Although the empires of the grasslands came and went, they all shared a common culture. Most people followed Traditional African Religion, even after Islam was introduced by traders and the Sanhaja invasions, and gradually became the religion of the merchant and ruling classes. In Mali, the first known Keita ruler, Barmandana, reportedly accepted Islam in after being told that acceptance of Allah would end a severe drought.
While Islamic religious beliefs and practices appear more marginal to the rulers of Mali, the rulers of Songhay became increasingly and traditionally Muslim. Political practices were another common cultural trait among the people of the grasslands. Rooted in Traditional African Religion, kings were a link between their people and the higher power of the spirit world.
As such, the ruler had to be morally correct, or his people would lose favor with the benevolent spirits. Kings were, therefore, chosen by a royal council from among the male members of the ruling dynasty. Each empire being the result of conquest, defeated regions took the form of vassal states, in which one member of the native dynasty swore allegiance to the emperor, followed his decrees, and sent him taxes, tribute, and soldiers on a regular basis.
While theoretically each king or emperor had unlimited power, in reality this was checked by the de facto power of the bureaucracy, the nobility, the army, and the laws of the kingdom.
Epic of Son-Jara - Words | Essay Example
Originally handed down through the generations orally, The Epic of Sundiata is the story of Sundiata Keita and the building of the Empire of Mali in the thirteenth century. Based on history, the epic was undoubtedly embellished to forge a dramatic entity.
It begins with a prophecy made to Maghan Kon Fatta, the ruler of the small state of Mali. They tell Maghan Kon Fatta that he will have a glorious son, but only after he marries an ugly woman. Several years pass before a second set of hunters arrives to tell Maghan Kon Fatta an even stranger tale. Aided by a magical old woman, they have killed a buffalo that was scourging the neighboring land of Do. The old woman made them promise that, when offered any maiden in the kingdom as their prize, they would choose the ugliest.
They chose Sogolon Kedjou, a hunchback with enormous eyes, but now do not know what to do with her. So they present her to Maghan Kon Fatta. But, remembering the prophecy, he takes Sogolon Kedjou as his second wife. When Sogolon becomes pregnant, Maghan Kon Fatta awaits the great son who will succeed him. Thinking that the prophecy has yet to be fulfilled, Maghan Kon Fatta impregnates Sogolon Kedjou again, but this time she bears him a daughter.
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Although disappointed in Sundiata, an aging Maghan Kon Fatta appoints his lame son as his heir. She uses this power to continually humiliate both Sogolon Kedjou and Sundiata. One day, after Sassouma cruelly berates Sogolon Kedjou because her lame son can not fetch some leaves of the baobab tree, the angry Sogolon strikes her son.
Lifting himself and walking for the first time, he plucks an entire baobab tree from the earth and brings it to his mother. When Sassouma tries to get the nine witches of Mali to destroy Sundiata, Sogolon Kedjou decides it is time to leave Mali. In exile, Sundiata serves other kings. In the Kingdom of Mema, he rises to become the adopted son and heir-apparent to the ruler. Mali now turns to Sundiata for deliverance. Leading troops out of Mema, Sundiata is quickly joined by his old playmates, now the chieftains of Mali. The struggle for Mali takes place on two levels, the spiritual and the military.
The former will be discussed later; the latter culminates in the Battle of Krina, where Sundiata defeats Soumaoro decisively. The epic closes with a gathering of kings near the town of Ka-ba. Here, king after king pays homage to Sundiata as the Empire of Mali is formed. In the glorious celebration that follows, all look to Sundiata to establish a period of peace, justice, and prosperity on the broad grasslands of northwestern Africa.
The hero has overcome personal and public adversity to fulfill the prophecy made by the original hunters who visited the court of Maghan Kon Fatta. The Epic of Sundiata points up the complexities of the thirteenth century Sudan. Scholar Nehemia Levtzion calls it pivotal in the historical traditions of the Malinke. Thus, the epic records a time of both political turmoil and religious change. The introduction of Islam into the Sudan brought a competing ideology and infrastructure into an already existing civilization.
The purpose of the Sirige is for the younger generation of the village teenagers and young adults to present a Sigi SEE-ghee to the village.
A Sigi is a very tall mask made by the young people of the village. This mask is made of wood and is often as tall as 20 feet. It is worn at Damas and Siriges by highly trained dancers. The Sigi is meant to capture the essence and character of the generation that created it. When the new Sigi is presented at the Sirige, the old Sigi is retired and placed in a consecrated cave area where it will never be viewed again. At this point, the teacher may show the class the videotape of the Dama ceremony, available by contacting the 'Virginia Museum's statewide media resources department' as previously noted under preparation.
One of the most important elements of these festivals is the use of masks. Masks used in ceremonies of this kind are meant to show the personalities and strengths of people from the village's history. Typically, this is done through animal imagery. The behavior and habits of various animals make us associate them with certain personality traits.
What are some of the character traits that we associate with various animals? The sly fox; the fearless lion; the loyal dog are just a few examples. Tell students that the class will create a Malian festival to commemorate the great hero, Sundiata.
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The festival will feature music and masked dances that retell parts of the story of Sundiata. At this point, you may show the students images of Malian masks available on the websites listed in this resource. You may want to ask some of the following questions during or after students view the images:. To review the story of Sundiata, have students list the major events of the story on the board.
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When the big events from the story are listed, discuss with students how to break the story into five roughly equal parts. Divide the class into five groups, and explain that each group will be responsible for presenting episodes from the story of Sundiata. This will involve the following designing a group dance or pantomime that retells a section of the story. Tell students: When you pantomime, you act out an activity, character, or story using only your body and facial expressions. This process is also called "miming. Exercise 2: Tell students that pantomime may also be used to tell a story.
Watch me as I pantomime something from a story that most of you heard when you were little. Cinderella looks worriedly at a watch, then looks down to see that one shoe is missing and observes that her clothes are no longer elegant. She looks puzzled and wonders what happened.
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Tell students: "In a game called charades, a person or group of people silently act out a book or movie, using only facial expressions and body movements to tell the story. The others have to guess what the book or movie is. To practice telling stories using pantomime, think about a fairy tale that you know. Let's break into groups of three and quietly discuss how to present part of a fairy tale in pantomime. We will take turns having volunteer groups come forward.
The rest of us will try to guess which fairy tale scene you are presenting. Explain that each group will have one drummer and that the other group members will portray characters in the story. In other words, each group member except the drummer must have a character role. For each section of the festival, students should consider the following components, listed in the Performance Guidelines :.
Ask students: If your portion of the story were a charade, how would you use movement and facial expressions to tell the story? You may find it useful at this point to show some clips of African dances. The following videocasette and DVD resources provide good examples:. Tell students that they should think of an interesting way to leave the stage after their group's portion of the story is presented.
Tell students that their section of the ceremony should take three minutes or so to perform. Toyota 4Runner Forum. Site related. New Members. LFD Off Road. American T4R Clubs click to view. General Discussions. Battle Born Offroad. The Rest of The Deep South. So Cal. Baja Designs. Nor Cal. Classic T4Rs.