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4 - Initiation and Funeral Songs from the Guro of Côte d'Ivoire

Edited by Thomas A Hale and Aissata G Indiana University Press ePub

Ariane Deluz

Women's songs are too often viewed by outsiders simply as a medium for passing the time while the singers are engaged in a variety of household tasks. As a French researcher living in Guro society in Côte d'Ivoire for the first time in 1958, my goal was to learn more about women's songs performed during other activities because I believed that this form of verbal art is one of the keys to understanding a society. As a female I was especially welcomed by Guro women, who have their own women's secret society distinct from that of the men. The women's society includes ceremonies centered on masks, or women who appear in a form of dress that conveys an image of the spirit world. The women gave me access to the songs they sang as part of their society's rituals and in a variety of other contexts. But as I discovered one evening, there were limits to how far I could go down the path of learning the most intimate of these songs.

An excision ceremony, part of the larger set of initiation rites for girls that are marked by a variety of songs, was scheduled to be performed one evening. Although the leader of the women's society was housing me in a sacred hut and providing me to some extent with a privileged perspective on Guro culture, it was not clear whether I should attend the ceremony later that evening. Rather than simply tell me that I could not observe this intimate and highly important event in the lives of the initiates, my host slipped a drug into my evening meal. I dozed off early and slept unusually well that night. In retrospect, and for many reasons, I am happy that she employed this subtle method to keep me from attending the ceremony.

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17 - Income Strategies of a Jelimuso in Mali and France

Edited by Thomas A Hale and Aissata G Indiana University Press ePub

Nienke Muurling

Remittances are a major source of income in Mali. It is estimated that the yearly amount of money sent by Malian emigrants exceeds 100 million euros, of which at least 50 million euros are sent by Malians who reside in France.1 One indicator of the importance of these France-Mali remittances is the fact that France provides approximately 60 million euros a year in aid to Mali (Gubert 2003). The “French money” sent by relatives is used for the purchase agricultural equipment. The funds are also invested in social relationships. Although these transfers of funds may appear at first to operate outside the framework of traditional customs because they are initiated in France rather than in Mali, other participants, in particular professional female singers known as jelimusow,2 also participate. The question is how these women, involved locally in activities that involve money (rewards for performances and other services), participate in the larger financial network linking France and Mali.

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3 - Azna Deities in the Songs of Taguimba Bouzou: A Window on the Visible and Invisible

Edited by Thomas A Hale and Aissata G Indiana University Press ePub

A WINDOW ON THE VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE

Boubé Namaïwa

Songs often provide a key to understanding the daily lives of women, but their world is not limited to the immediate concerns of child raising, meal preparation, and marriage. The system of belief that governs their society is very much a part of their worldview, and it takes shape not simply in the Islamic context, but also, at the same time, in complex networks of gods and goddesses who predate the arrival of Islam. If the contours of Islam in West Africa are familiar to scholars in African studies, the invisible world of a parallel system of belief often remains a mystery. But if, as Jewsiewicki (1987) argues, belief is social fact, the question, then, is what is the shape of that world and how does it influence daily life? The example of songs by a well-known woman from one Hausa-speaking people, the Azna of Niger, offers insights into the visible and the invisible in that world.

I propose to take up the challenge of understanding that metaphysical world by reversing the order of things, by drawing on the invisible to explain the visible. Followers of classical methods might argue that my approach is insane. They would claim that one can only explain the invisible by starting with the visible, a Cartesian approach that is no longer valid. I propose to carry out my analysis by drawing on evidence from songs sung by one of the most famous singers in Niger, Taguimba Bouzou. But before explaining just who this extraordinary woman is, it is important to frame the issue raised above in a larger context.

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2 - Jola Kanyalen Songs from the Casamance, Senegal: From “Tradition” to Globalization

Edited by Thomas A Hale and Aissata G Indiana University Press ePub

FROM “TRADITION” TO GLOBALIZATION

Kirsten Langeveld

One of the distinctive features of many Sahelian peoples is the hierarchical nature of their society, a trait that is not gender-specific. But among women, there are particular forms of hierarchy that may result from conditions emerging when a woman reaches adulthood. This is a phenomenon that may occur across the region, as in the maani foori rituals based on a blend of traditions of the Hausa and the Songhoy-Zarma of Niger. As Sidikou explains, women involved in maani foori establish a power relationship between “fat” women and “thin” women in the larger context of what she describes as a woman-centered shadow system of government (Sidikou 2001, 58–79). This form of stratification is quite different, however, from the one described in this paper. The purpose here is not to undertake a regional study of this phenomenon, but to examine more closely the procedure by which a woman's status changes among the Jola people in the Casamance region of southern Senegal.1 The shift occurs through a ritual called kanyalen. Songs are a means for the woman who undergoes the kanyalen ritual to express her position in society.

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13 - Patriarchy in Songs and Poetry by Zarma Women

Edited by Thomas A Hale and Aissata G Indiana University Press ePub

Aissata Niandou

Those unfamiliar with women's songs from the Sahel may be surprised at first by the subversive nature of the lyrics, as evidenced in songs recorded by many other researchers. Zarma society is not an exception to that trend, with women functioning within their own subculture. In their songs, as well as in other forms, they raise their voices against what they see as the unfair constraints of patriarchy that dominate Zarma society. But their songs raise a basic question: can they, in their verbal art, divest themselves of the patriarchal values that permeate not only their society, but also their own language and the deeper values that it conveys?

In this study, I will examine examples from a corpus of twenty-five poem-songs sung by Zarma women that are, on the surface, quite subversive of patriarchal values. But a close study of the poem-songs will offer evidence for a more nuanced view of the subversion conveyed by these poem-songs, and may suggest the need for new analyses of women's songs from other peoples in the Sahel.

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