Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The power of a name

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
For once this is not true. We must not underestimate the magic of a name, and particularly not in Africa where magic is still very much alive.

Ibrahim Boubakar Keita’s landslide victory is connected to his name.  The answer lies in the legend of Manding. We must look to Soundiatta Keita who conquered and  gathered the tribes to form the Malian Empire in the 12th century. The Malian Empire stretched from Senegal to today’s Burkina Faso and became the richest country in the contemporary world. When Mali gained independence in 1960 the name Mali was chosen because it already represented something of a national unit in the consciousness of the tribes in this part of the French Soudan, as it was called during colonial times. This collective consciousness is rooted in the legend of Soundiatta of the Manding, sung by the griots (the West African minstrels, poets and keepers of the history and legends) and known by everyone.
It was not a coincidence that the first president  of the post-colonial Mali was Modibo Keita.

Mali is emerging from its deepest crisis in modern history. 

Now  the Malian people has spoken, and has pronounced massively in favour of a Keita. People who have never voted before, the old and the illiterate have come out and voted.  Those who have very little knowledge of the rest of the world know the legend of Manding- every Malian has heard the griots sing the story of Soundyatta. For the third time there is a Keita to lead the Malian nation at a crucial time. This ‘Making of the King’ is not a reasoned choice. It is a collective deep yearning for national unity with an instinctive choice made by listening to the griots of old Manding.

see blog April 24 2012

(This national consciousness has never included the Tuaregs, who have always stood aside from the rest of the Malian tribes. In the twilight days of the Malian Empire (the beginning of the 15th century) the Tuaregs defeated and chased out the ruling Southerners from the city of Timbuktu, which they then ruled for a couple of decades until they were in turn chased out in 1468 when Sonni Ali Ber established the Songhai empire.)


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