Mali Literature

By | September 14, 2021

Inhabited by various ethnic groups, Mali has a varied and abundant traditional, oral (and sometimes written in Arabic letters) literature, which blends native elements with those of Islamic import. The traditional culture linked to the Mandingo language is rich in myths, legends, tales in verse and in rhythmic prose, destined to be sung and danced; theater prevailed there, with satirical comedies (the Koto Koma nyaga), by anonymous authors, who only aimed to amuse, excluding any moralizing purpose. The show, free and accompanied by dances, was performed at night, in the open air and only after the harvest. The Koteba are also theatrical performances similar to the Commedia dell’Arte, performed by the Bambara populations. To the griots (narrators, buffoons, heralds, genealogists, musicians, celebrators and paid detractors), who once lived at the court of the chiefs, we owe above all the epic-lyric poetry that sings the deeds of the Keyta and Touré clans.

According to getzipcodes, the Peul (or Fulbe) populations compose songs of praise and religious songs, which are influenced by Islamic influence and are also found in written form (in Arabic letters). Even the Dogons, who have not been Islamized, have an interesting oral literature, including genealogies, myths, proverbs, tales of animals, which have the hare as protagonist and blend real and fantastic elements, propitiatory formulas, prayers, songs, etc. The works are anonymous, there is no special caste of reciters. With the introduction of Western culture, this rich, otherwise disappearing folklore he found many researchers, transcribers and interpreters, among whom excel, for their seriousness of study: Amadou Hampaté Bâ (1901-1991), who particularly dealt with the texts, history and customs of the Fulbe; some of his initiatory novels have been translated into Italian: Kaidara (1971) and The splendor of the great star (1989); and again Fily Dabo Sissoko (1900-1964), who collected the proverbs Malinke, Moussa Travelé for Bambara folklore, and Massa Makan Diabaté (1938-1988). The Arab language and culture have given rise, since the century. XVI, to literary works of considerable value and interest. Generally speaking, these are historical-geographical writings, but there is also a precious document on Arab culture and literature in this area: the Takmilat al-Dibai by Ahmed Baba (1556-1627). Starting from 1950 a literary production in French appears, mostly non-fiction, which exalts the traditional African civilization and tries to insert it in a modern context. In the Sixties, novels appeared with mainly social or customs themes (Seydou Badian, Sidiki Dembélé) or didactic (M. Gologo). A separate mention deserves the novel Devoir de violence (1968; Duty of violence) which caused a scandal for the desire to demystify the past and for the truculent language. The theater, born on the Senegalese model, was inspired at the beginning by the local folklore by merging words, song and dance.

After independence, theatrical authors turned to a dramatic genre, such as Seydou Badian, whose Mort de Chaka (1962) marks the birth of the black African tragedy, or towards a comic-satirical genre, interspersed with ballets, which refers to the traditional Koto Koma nyaga, often in the vernacular. We also remember Goussa Diawara (b.1940), author of essays, short stories, poems, and who dedicated himself to the theater with Abukabari II (1992), and Moussa Konaté (b.1951) with Or du diable (1985), Un appel de nuit (1995) and La Malediction du lamantin (2008). The poem sees among its representatives Fily Dabo Sissoko, who revives, in French, the soul of her land, and, more Westernized and closer to the themes proposed by the Négritude movement, Sirinam Cissoko, BB Dioura, Ouologuem Yambo. Among the novelists, Pascal Baba Coulibaly and M’Bamakan Soucko (1990; Comme un message de Dieu). The poetic works of Hamadoun Ibrahima Issébéré, Albakaye Kounta and Abdoulaye Ascofaré promise interesting developments. In the seventies and eighties the novel reaches international fame and presents two poles of interest: on the one hand, tradition and village life, seen as a world dominated by violence and magic, prey to great material, cultural and moral misery and sometimes idealized as a source of authentic values; on the other, the urban environment and political life, a complex and disturbing world, seen with bitter pessimism. Other writers stand outside this scheme, such as the aforementioned Massa Makan Diabaté, a wonderful narrator, an ironic observer, who describes an evolving world in a lively and tender way. But the greatest Malian novelist is A. Hampaté Bâ (1900-1991) who, with L’étrange destin de Wangrin (1973; trans. It.

The rogue interpreter), described a whole world with savory humor and created a formidable character. Konaté is above all known for his fictional work which is located in the footsteps of Y. Ouologuem (of whom we remember Fils du chaos, 1986) and which has touched various genres, such as the detective (1989; Assassin de Banconi) and the essay political (1990; Mali, ils ont assassiné d’espoir). Other prominent novelists are Ibrahima Ly (1936-1989) with Ténèbres blanches (1988), Mandé-Alpha Diarra (b. 1954) with Sahel! Sanglante secheresse (1981), Nagognimé Urbain Dembélé (b.1939) with La saga des fous (1992). Poetry, initially less rich than prose, from 1980 sees the opening of a fruitful period in which, having overcome anti-colonialism, it draws inspiration from current problems and does not appear as pessimistic as prose. The theater is also in full bloom. The drama group of the National Theater of Mali, directed by Moussa Maiga, takes up the ancient Bambara farces, the Koteba, to create popular performances, with satirical and caricature skits inspired by everyday life and with music, songs, pantomimes and dances integrated into the action. There is also an elite theater, with historical dramas and costume comedies. Starting from the nineties of the century. XX has appeared a literature written in African languages, with a predominantly didactic or critical character of social behavior.

Mali Literature