The Malian griot says, “I Djeli Mamoudou Kouyate, am the result of a long tradition. For generations we have passed on the history of kings from father to son. The narrative was passed on to me without alteration, and I deliver it without alteration, for I received it free from all untruth.” Write an essay on this quote to show how it works in Sundiata and in Things Fall Apart. Things Fall Apart and Sundiata are attempt to defy the western outlook that oral tradition is not a historical foundation because it is not of written records. In fact, for years now, oral tradition has acquired credit as one of the few reliable sources of African history. Many research programs and historical works have drawn from oral sources. Niane himself in his research to trace the history of the Mandingo people, draws from oral sources.
The kouyate clan is one of the oldest in Mali and claims to hold the original version of the Sundiata Epic. “I am a griot. It is I, Djeli Mamadou Kouyate, son of Bintou Kouyate, master in the art of speech. Since the immemorial the Kouyates have been in service of the Keita princes of Mali. We are the vessels of speech, we are the repositories which harbour secrets many centuries old. The art of eloquence has no secrets for us; we are the memory of mankind; by the spoken word we bring life deeds and exploits of kings for younger generations” History is both what has happened and what is fabled to have happened. Myths have considerable historical value; because it has been told all too often, it bears the stamp of truth. The griot makes every effort to convince the reader that what he says is generally accepted and should therefore be taken seriously. culture: honor and courage
In the Umofia community, Igbo men are constrained to achieve and flaunt in order to be seen and respected. Bravery and strength are determinants in a man’s honor. Differently from Sundiata, TFA does not provide a lesson on honor and courage, but expresses the importance of those traits through Okonkwo’s story. For example, “Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino.” Okonkwo’s tragic ending (he hangs himself) comes after his society is emasculated. The elders (all of whom are men) are stripped of their power and replaced by a judicial system put in place by the district commissioner. Moreover, when peace talks arrive, the district commissioner tricks the elders and has them arrested. **more analysis**Sundiata also contains a lesson on honor and courage: it is better to die than live with dishonor. “I pledge myself to conquer or to die by your side” (Niane 58) promises Fran Kamara, one of Sundiata’s generals. The sense of honor eliminates acts and dealings which are deemed unworthy or shameful. The epic condemns cowardice, fear, flight in the face of the enemy and acceptance of bondage. Pride accompanied by courage and nobility becomes a virtue because as the griot asserts, “modesty is the portion of the average man, but superior men are ignorant of humility” (Niane 34). Histories:
TFA is slightly different because it tells a more veiled account of the history of the Igbo people. Of course, what Achebe has written is fiction and does not have to be faithful to the calendar in the same way as an epic. But in not being faithful to dates, his narrative is based off historical events. In the first two-thirds of the book, the readers are shown a society that may have existed at any time in the last three hundreds years (they have guns, but have not met Europeans). However, Achebe establishes that the killing of a solitary white man on a bicycle and retribution by British forces, occurred in 1905, which is the same year of the large-scale British expedition to subdue Igboland. ****QUOTE**** From the beginning, Kouyate announces that he is teaching the history of his people. He insists on the accuracy of his account and asserts that his memory is faultless. “By my mouth, you will learn the history of Mali. By my mouth, you will learn the story of the ancestor of great Mali, the story of him who, by his exploits, surpassed even Alexander the Great.” Because of his training and the advanced development of mnemonic devices in oral civilization, Kouyate can remember and repeat what he must transmit: the genealogy of Sundiata’s dynasty, the connections between different great families, the names of generals, the locations of battlefields, and the chronology of historical facts. 500-1450 C.E.
Oral traditons have played a crucial role in African societies dating back “I Djeli Mamoudou Kouyate, am the result of a long tradition. For generations we have passed on the history of kings from father to son. The narrative was passed on to me without alteration, and I deliver it without alteration, for I received it free from all untruth.” “I teach kings the history of their ancestors so that the lives of the ancients might serve them as an example, for the world is old, but the future springs from the past.” (p. 1) SUNDIATA: An Epic of Old Mali is a piece of literature written to show appreciation and admiration for the Mandingo griots that lived in Old Mali. It was through them that the traditions, ancestries, and histories of Mali were passed down generation after generation. In ancient years, the griot served as the counselor to the king, they conserved the constitutions of kingdoms by memory work alone (preface, vii). SUNDIATA is an attempt to defy the western outlook that oral tradition is not a historical foundation because it is not of written records