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

Thomas A Hale 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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16 - Transformations in Tuareg Tende Singing: Women's Voices and Local Feminisms

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

WOMEN'S VOICES AND LOCAL FEMINISMS

Susan J. Rasmussen

Recently, feminist anthropologists have grappled with representing “other modernities” and “other feminisms” (Mohanty 1991; Collins 1993; Brenner 1998; Rofel 1999; Abu-Lughod 2002). One approach has been to analyze the role of affective and expressive culture—for example, women's songs—in resistance and accommodation to these processes (Abu-Lughod 1986; Trawick 1988). The present essay contributes to these studies by exploring changing meanings of women's song performance in relation to gendered experience of social upheavals among the semi-nomadic, Muslim, and traditionally stratified Tuareg of Niger and Mali.1 The focus is upon a genre called tende, a body of songs performed by women in a variety of performance contexts, accompanied by a drum called by that name. Most tende performances traditionally occur at weddings, namedays, spirit possession rituals, and festivals. They are also organized, along with men's camel races, to greet important visitors. Sometimes, they are spontaneously performed, organized at the spur of the moment in late afternoon or evening for young people's gatherings featuring dancing and courtship, or in less structured situations, just for fun. Nowadays, some performances take place at political rallies and on national holidays.

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11 - Space, Language, and Identity in the Palm Tree

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

Aissata G. Sidikou

One of the common themes of African literature written in European languages is the emphasis on identity in works that appeared both before and during the national era. But too often one gets the impression that concerns about identity were solely the product of the contact between Africa and the West, especially during the last half-century. But listeners to the oral art of West Africa cannot miss the same issue, whether the performance is an epic about the creation of an empire or a song about raising children. What is distinctive about these performances, especially those by women, is the recurrence of the themes of space and language as contributors to the formation of identity. This observation prompts several questions: how do women portray these themes, what do they mean for both the artist and the audience, and how do their concerns relate to African literature in written form?

A short answer for the theme of space is that it can convey a sense of belonging to a specific community, a sentiment that appears in all forms of African literature, oral and written. But this site of unity can also serve as a source for a code of signs, verbal and non-verbal, that force women to comply with the dominant norms—again, no matter the medium. There is much more, however, to the complex roles of language and space in the creation of identity in women's songs. In the analysis below of an exemplary song, published in French by Couloubaly (1990) and in English in my book, Recreating Words, Reshaping Worlds: The Verbal Art of Women from Niger, Mali and Senegal (2001), I offer some preliminary answers to the questions raised above. Two factors contributed to the decision to choose this particular song: the economical and rather direct concern about identity, and the themes of space and language that one finds in the powerful lyrics.

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15 - Lamentation and Politics in a Sahelian Song

Thomas A Hale Indiana University Press ePub

Thomas A. Hale

Researchers in a variety of disciplines who have recorded songs by women from West Africa are now providing evidence for this most widespread but also most ephemeral form of expression by women. The research leads to several questions. Is there any way of documenting the existence and the roles of women singers in the pre-independence era? Did they have a public voice? If so, what were women doing and saying with their songs?

In the introduction to the collection of songs published in Women's Voices from West Africa (2011), Aissata G. Sidikou and I included a history of the genre that began with the lyrics of an Egyptian love song dating to 1300 BCE. Since that period, it is difficult to find references to women singers, let along lyrics, although in the Sahel one finds mention of them in the fourteenth century. The North African traveler Ibn Battuta described singers at the court of Mansa Suleyman, ruler of the Mali empire, in 1352–1353 (Hamdun and King 1975). But in the history that followed, though there are numerous references to singers, one encounters no lyrics until 1918. Below is a summary of sources described in more detail in the introduction to Women's Voices from West Africa.

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13 - Patriarchy in Songs and Poetry by Zarma Women

Thomas A Hale 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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