Examining how Amadou Hampate Ba uses stories


The objective of this study is to examine how Amadou Hampate Ba uses stories as didactic tools on the mystical ways of the Tijanyya tradition. Amadou Hampate Ba was convinced that traditions could serve to assist Africans in discovering who they are in order to progress in new directions while retaining their identity. Didactic is stated to be an adjective which describes something that has been “designed or intended to teach; intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment; making moral observations. ” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, 2009) Therefore, this study intends to examine how Amadou Hampate Ba uses the didactic in his works and oral transmission.

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Amadou Hampate Ba, like Leopold Sedar Senghor, was one of the major intellectual and literary figures of twentieth-century Africa, a Malian writer, ethnologist and diplomat who worked on short stories, legends, and also published essays, and a novel set in colonial French West Africa. He was also a poet in his native Pula, and a spokesperson for Sufi understandings of Islam. His works touch on West African history, religion, literature and culture. He was well-known for his work on transcribing into French African oral traditions, but his work on intercultural and religious dialogue have not yet been studied enough.

Background of Amadou Hampate Ba and Oral Transmission of Knowledge

According to Amadou Hampate Ba in his lectures, it was the loss of “social structure” in the tradition of Africa that was caused by the “imposition of the regime colonial rule, wiped out in the next generation of storytellers who transmitted the history and lore of Africa.” (Martinez, nd, paraphrased) it is stated by Martinez that as the traditional rural world was devalued by the new urban African society, few stories were followed and broadcasting and media are described as having followed a path of what is now understood as the “habit of generation” of the act of creating and generating the emerging generation on the socio-political scene. The initiation stories of Fulani have enabled access “to an exception that has been preserved to this day thanks to the dedication and commitment of Amadou Ba Hampate.” (Martinez, nd)

The work of Dielika Diallo (1992) entitled: “Hampate Ba: The Great Conciliator” states that Amadou Hampate Ba, “…the man who was known as the ‘living memory of Africa’, was born into an aristocratic Peul family in Mali” at the beginning of the 20th century. Diallo states that Ba like to state that he was “one of the eldest sons of the century — and was a member o UNESCO’s Executive Board between 1962 and 1970.” (1992) Ba died on May 15, 1991 at Abidjan. (Diallo, 1992, paraphrased)

In 1962 Amadou Hampate Ba stated that monuments that existed in Africa “were just as precious for the cultural heritage of mankind as the great pharaonic monuments of Nubia which the Answan High Dam water were threatening but he explained that those in Africa were “far more fragile and perishable.” (Diallo, 1992) it was the belief of Amadou Hampate Ba that the monuments in Africa were “…the great repositories of ancestral African lore who were not being replaced and whose knowledge would probably die with them.”In sixty years,” he said, “the Nubian stone monuments, even if water-logged, will still be there, but our last great ‘illiterate scholars’ will have gone for ever, and their knowledge with them.” (Diallo, 1992)

Amadou Hampate Ba is stated to have pressed “…for the systematic collection of those oral teachings…throughout his time as a member of the Executive Board” as well as pressing for the rescue of the oral traditions of Africa “not only because of their cultural value but also because they enshrine a vast sum of historical, religious, philosophical, scientific and literary knowledge.” (Diallo, 1992) Amadou Hampate Ba quite often quoted his philosophical master, the Sufi mystic Tiemo Bokar who stated:

“Writing is one and knowledge is another. Writing is the photographing of knowledge but it is not knowledge itself. Knowledge is a light which is within man. It is the heritage of all the ancestors knew and have transmitted to us as seed, just as the mature baobab is contained in its seed.” (Diallo, 1992)

Amadou Hampate Ba is acknowledged as one of the individuals who made the great of all contributions at UNESCO to obtaining recognition throughout the world for Africa’s culture. Mali became independent in 1958 and Amadou Hampate Ba founded the Institut des Sciences Humanines at Barnako. He also represented his country in 1960 at the General Conference of UNESCO and was elected to the Executive Board of UNESCO in 1962. That same year he became the ambassador of Mali to Cote d’Ivoire and remained in this post as long as his country “which had broken with Senegal when the Federation of Mali broke up.

