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

Thomas A Hale 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 They would claim that one can only explain the invisible by starting with the visible, a Cartesian approach that is no longer valid.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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12 - Bambara Women's Songs in Southern Mali

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

Bah Diakité

In many cultures, songs are seen primarily as entertainment. The form appears more important than the message. But on closer examination, it is clear that one can learn as much about a people from songs as one can from any other source. But the question is, what kind of information is embedded in such ephemeral verbal forms? What, for example, can one learn about women who sing songs as they go about their daily tasks?

In Mali, the songs from Bambara women in the south enable one to learn about their hopes, their wounds, their anger, their fear, and their needs—not only in the present but also in the context of the past—in other words, their lived experiences in the larger context of their society. The purpose here is to discover the range of those feelings and how they are expressed in song.

The region that is the focus of this study is the frontier zone in southern Mali near the border with Côte d’Ivoire, and in particular the prefecture of Kolondiéba. It is a fairly large region, covering about 9,000 square kilometers, divided into 12 rural communes that include 203 villages and hamlets. In Kolondiéba live groups of Bambara who are, to some extent, so bound to their own traditions that local economic development has suffered. It is a situation marked by cultural and linguistic withdrawal from the larger Malian society, which is evolving rapidly as the result of Western influence. Such intrusions from the outside world as do occur come largely from Côte d’Ivoire to the south.

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17 - Income Strategies of a Jelimuso in Mali and France

Thomas A Hale 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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9 - Women's Tattooing Songs from Kajoor, Senegal

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

George Joseph

One of the most common vocal genres across the diverse cultures of the Sahel is the tattooing song, sung while a woman undergoes the painful experience of having her face, lips, or gums inscribed in various ways with a thorn or a needle. Wolof woyu njam, or tattooing songs, are meant to accompany the process of tattooing the mouth with bundles of thorns and a black dye made of burnt peanuts and clay. The result is a blackening not only of the lips but also surrounding areas, notably the chin. The gums are also dyed black in a way that sets off more strikingly the whiteness of the teeth.

One might assume that this form of body art, created in an intimate space, reflects exclusively feminine values. In fact, when asked, women do assert that the only purpose of tattooing is to heighten the beauty of an individual. But on closer examination, it appears that tattooing and the songs women sing to accompany the person undergoing the process are more deeply embedded in a wider range of social values that go far beyond the concern for beauty. What, then, are these values, how do the singers interpret them to listeners, and what is the wider significance of tattooing and the songs that mark what is becoming a tradition no longer practiced by many women? By analyzing here a corpus of songs that I have collected since 1973 in the area of what was once the Wolof kingdom of Kajoor, I will offer some preliminary answers to these questions.

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1 - Wolof Women Break the Taboo of Sex through Songs

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

Marame Gueye

One of the most important but often neglected subjects in the preparation of children for adulthood is sex education, a topic that seems to preoccupy parents in a variety of cultures around the world. In many African societies, sex education is more a collective activity than an individual parental duty, and the medium is song. The question is just how this ubiquitous genre can serve to inform youths about such a private topic. The example of Wolof society offers a variety of insights into how the community employs song for teaching about sex and sexuality.

In Wolof culture, sex education occurs during weddings, where one hears a variety of songs. One particular sub-ceremony within Wolof weddings is laabaan, reserved exclusively for women and conducted by them. The purpose is to celebrate the bride's virginity. Laabaan is the term both for the ceremony and for the genre of songs sung at this event.

For the researcher, however, even one who comes from Wolof society, the songs marking the laabaan ceremony are the most difficult not only to understand but also to record. In my case, although I began research on wedding songs in 1996, I did not record a single laabaan song or performance until 1998. My paternal aunts, who are performing guewel, the Wolof term for griots of both sexes, sang laabaan songs, but they refused to let me enter the space where these songs are sung because it is reserved exclusively for married or divorced women. The result was that I had to enlist the help of neenyo1 who were not family members and who were much younger than my aunts.

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