The Mande creation myth, by Germaine Dieterlen – a story of Marcel Griaule’s laboratory boat and Kangaba’s intellectual elite

Jansen, Jan and Fairhead, James R (2020) The Mande creation myth, by Germaine Dieterlen – a story of Marcel Griaule’s laboratory boat and Kangaba’s intellectual elite. Journal of West African History, 6 (2). pp. 93-114. ISSN 2327-1868

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Abstract

This article proposes a new reading for Germaine Dieterlen's classic text “The Mande Creation Myth,” and presents it as evidence for Kangaba's prominent military role as ruler of the Niger and defender of the gold mines that for centuries provided the wealth of the Mali Empire. It is demonstrated that, although Dieterlen was in search of a unified cosmology, her informants in Kangaba provided answers that voiced Kangaba's military concerns and claims as political heir of the medieval Mali Empire and ruler of the River Niger. The starting point of the analysis are new insights on how creation is envisioned in the West African savannah, with an emphasis on termite mounds, earth, and blacksmiths. These insights are compared to the fieldwork data that Dieterlen collected in 1953-55, which she used in 1955 for a publication on the Kamabolon ceremony in Kangaba and, under strikingly different personal circumstances, in 1957 in the article “The Mande Creation Myth.” The article explains why Dieterlen herself nor other researchers have never been able to reproduce neither her 1953-55 findings nor her 1957 findings by pointing to Kangaba's raised prestige as a major historical site for a new Republic of Mali, which had acquired independence in 1960. Kangaba's new position replaced the earlier focus on military rule on the Niger and defense of gold mines (in what had become the Republic of Guinée in 1958). This argument is substantiated by a recently discovered contemporary report of the 1961 Kamabolon ceremony, written by a leading contemporary intellectual, Mambi Sidibé.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2019 09:03
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2021 16:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/88018

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