In 1958, when Mali became independent, he founded the Institut des Sciences Humaines at Bamako. In 1960 he represented his country at UNESCO’s General Conference and in 1962 was elected to UNESCO’s Executive Board. In the same year he became Mali’s ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire and remained in this post as long as his country, which had broken with Senegal when the Federation of Mali broke up, needed access to the sea via the port of Abidjan. Four years later he resigned to devote himself entirely to his mission as “a man of cultural and religious dialogue.” (Diallo, 1992) it was four years later in 1966 that Amadou Hampate Ba decided to commit himself completely to his mission as “a man of cultural and religious dialogue.” (Diallo, 1992)

Amadou Hampate Ba soon began to publish a great deal of work “saving from oblivious some of the finest examples of Peul oral literature including Kaidara, L’Eclat de la grande etoile, Petit Bodiel, Njeddo Dewal, mere de la calamite, and La Poignee de poussiere (contes et recits du Mali). In 1974 he was awarded the Grand Prix Litteraire d’Afrique Noire for his most famous work, L’Etrange destin de Wangrin. He also catalogued his vast collection of manuscripts, the outcome of half a century’s research into African oral traditions. When they have been reproduced on microfiche and a number of works relating to them have been published, they will be made available for consultation by researchers at libraries in Paris and in Africa.” (Diallo, 1992)

Hampate Ba is stated to have been recruited by force “from a Koranic school into a French one at the age of twelve, dropped out for some years after elementary school, and only finished the next level when he was twenty-one.” (Lawrence, Osborn and Roberts, 2006) Hampate Ba had been designated to advance in his education and in a professional career at the “pinnacle of the French colonial school system, the Ponty School at Goree, but refused at his mother’s insistence.” (Lawrence, Osborn and Roberts, 2006) for his refusal he received punishment in the form of being sent to “… remote and newly established colony of Upper Volta” and from 1934 through 1942 Hampate Ba served in senior administration positions in Bamako, Mali however, having gotten into trouble politically due to his connection with the Hammalist Islamic movement he “…shifted to service with IFAN, the primary research organization in French Africa. It was this that began Hampate Ba’s career of scholarship and writing.

Hampate Ba — One of the Most Prominent Advocates of Oral Literature in W. Africa

The work of Pettersson (2006) entitled: “Literary History: Towards a Global Perspective” writes that Amadou Hampate Ba was “one of the most prominent advocates of oral literature in West Africa.” (Pettersson, 2006) Pettersson states that in Hampate Ba’s preface to the book on Malian literature, ‘Litterature Malienne’ Hampate Ba provides a description in which he portrays himself as a “traditionalist” and “a man of orality.” (Pettersson, 2006) Hampate Ba is stated to confess that “his task of introducing literature in a general sense makes him a little uneasy, but he finds some support in his own, often quoted works that literature is fundamentally ‘la parole couchee sur le papier’ or ‘the spoken word taken down on paper.” (Pettersson, 2006)

Specifically stated by Hampate Ba is as follows:

“In fact, being chiefly a traditionalist and a man or orality, I do not feel qualified for speaking about literature in general. but, after all, what is literature, if not the spoken word taken down on paper. As it has first been recited before being collected, or as it has been hatched out in the secret of thought before being consigned, is not speech, after all, mother of the written? Thus I am going to speak about the spoken word.” (cited in Pettersson, 2006)

Hampate Ba, does not over emphasize the oral and written differential and what he speaks of is not two modes but instead Hampate Ba places priority on the oral and according to Pettersson does so in a “psychological or logical sense as a stage in the creative process and in the recording process.” (Pettersson, 2006) Oral and written verbal art languages are both used for the purpose of information communication as well as information presentation with the reader and listener receiving an invitation to consider the information.

