Sundiata Keita


Sundiata Keita

Sundiata Keita, Sundjata Keyita, Mari Djata I or just Sundiata (pronounced: soon-jah-tuh) (c. 1217 – c. 1255) was the founder of the Mali Empire and celebrated as a hero of the Malinke people of West Africa in the semi-historical Epic of Sundiata. Sundiata is also known by the name Sogolon Djata. The name Sogolon is taken from his mother, daughter of the buffalo woman (so called because of her ugliness and hunchback), and Jata, meaning "lion." A common Mande naming practice combines the mother's name with the personal name to give Sonjata or Sunjata. The last name Keita is a clan name more than a surname. The story of Sundiata is primarily known through oral tradition, transmitted by generations of traditional Mandinka griots. Sundiata was the son of Nare and Sogolon Conde. Growing up, the Mandinkas were conquered by king Soumaoro Kanté of the Ghana Empire. He devoted his life to building an army to overthrow the king and liberating his homeland. When he was older and had a strong army, Sundiata did overthrow the king and became king of the Mali Empire. He understood that if he were to have a kingdom, he would need it to be prosperous as to keep strong. He had crops such as beans and rice, grown and soon introduced cotton. With the crops selling, the Mali Empire became very wealthy. Sundiata supported religion and soon took the title Mansa. After he died, many rulers also took the title mansa, to show their role and authority in society.

Contents

Mansa

Sundiata Keita established his capital at his home village of Niani, Mali, near the present-day Malian border with Guinea. Though he was a Muslim, Sundiata also exploited local religion, building a reputation as a man of powerful magic.

Sundiata was not an absolute monarch, despite what the title implies. Though he probably wielded popular authority, the Mali Empire was reportedly run like a federation, with each tribe having a chief representative at the court. The first tribes were Mandinka clans of Traore, Kamara, Koroma, Konde, and of course Keita. The Gbara of Great Assembly was in charge of checking the Mansa's power, enforcing his edicts among their people, and selecting the successor (usually the Mansa's son, brother or sister's son).

Sundiata Keita died in 1255, of drowning. Tradition holds that he died while crossing the Sankarani River, where a shrine remains today. He had three sons who succeeded him to the throne of the Mali Empire: Mansa Wali Keita, Ouati Keita and Khalifa Keita. The famous West African ruler Mansa Musa is his grandnephew.

Sundiata is also known as Mari Djata or Marijata according to Arab historian Ibn Khaldun in the late 14th century.

See also

Notes

References

  • Conrad, David C. (1992), "Searching for History in the Sunjata Epic: The Case of Fakoli", History in Africa 19: 147–200, JSTOR 3171998 .
  • Jansen, Jan (2001), "The Sunjata Epic: The Ultimate Version", Research in African Literatures 32 (1): 14–46, JSTOR 3820580 .
  • Niane, D.T. (1965), Sundiata: an epic of old Mali, London: Longmans .

Further Reading

  • Published translations of the epic include D.T. Niane's prose version, Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali (Harlow: Longman, 2006, 1994, c1965: ISBN 1-4058-4942-8), Fa-Digi Sisoko's oral version, Son-Jara : The Mande Epic (Bloomington, Ind. : Indiana University Press, 2003), Issiaka Diakite-Kaba's French-English diglot dramatized version Soundjata, Le Leon/Sunjata, The Lion (Denver: Outskirts Press and Paris: Les Editions l'Harmattan, 2010).

External links

Preceded by
none
Mansa of the Mali Empire
1230–1255
Succeeded by
Wali Keita

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