to Mali’s history through their family tree.

6. Since history revolves around Ego’s universe, genealogy is a crucial component of history, the connecting thread that weaves together the fabric of a national unified family.

7. What is true of the individual is true of the nation. The culture hero, in particular, is a microcosmic personification of the macro-history.

8. Inherent in the thematic structure of history is a parable or parables directing humanity to “right” action and behavior in accordance with the spiritual-ethical ideals of the culture. History serves a spiritual-ethical function and is sacred and in performance, a sacred text.

9. The meaning and message of history are allegories that can be applied to mediate any dispute or resolve any conflict.

10. Spiritual forces and entities (totems, djinns) are constantly interacting in human affairs and must be accounted for as they actually interact in history.

11. Myth represents a dimension of historic/collective consciousness that unveils the primordial origins and archetypes of human behavior.

12. Certain parts of history should be kept secret.


Theory & Methodology

1. The beautiful, rhythmic arrangement of poetic narratives makes verses easier to memorize and imbues them with an eternal, numinous quality.

2. Aesthetic techniques such as metaphors, symbolism, alliterations, rhythm, allegory, and imagery magnify the emotional and spiritual reception and response of the audience.

3. Creative devices also foreground the moral, philosophical meaning of history through the release of nyama that facilitates the transformation of consciousness.

4. Mythic narratives reconnect the audience with the cosmic world and collective memory and the ritualization of myth allows the individual to relive and unleash the energy of historical experience.

5. Oral recitation of history is preferred because writing lacks the warmth, intimacy, and word force (nyama, nommo) embodied in the human voice.

6. Writing inhibits the development of memory while oral recitation, especially when formally trained, expands the mnemonic capacity. According to this pedagogical premise, a scribe writes history but a master historian memorizes it.

7. Genealogy is an essential and inextricable component of history.

8. History should be directed to the individual so that she is inspired to eclipse or surpass the deeds of her ancestors.

9. Intrusions of imagination heighten symbolic and thematic meanings. The trained historian acts as a trained storyteller and dramatizes a narrative in accordance with the nature and sensibility of the audience.

10. Music is the most transparent expression of a people’s spiritual, cultural values and national ethos and is an indispensable part of their history.

11. Historical narratives combined with music, drama, dance, and visual arts intensify the spiritual and intellectual import of the performance text.

12. Historians, because of their vast knowledge, are expected to act as mediators, political and judicial advisors, ambassadors, marriage negotiators, officiator of rites of passage ceremonies, educators of the younger griots, and in many other important social functions.

The Mandenka griots or jeliw were well aware that history presented in this manner and using these principles enabled the people to internalize the cultural-historical experience and thereby fulfill the ultimate purpose of history—to know thyself.



Notes
1. Thomas A. Hale,  Griots and Griottes. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998) 2
2. Hale 4
3. Hale 19
4. Fela Sowande, “The Quest of an African World View.” Black Communication: Dimensions of Research and Instruction. Ed. Jack L. Daniel. (New York: Speech Communication Association, 1974) 69-117. 76. 5. Diali Djimo Kouyate, Personal Interview. Washington, DC. 4 December 2001.
6. Bakary Somano, Personal Interview. Bamako, Mali . 17 January 2002.
7. J. J. Bacofen, Myth, Religion and Mother Right, trans. Ralph Manheim.(Princeton: Bollingen-Princeton University Press, 1975) 75 8. Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return. trans. William Trask. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1954) 6-27 9. Stevenson, W. Taylor, “Myth and the Crisis of Historical Consciousness,”Myth and the Crisis of Historical Conscious, eds. L. W. Biggs andW Taylor Stevenson. (Helena: University of Montana Scholar Press, 1975) 5. 10. Carl G. Jung,Symbols of Transformation. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974) 231-232. 11. Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, The Pale Fox, trans. Stephen Infantino. (Chino Valley, Arizona: Continuum Foundation, 1986) 61. 12. Joseph Campbell, Myths To Live By. (New York: Viking Press, 1972) 214-215. 13. Joseph Campbell, A Hero With A Thousand Faces(Princeton: Bollingen-Princeton University Press, 1973) 16. 14. Djbril Tamsir Niane,  Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, trans. G.T. Pickett. (London: Longman Group, 1970) 12-70.
15. Gaoussou Diawara,  Avec 2000 bateaux il partir . . . . La Saga du Roi Mande Bori. Tangen, Sweden: Skyline, 2000. 16. Mahmud Kati, Tarikh Al-Fettash. trans. O. Houdas and Maurice Delafosse, (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1913, Adrien-Maisonneuve. 1964) Tarikh al-fattash: The Timbuktu Chronicles 1493-1599. trans. Christopher Wise and Hala Abu Taleb, (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2011).  Abderraheem Es-Sadi, Tarikh es-Soudan, trans. O. Houdas. Paris: (Ecoledes Langues Orientales Vivantes, 1913; Adrien-Maisoneuve, 1964). 17. Youssouf Tata Cisse and Wa Kamissoko, Soundjata la gloire du Mali. (Paris: Éditions Karthala, 1991) 39-41. 18. Cisse and Wa Kamissoko 39-41
19. Niane 79. 20. Djibril Tamsir Niane, “Mali and the Second Mandingo Expansion.” General History of Africa IV: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century. eds. J. Ki-Zerbo & D.T. Niane.  (London: UNESCO0-Heinemann; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984) 50-69. 58 21. George Balandier, Daily Life in the Kingdom of the Congo, trans. Helen Weaver (New York: Pantheon Books, 1968) 44



Formerly from Detroit, Nubia Kai received a Ph.D. in African historical literature and film from Howard University and was a former assistant professor in the Department of Theatre Arts at Howard University. She is a poet, novelist, and playwright who has received numerous awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts Awards and six DC Commission on the Arts Awards and the Larry Neal Writers Competition. She has two collections of poetry, Peace of My Mind and Solos; a collection of stories, The Sweetest Berry on the Bush; a historical novel, I Spread My Wings And I Fly; and a scholarly text Kuma Malinke Historiography: Sundiata Keita to Almamy Samori Toure.


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