The Narrative & the Symbolic

The work of Abiola Irele (2001) entitled: “The African Imagination: Literature in Africa & the Black Diaspora” states that Hampate Ba “…incorporates the essential feature of the oral narrative at significant points in his work in order to reflect their appropriateness to situations and for special effects. Their conjunction with the narrative procedures sanctioned by the Western model thus enlarges their scope and give them an unusual resonance. At the same time, although he writes with conscious reference to this Western model, he does not feel so constrained by the framework of its conventions that he is unable to go beyond its limitations. His departures from the established codes of the Western narrative rely on the resources of the oral tradition, which in turn provide a new dimension of expression to the adopted model.” (Irele, 2001)

Irele states that the documentary and symbolic are both represented in the reconstruction of Hampate Ba of the African civilization and as well states that the reader comes to the realization that “the whole panoply of life, the whole ceremony of manners and values reproduced here, is that of a civilization that is on its last legs doomed to yield to a new order the open spaces it had for ages inhabited.” (2001) That which is recounted by Hampate Ba is “the process by which the feudal system” transitions to “a new economic order determined by the interest of French capitalist imperialism…” (Irele, 2001)

Hampate Ba’s work entitled “The Fortunes of Wangrin” are stated to “set out in the most graphic way the moral issues thrown up by the process and thus assumes a spiritual significance” that is worthy of attention. It is maintained in Hampate Ba’s work the profound amoral nature of Wangrin which is stated by Irele to be the “outstanding trait with which he endows his creation. It is stated by Irele that as this specific narrative develops “there is a constant crossing of the documentary and the fictional perspectives, so that Wangrin often reemerges in his status as a real life reference for the story; he is both real and imagined, with a simultaneous existence within the text and outside it. This interaction between fact and fiction is reinforced by the notes, which serve as detailed ethnological commentary to the text in its documentary aspects and specify at the same time its referential code for its intelligibility as a work of fiction.” (Irele, 2001)

Irele states that the marker of primary importance of the fictional status of this work is the language because “…even at its most factual, denotative and referential, the language constantly points to a significant beyond the historical.” (2001) Amadou Hampate Ba writes that the Bambara tradition of the Komo “…teaches that the Word, Kuma is a fundamental force emanating from the Supreme Being himself — Maa Ngala, creator of all things. It is the instrument of creation: ‘That which Maa Ngala says, is!’ proclaims the cantor — the singing priest of the god Komo.” (Jandt, 2004) Hampate Ba states that the three potentialities of “ability, willing and knowing” were deposited in Maa however these are “static, till speech comes and sets them into motion. Then vivified by the divine Word, they begin to vibrate. At a first stage they become thoughts, at a second sound, and at a third words.” (Jandt, 2004)

Amadou Hampate Ba and His Conceptualization of Speech

Speech is stated by Hampate Ba to be the “externalization of the vibrations of forces, every manifestation of a force in any form whatever is to be regarded as its speech.” (Jandt, 2004) This is the basis for the belief then that every sound uttered by every being in the Universe is a form of speech and “everything is speech that has taken on body and shape.” (Jandt, 2004) Hampate Ba elucidates that the speech of Maa Ngala is ‘seen, is heard, is smelled, is tasted, in touched. It is a total perception, a knowing in which the entire being is engaged.” (Jandt, 2004)

Speech has the power to create peace or to bring about destruction and Hampate Ba compares speech to fire as “one ill-advised word may start a war just as one blazing twig may touch off a great conflagration.” (Jandt, 2004) Therefore, speech has a doubt function stated by Hampate Ba to be the functions of:

(1) saving; and (2) destroying.

Hampate Ba states that it is for that reason that speech “…above all, is the great active agent in African magic.” (Jandt, 2004)

Hampate Ba and Death

The elders of Africa hold that “life is movement and movement begins with the contradiction of the limbs…Non-contradiction means death.” (Jandt, 2004) Life is stated by Hampate Ba to be “a constant toing and froing, a permanent gift of self.” (Jandt, 2004) Oral tradition, according to Hampate Ba “cannot be summed up as transmission of stories or of certain kinds of knowledge. It generates and forms a particular type of man.” (Jandt, 2004)

The work of Thackway (2003) entitled: “Africa Shoots Back: Alternative Perspectives in Sub-Saharan Francophone” relates that studies of a thematic nature of Francophone African film quite often “point to the parallels between the themes and archetypal characters found in both the oral tales and films. The characters or situations which are found habitually to be present in the tales of Africa are recognized by audiences quite easily and the traits are then interpreted with those characters in mind and applied is symbolism of specific themes and situations. It is explained by Hampate Ba how the characters “in the tales represent us all.” (Thackway, 2003)

