Tag Archives: History

“Mali’s Age of Empire”; a talk by Kevin MacDonald TOMORROW

Sudbury Library – Wednesday 15 April at 7:30pm

Mali’s Age of Empire:

Sundiata, Mansa Musa and Timbuktu (AD 1200-1500)

A talk by Professor Kevin Macdonald, University College London

SUDBURY 2 YANFOLILA

Linking Sudbury with a town in Mali for 2014/15 and learning about things we have in common

Many people may have heard of Timbuktu, but how many know where it is, or that it once formed part of the greatest of Africa’s indigenous Empires? Prof Kevin MacDonald (UCL) will speak about his 25+ years of researching the past of Mali and such characters as Sundiata Keita (Africa’s real Lion King) and Mansa Musa (named recently by the  Independent as the richest man who ever lived). Within this African imperial narrative, MacDonald will consider the origins and destiny of Africa’s near mythic city of gold: Timbuktu.

Free entry but there will be a collection at the end to support work in Mali.

To download a flyer click here.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Vieux Farka Toure – Future

This week we serve up another song from Vieux Farka Toure’s 2013 album ‘Mon Pays’. This time its the turn of the song ‘Future’ – one of many exceptionally good songs to come from that release. In this fun and fast paced song, Vieux plays alongside young kora prodigy Sidiki Diabate – someone who personally embodies the Malian “future”. Sidiki is the son of Toumani Diabate, the 71st member of a history-long tradition of passing down musical and artistic talent through generations. 700 years of history lies behind Sidiki, but his youth and success combined with the precarious situation in Mali means that his life itself is a delicate link, weighed with massive responsibility to continue this remarkable legacy.

Whether Sidiki senses such responsibility is hard to gauge; his music resonates such calm and grace, it is hard to imagine anyone with the ability to produce such beauty could be anything but completely at-ease with themselves and the world they have around them.

Vieux Farka Toure – Future

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Salif Keita – Soyomba

Gold. Wealth, trade and fortune are interwoven into the history of all human societies. In almost every society that has had access to it, gold has become a symbol of and has facilitated prestige, opulence and power like no other material on Earth. For Mali, the bright yellow, dense, soft and malleable metal has been ever-present and remains a vitally important part of Mali’s economy today. From the hay-day of Timbuktu and the Empire that surrounded it to the stock exchanges of the modern world, it is gold that has been largely responsible for the economic successes of Mali – including since the conflict  in 2012/13. It is also – due to Mali’s dependency on its export price – a  source of continued vulnerability, as Mali’s fortunes are thus shackled to the successes and failures of the wider global economy.

Despite (or perhaps due to) mankind’s fascination with gold’s value, utility and aesthetics it can be a dangerous material and sometimes a curse for the populations that happen to live on the ground above where it is found. The mining of gold is not the safest of occupations and during any “rush” to obtain it human lives are often seen as a worthy risk for its extraction. This picture series from the BBC shows the working conditions experienced by those participating in the “boom” of Mali’s gold mines today.

Another problem with gold is that it is very, very rare for ordinary Malian’s to see any of its monetary benefits. The government taxation on the industry is deliberately low to attract foreign investment. Statements from both Oxfam and the International Monetary Fund have emphasised the failure of the government and of multinational companies  to share the exploits of an industry that represents 70% of Malian exports and an enormous 15% of the country’s GDP. To put that chunk of national expenditure into perspective, the UK spends around 8% of its GDP on the NHS and defence spending represents about 2.5%. For Mali, that 15% could go a long, long way if shared out correctly.

The pictures in the BBC article are taken of a mine close to the Mali-Guinea border, in a Malian town called Kouremale. The town lies about 40km north of the Niger river, 150km upstream from Bamako. The choice of this week’s song of the week is down to the fact that afro-pop legend Salif Keita hails from the region, which is soaked in history. Near the gold-mines of Kouremale is the archaeological site at Woyowayanko, which marks the place where the last West African emperor Samory Touré did battle with French colonists – his victory here in face of the superior French artillery solidified his reputation as  legendary military strategist. Not that this talk of 19th century Emperors and their impressive legacies would particularly phase Salif Keita; he is direct descendent of  the founder of the Malian Empire Sundiata Keita who lived some 800 years ago.

Another link, if you needed one, between this week’s track and the Empires of Mali’s past is found in Salif Keita’s popular nickname. As a result of his unique voice, artistic brilliance, and leadership on many societal issues he is proudly known as “The Golden Voice of Africa“.

Salif Keita – Soyomba