D. T. Niane: Sundiatic Analysis

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Sung by the griot Djeli Mamoudou Kouyaté, and written in prose by D.T. Niane is an epic steeped in an unequivocal blend of African tradition, myth, and history, Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. The epic begins by tracing the patrilineality of the Father of Mali who was predestined by a soothsayer to be the seventh conqueror of the earth. Sundiata for most of his childhood was incapable of walking, as a result of his physical limitation many assumed he would not fulfill the soothsayer’s prophecy, despite being wise beyond his years. Subsequent to the death of his father, Sundiata, his mother Sogolon, and his brother Manding Bory fled from Mali in fear of persecution, and exile by his stepmother Sassouma Bérété. After seeking asylum for many years the family found refuge, and comfort in Mema where Sundiata continued to learn about…show more content…
The griot or the “memories of mankind” (Niane, 2006, p.1) are pivotal to the epic because of the importance Mandinke society placed on history. For example, griot Djeli Mamoudou Kouyaté asserts, “ I teach kings the history of their ancestors, so that the lives of the ancient might serve them as an example, for the world is old, but the future springs from the past” (Niane, p.1). The griot Balla Fasséké ( Sundiate’s griot) alludes to the philosophy and culture of Mali as it relates to a puissant theme throughout the epic, war. As spoken by Fasséké, “Griots are men of the spoken word, and by the spoken word we give life to the gestures of kings. But words are nothing but words; power lies in deeds. Be a man of action; do not answer me any more with your mouth, but tomorrow, on the plain of Krina, show me what you have me recount to coming generations (Niane, p.63)." War is an integral theme because it was through war that a tribe or state acquired

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