Thackway states that oral tales serve to “…evoke a wide range of social issues, set precedents for behavior and regulate inter-community relations” and the greatest majority of Francophone African films “do the same, whether the films are realistic, symbolic, experimental, surreal, or comic.” (2003) Specifically reference is made to the Fulani initiation tale ‘Njeddo Dewal’ by Amadou Hampate Ba describes such journeys as an unending abundance of wild events, fantastical combats, perilous journeys, successes and failures that follow a non-linear path to their final happy conclusion.” (Thackway, 2003)

Hampate Ba and the Conceptualization of ‘God’

In Hampate Ba’s work entitled: “Aspects of African Civilization (Person, Culture, Religion)” translated by Susan B. Hunt, and what was originally published in French as “Aspects de la civilization africaine: personne, culture, religion” Hampate Ba states that to treat “…traditional relationships between African man and God” as it has been proposed through generalization of one specific form of religion to all of Africa might lead to the commission of errors that are profound in nature. This is because that there is “no African man who represents a type applicable to the entire continent, from north to south and east to west. There are African people of the north living in the Mediterranean basin or along the Atlantic coast. There are the people of the Sahara, and their neighbors, the people of the Savanna. Finally, there are the people of the forest. Just as there are many types of character, of behavior, of ethnicity, so there are many forms of traditional religion.” (Hampate Ba, in Hunt, 1972)

Hampate Ba states of God that “…Maa Ngala” (Lord of All) or “Masa Dembali” (Uncreated and Infinite Lord) to the Bambara, or “Gueno” (the Eternal) and “Dundari” to the Fulani — is regarded as the Supreme Being, the one creator of all that exists, beyond any contingency, beyond the grasp of human intelligence, and at the same time transcendent as to his being and immanent as to his manifestation. He is apart from everything and out of reach of any assault, and at the same time present everywhere. “Everywhere there is sky, there is ‘Maa Ngala’,” says the Bambara proverb.” (Hampate Ba, in Hunt, 1972)

Hampate Ba explains that there are intermediaries between God and man and that the four fundamental elements of nature, specifically fire, air, earth and water, “play a dominant role” however he states that the “nearest and most efficacious of the intermediaries is still the ancestor — the ancestor who founded the village, or the ancestor of the tribe — because a secret tie of blood connects him to his progeny through men, while a bond of umbilical cord and milk ties him to his lineage through the women.” (Hampate Ba, in Hunt, 1972)

Hampate Ba and the Conceptualization of Death

Death, according to Hampate Ba “makes it possible for the soul to recover its astral fluidity, having been stripped of the carnal weight that keeps it attached to the earth. It is this weight, this heaviness, that remains in the corpse and makes it impure. Once disembodied, the soul finds an appropriate base from which it can respond to any appeal to ward off dangers that menace an individual or the collectively of his line.” (Hampate Ba, in Hunt, 1972 )

Hampate Ba states that the African “is born a believer. He did not have to wait for the revealed books to become convinced of the existence of a Force: the Powerful Source of existence and the motive force behind the actions and movements of beings. It gives it life, looks after its development, and eventually, it reproduction.” (Hampate Ba, in Hunt, 1972)

Hampate Ba writes that man is “surrounded by a universe of tangible and visible things” including other humans, the animals and plants and so forth and that the black man “from time immemorial, perceived that in the deepest part of these things and these things resided something powerful that he could not describe, and that animated them.” (Hampate Ba, in Hunt, 1972) Hampate Ba states that this perception of a sacred force within all things was the source of numerous beliefs, of various practices, several of which have come down to us, admittedly somewhat stripped, it is true, over time, of their original profound significance. The ensemble of these beliefs received the name ‘animism’ from the Western ethnologists because the black man indeed attributes a soul to everything, a soul-force that he seeks to appease by magic practices and sometimes by sacrifices.” (Hampate Ba, in Hunt, 1972)

