Kuma Malinke Historiography: Sundiata Keita to Almamy Samori Toure (2014)


Nubia Kai


Founded in the early thirteenth century, the Mali Empire stretched from the Atlantic coast of West Africa across the savannah lands to Timbuktu and Gao. Comprised of multiple ethic groups, Mali was politically dominated by the Mandenka people who developed a comprehensive, eloquent, and ennobling historical tradition that has generated international recognition and praise. Combining music, poetry, drama, storytelling, genealogy, history, and philosophy, the Malinke griot or jeli interprets Mali’s history both aesthetically and discursively with the utilitarian purpose of maintaining peaceful and ethical social relations within the empire. Far more than a storyteller, the Malinke historians’s broad scope of knowledge enables him or her to perform multifaceted roles in the society. He/she is a political advisor, ambassador, judicial advisor, cultural and social anthropologist, historian, genealogist, mediator of domestic and national disputes, officiator of rites of passage ceremonies, musician, poet, and teacher. This text examines the philosophy of history and methodology of the Malinke historians through an in-depth analysis of historical oral literature and the griots’ own theories of the art of history. Significant components of Malinke history that had been kept secret by a general consensus of master griots are exposed for the first time in the English language in this highly informative and insightful text.



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