Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A la Recherche du Vieux Manding

I have always been proud that my Keita is a Keita; a member of the Malinke race and a descendant of the great Soundjata Keita who founded the Mali empire in the 13th century. The term Manding is even older and denotes the territory of the Malinke. The epic of Soundjata was transmitted by the griots (minstrels) of Manding by oral tradition, just like our medieval epics: the Chanson de Roland, the Beowulf, the Arthurian legends or the Niebelungenlied. My French version is a pre-Independence version by Djibril Tamsir Niane, who has used as his source the griot Mamadou Koyoute from the Siguiri area of northern Guinea, in the heart of old Manding. Manding has fluid border lines; it exists as much in the collective imagination of West Africa as in actual geography: Manding is the Camelot of West Africa: a Promised Land of magic where the secrets of the ancients are kept intact. As a geographical identity Manding includes northern Guinea- la Haute Guinee, and the areas south of Bamako in Mali- the Manding mountains and the savannah areas bordering the Joliba- the river Niger.


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