Fulbe Initiation and Passage Rites

The work of Rebecca Masterton (2007) entitled: “Islamic Mystical Resonance in Fulbe Literature” states that the “real origins of the Fulbe tale of initiation, “Kaidara” “are unknown” however it is stated that Helene Heckmann, the wife of Amadou Hampate Ba states that Ba “received knowledge which was relevant to Fulbe pastoral initiation because of his lineage, from one of the last great Fulbe ‘silatigis’ Ardo Dembo, whom he met in the Senegalese Ferlo region on the occasion of an ethnographic and religious enquiry carried out for the records of IFAN.” (Masterton, 2007)

Ba however, was not initiated into the mysteries of ‘Kaidara’ and that this Fulbe initiation does not exist any longer “except among purely pastoral groups. Therefore the knowledge which Ba received is most likely to have been the narrative itself, told as a narrative, rather than as a form of initiation.” (Masterson, 2007) Scholars in the study of Africa and Francophone have “long known that Ba’s famous transcription of the Fulbe tale of initiation “Kaidara’ makes some references to Islamic mystical teachings. However, a properly detailed study of these references has not been done.” (Masterton, 2007)

Masterton states however, that a close examination “…reveals just how central the Islamic mystical tradition is to the tale.” (2007) Masterton states that ‘Kaidara’ “Like the ‘rislah’ “…teaches its aspirants that the greatest treasure in this existence is knowledge of divine sacred laws. This knowledge is acquired through self-perfection, which leads to the awakening of a mode of perception that is able to apprehend the hidden meaning of appearances, the wisdom lying beyond visible phenomena.” (2007)

The work of Zohra Djabrohou entitled: “Amadou Ba Hampate if we were told: A Bridge Between Orality and Writing” states that the role of storytellers is that of stimulating thinking and provoking curiosity “to develop the subtlety of the minds of their audience. Also, by constantly questioning they check the accuracy of memory and constantly trying to find the hidden meaning of things. These masters of speech to evoke the spirits that lurks in the unseen for all of us trace his own journey and discovers his own potential.” (1994) the recurrent theme is stated to be “the genesis of the world, the destiny of man, the qualities needed to be brave, strong and courageous.” (Djabrohou, 1994)

The work of Hampate Ba is stated to be stories of “more or less initiation, because he always teaches us about ourselves. This is a real teaching skill. Without books, our teaching is in the stories, maxims, oral traditions…The tales, living word that comes from the ancestors, are called ‘message yesterday for tomorrow, transmitted through today. Such a message, which passes through the symbol and image and not by rational explanations, has the gift of touching us, without us realizing it, deep within ourselves, and through the centuries without not lose its power. As such, the tale is a transmission medium of choice.” (Djabrohou, 1994)

Djabrohou writes that Helen Heckmann states of Amadou Ba Hampate that he believed the story “was a good way to criticize without hurting the ego, since the question was not directly exposed, cited.” (Djabrohou, 1994) This is done through use of animals because “the proud and capable man like to hear criticism of others or criticize himself, but admits that they do highlighting its weaknesses. And when that tradition uses animals to develop certain virtues, is also a means of not encouraging in man and his pleasure in hearing his own praises.” (Djabrohou, 1994)

Djabrohou states that in each animal there is a vested defect or quality some of which are listed in the following table labeled Figure1 in this study.

Figure 1

Animal Defect/Qualities


Qualite ou/et defaut Quality and/or default

Le lion the lion

La force, le courage the strength, courage

La hyene the hyena

L’imbecilite, la gourmandise, la naivete, la precipitation irreflechie, la laideur the stupidity, greed, naivete, precipitation thoughtless ugliness

Le lievre the hare

La ruse et la peur the cunning and fear

La panthere the panther

La rapidite, l’adresse, la traitrise, la ferocite the speed, skill, treachery, ferocity

La tortue the turtle

Longevite, protection, lenteur Longevity, protection, slow

La tourterelle the dove

La paix, la beaute, la delicatesse the peace, beauty, delicacy

Le pigeon the pigeon

L’amour, la galanterie, le badinage the love, the gallantry, the banter

L’hippopotame the hippopotamus

La laideur, la brutalite, la stupidite, the ugliness, brutality, stupidity

L’elephant the elephant

La force, l’intelligence, la sociabilite, la reconnaissance the strength, intelligence, sociability, recognition

Source: Djabrohou (1994)

