Mandinka Empire

Powerful Essays
Bound to Africa: the Mandinka Legacy in the New World
Schaffer, Matt.

History in Africa, Volume 32, 2005, pp. 321-369 (Article)

Published by African Studies Association DOI: 10.1353/hia.2005.0021

For additional information about this article http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/hia/summary/v032/32.1schaffer.html Access Provided by your local institution at 03/10/13 1:43PM GMT

BOUND TO AFRICA: THE MANDINKA LEGACY IN THE NEW WORLD
MATT SCHAFFER I I offer here a theory of “cultural convergence,” as a corollary to Darwin’s natural selection, regarding how slave Creoles and culture were formed among the Gullah and, by extension, supported by other examples, in the Americas. When numerous speakers from different, and sometimes related, ethnic groups have words with similar sounds and evoke related meanings, this commonality powers the word into Creole use, especially if there is commonality with Southern English or the host language. This theory applies to cultural features as well, including music. Perhaps the most haunting example of my theory is that of “massa,” the alleged mispronunciation by Southern slaves of “master.”1 Massa is in fact the correct Bainouk and Cassanga ethnic group pronunciation of mansa, the famous word used so widely among the adjacent and dominant Mande peoples in northern and coastal west Africa to denote king or boss. In this new framework, the changes wrought by Mandinka, the Mande more broadly, and African culture generally on the South, are every bit as significant as the linguistic infusions of the Norman Conquest into what became English. Long before studying the Mandinka as an anthropologist in west Africa, I was exposed to their legacy in the United States through my contact with the Gullah of Saint Simons Island, Georgia, my home town. The correlation between a white minority and the Mandification of the
1

See Djinns, Stars and Warriors, Mandinka Legends from Pakao, Senegal, published by Brill Press in 2003, containing



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