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

Edited by Thomas A Hale and Aissata G 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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15 - Lamentation and Politics in a Sahelian Song

Edited by Thomas A Hale and Aissata G 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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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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12 - Bambara Women's Songs in Southern Mali

Edited by Thomas A Hale and Aissata G 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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