Amadou Hampate Ba states that “We must learn… listening to stories, lessons, stories, or looking at objects at several levels at once. This is really an introduction. It is the knowledge deep what is taught through things, through nature and appearances. Everything that is taught in a word dumb. The form is language. Being is language. Everything is language. ” (cited in Djabrohou, 1994)

Djabrohou states that when the story is finished ‘there’s you, me us, in short, man or child transformed by an encounter with a character, an atmosphere, a moral.” (1994) in the work entitled: ‘Living Tradition’ it is stated by Amadou Hampate Ba “what is involved behind the evidence itself is well worth the man who testifies. But it is in these oral societies and non-only the function of memory is the most developed, but the link between man and the word is the strongest. Where the writing does not exist, man is bound to his word, and his speech reflects what it is.” (cited in Djabrohou, 1994)

Djabrohou states that Amadou Hampate Ba “was deeply convinced…[and] an ardent defender of the oral tradition’ [that] asking orality on paper allowed to perpetuate, to save it.” (1994) Hampate Ba stated “This is Africa to speak with her, and not for others to tell him who she is. When a goat is present, it is ridiculous bleating in his place.” (Djabrohou, 1994) the tradition is preserved by Amadou Hampate Ba through providing him the opportunity “to cross borders to bring more response he has offered the necessary support available to those wishing to soak it or pass it.” (Djabrohou, 1994)

Hampate Ba stated ‘If young people are wrong or right, they will always be right, because they are the masters of tomorrow…The ideas are old ideas cemetery. To live they must be sown in the minds of young people. VIELLARD look at the future but the future looks young.” (cited in Djabrohou, 1994)


“Kaidara” traces three companions in their journey of initiation who desire to access Kaidara which is the god of gold and knowledge. This initiation journey travels through a underground country and involved symbolic meetings in mysterious tale. Only the cross Hammadi successfully passes the test with the information he receives from an old man in disguise who is actually Kaidara and Hammadi agrees to give gold in return for the information. The other two companions through stupidity and greed lose their lives.

The work of Teresa Alvarez Martinez entitled: “Approach to the initiation stories Hampate Ba Amadou Peul” states that the story “Kaidara” contains twelve symbols in the path of initiation which are “presented as allegories” are to be released “only to that of the three that deserves to have access to the upper stage of knowledge. In this “Picture framing the figures, animal species, colors, plants, each element present in nature keeps a meaning hidden within a complex system of correspondences that must be and operating within societies animists. The hero gets to know all the secrets of the country of the initiation will first have to show exceptional qualities correspond to the code of honor of the Fulani. Among the virtues Peul require a nobleman in order to access the latter stages of the initiation, culminating accessing royalty, always stands out.” (Martinez, nd)

Of the three friends only Hammadi is of noble origin. Martinez states that Hammadi greets the curious character several times without receiving answer. The young man gives up and, after renewing his salutation, about it, she cleans the hair and clothes and then massaged thus fulfilling one of the unwritten rules of all societies traditional African respect for elders above all. Of course, the surly-looking man kept under negligible great power, and the true initiate proved that there are external appearances trusts and knows that, under an unusual meeting and incomprehensible, can hide or special knowledge possibilities of achieving them. The curiosity and patience, along with the Massaging a boss or superior is a sign of respect in Fulani society.” (Martinez, nd)

The old man gives Hammadi three tips that have the power to save lives on three critical occasions. Hammadi gives the old man his gold for this advice. The story ends with Hammadi recovering the wealth and becoming a great king. The purpose of the story ‘Kaidara’ is the illustration of the principles that govern the Peul society in what is a social organization in which power is “reserved for one who has a spotless moral category, which ensure that it will not tyrannize his people not to use the authority of his position for personal gain. After having become king the ultimate test is passed by the hero when he eats from the same plate as the old man demonstrating that he does not rely on the individual’s appearance and that he is able and willing to comply with the traditional laws of hospitality to strangers.

