Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Last but not least there were the Dogon Griots with their two young stallions, just brought in from the Dogon country, one of which is now munching hay in a little make-shift stable next to Dolly.
But allow me to digress today on the fascinating subject of Griots, before waxing lyrical about my new equine friend.
A Griot is, as far as I can understand, almost exactly what we would have called a minstrel. The title of Griot is inherited. Every good family has a Griot, whose function it is to record the events of the family and to make sure its history is known and carried on into the next generation. This is done in song and in poems, recited on important occasions such as weddings and baptisms etc. It is also the function of the Griot to act as a sort of bearer of tidings, both good and bad, and the Griot is sent by his family to ask the hand of a young girl in marriage, for instance.
My friend Mohammed (see August 19 entry) had a friend who left to try and reach Europe illegally, one of the many who cross the Sahara to Morocco and then attempt to reach Spain on an over ladened boat. Mohammed's friend didn't make it. One day an official turned up at the village. He knew that Mohammed was a friend of the family, so he gave him the irksome task of telling them that the young man's body had been washed ashore on the Spanish coast. Mohammed found it impossible to tell the young man's mother, so he went and commissioned the family Griot to do the deed. The Griot would then gave turned up at the home of the young man's family and for quite some time it would have been impossible to tell the reason for his visit. It is not possible to hurry a Griot, one has to patiently sit down and listen to the ceremonial preamble, which is the same whether the errand is happy or sad . Thus, a Keita, for instance would have to sit and listen to something like the following:
'O, noble descendant of the father of us all, the Great Sundiatta Keita, whose glory still shines on you and your family. (This would continue for some time, listing anyone noteworthy with the name Keita in the last thousand years). Then, eventually, even a Griot whould have to come to the point, and this would be done something like the following:
'The mercy and goodness of the Lord has shone upon you and your family, but the same God who has given you plenty can also take away, and who has the right to question the actions of God?
And finally, the truth can be uttered.
The Dogon Griots we visited are great horsemen and dress both themselves and their horses up to perform their ceremonial duties. Their saddles and tackle are magnificent. Posted by Picasa


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