The work of Wylie and Lindfors (2000) entitled: “Multiculturalism & Hybridity in African Literatures” states that the four narratives of Amadou Hampate Ba “Koumen, Kaidara, L’eclat de la grandee toile and Njeddo Dewal” have “differing degrees of support in the available ethnographic literature. They claim to represent pastoral lore, the traditions of cattle-herding Fula especially for the region of eastern Senegal…” (Wylie and Lindfors, 2000)

Bernard Mouralis in his review of Kusum Aggarwal’s work entitled: “Hampate Ba and Africanism” states that Hampate Ba’s work is “rightly regarded today as one of the largest of the Black African literature in particular because of that the Malina writer, the mode of trail history, publishing texts in African languages, narrative or autobiography, has drawn on Africa. (2000) Stated as the primary interest of the study released by Kusum Aggarwal, professor at Delhi University is his questioning of the “pedigree of this knowledge by not considering immediately Hampate Ba as the repository of knowledge that African it would have sufficed to gather. That consideration of this issue that the author devotes the first part of his book, entitled “Conditions of Knowledge in African colonial period, showing how Africanism was the context in which was developed this knowledge, even if later the African researcher has tried to lose ground. At this stage of its analysis, the author evaluates highly documented Africanism and French will be especially sensitive to two results that clearly illustrates, through reading the work of Delafosse and Griaule. It shows first that will Africanism is in complete opposition to the nationalist ideology French (Gobineau, L. de Saussure, Lebon) based on the concept of race, blood and souls of people, and the direct relation Tylor, Morgan, Durkheim (pp. 29-30). Mouralis states that Aggarwal notes that if the settlement ‘has been generally the impetus for the formation of a Africanist science, the main actors have gradually tried to leave the colonial context and have sought a dedication to scientific institutions…” (Mouralis, 2000)

The work of Palmberg and Baaz (2001) entitled: “Same and Other: Negotiating African Identity in Cultural Production” states that traditional oral storytelling techniques “in contradiction to the typically Hollywood plot” relies on “parallelisms, formulaic repetitions, and allegorical comparisons rather than on clear chains of causes and effects. Oral narratives…have to rely on other organizational principles than those based on chains of causality. One such organizational procedure is to work with a single thematic core which is repeated and varied through a string of otherwise unrelated episodes.” (Palmberg and Baaz, 2001)

Palmberg and Baaz states that Vansina stated: “…in tales the artistry consists of working with a single core image throughout it repeating it in identical or variable settings as the action develops and transforms its meaning, so as to the lead the listener to plumb the depth of meaning held in the image. A similar goal is sought in using several core images which make up a set. The ideal set has image reflections from one image to the other.” (Palmberg and Baaz, 2001)

Palmberg and Baaz state that the additive strategy is “related to the didactic aspects of the griot’s storytelling, reiteration being one of the most simple techniques for making sure that one’s message is understood. In longer and more complex tales, the central theme may even be repeated through a string of parallel plots or though accompanying songs and dances so that even the most inattentive spectator will have no doubts as to the message conveyed.” (Palmberg and Baaz, 2001)

In addition, oral narratives and the films which rely on these storytelling techniques — will usually not involve character psychology. The motivations underlying the actions of the character may of course be explicated but usually only in a very superficial way.” (Palmberg and Baaz, 2001) Amadou Hampate Ba states “…everywhere where tradition is respected, the individual does not count compared to the collectivity. The family in the first place, followed by the tribe or the village, constitute unities whose interests or destiny are more important than or encompass those of the individuals of which they are composed.” (Palmberg and Baaz, 2001)

Hampate Ba is also noted as stating that “…to the African the symbol is neither abstract nor mental but concrete, in the sense that it is like the echo or the tangible project on this earth of one of the aspects of the primordial Power. The things down here are the reflections of the principles up there, but inhabited reflections, containers of a felt Presence.” (1972)

The work of Martinez reports analysis of three Fulani journeys of initiation described as stories that are “revealed and transmitted in coded, i.e. symbolic what are lessons that must govern the life of a true Fulani. The three stories analyzed are those of:

(1) Njeddo Dewal, mere of the dire;

(2) Kaidan; and (3) L’eclat de la grandee toile.

All of these stories are stated to “forma cycle in which are recurring characters and arguments complementary.” ( )

The contes Peul initiatique are stated as “difficult to classify generic classifications already overflowing classical types story though…’ As seen included are schemes or plots in the story and included by Hampate Ba are stories of the initiation into cultural genre or Peul jantol and is characterized by dramatic or fantastical characters who are educated through oral transmissions from one generation down to the next and then transmitted orally again to each generation. The plot in the story ‘Jantol’ progresses in stages with symbolic significant in the events which are always told by the same narrative voice.

According to Martinez the stories of Amadou Hampate Ba and others in traditional African storytelling relate their stories and use “didactic vocation related to the way Fulini Initiation, which we define as the maximum path degree of worldly and spiritual knowledge.” (nd) There is stated to be various knowledge contained in the initiation stories in what is a type of encyclopedia with multiple digressions for integration of various aspects and experiences in educational attainment. (Martinez, nd, paraphrased)

Hampate Ba emphasized continuously that African knowledge could not be divided into “traditional disciplines or silos.” (Martinez, nd) in fact there is interplay in all fields of knowledge and this is too is an aspect of orally transmitted knowledge in the African traditional conceptual school-of-thought as the initiation aspect is interwoven throughout the traditional societies in Africa and all children pass through rites of passage requiring extreme courage and resistance to develop and be tested and having passed these rites the children enter into the world of adulthood.

Initiation rites are secret and initiates are not allowed to reveal their testing. The newborn child is not viewed as a man but is believed to need religious education and other collective processes toward becoming “a social being, i.e. A man or female member of a large group: family, clan, the world of living.” (Martinez, nd) the order of the family structure is reflected in the individual and throughout the clan and into the universe at large and man must find his place within these elements that renders him or her to be in harmony with the elements so that the whole will function as it should.

Martinez states that the story ‘Kaidan’ Kaidan” is one which “…tells an initiatory voyage in search of wisdom with a gran contenido simbolico; y — L’eclat de la grande etoile –, que cierra el high symbolic content…” (nd) the story Kaida begins with three friends on an initiatory journey and the structure is stated by Martinez to develop “from a ground present in numerous folk tales and other literary topic of the three brothers or three princes sent to fulfill a mission in which only one of the three, usually small, reach success. We can say that there is a syncretic blend of traditions this reason, giving a special structuring to the text.” (Martinez, nd)

In addition, there are twelve symbols within the path of initiation that the heroes of the story are met with as their journey progresses and these symbols are presented as allegories and only the most worthy of the three will receive access to the higher knowledge that presents in this tale. The figures, colors, plants, animal species and “each element present in nature keeps a meaning hidden within the complex system of correspondences that must be and operating within societies animists.” (Martinez, nd) in other word, each animal, plant and other element mentioned are all symbolic and hold within their representation a meaning that passes along conceptual meaning in the tale to the wise one who has an ear to hear and an eye to see the message within the elemental representation of the story.

According to Martinez stories such as Kaidan are “dyes in a philosophical and moral folktale and traditional structure and the story “is not for the general public but is a highly text encrypted with the ultimate meaning of all the items that appear on speech may only be disclosed if the listener is fully qualified….” (nd) the allegories of the African story insist on the virtues that must have a wise, among them as in Baroque novel, is stresses discretion.” (Martinez, nd)

Wiley and Lindfors relates that the work of Amadou Hampate Ba consists of “a diverse array: essays co-authored with French scholars on hunting techniques, on traditional culture, on rock-paintings and on historical topics; extensive texts collected from the oral tradition; and…a body of fiction and autobiographical narratives such as L’etrange destin de Wangrin and Amkoullel, le’enfant peul.” (2000)

Hampate Ba’s collection from oral tradition is inclusive of many pieces and specifically noted in the work of Wiley and Lindfors are the “four initiatory narratives” as they are called by Hampate Ba who notes that these four attribute loosely to the esoteric traditions of the pastoral Fula particularly of eastern Senegal.” (Wiley and Lindfors, 2000) the first of these ‘Koumen’ was published in 1961 and is a schematic narrative in which “the initiate Sile Sadio is led by Koumen, gods of herdsmen, through a series of twelve clearings until he reaches Koumen’s home, and there Koumen’s spouse Foroforondou leads him through further explication of the symbols he has encountered.” (Wiley and Lindfors, 2000)

The Conceptualization of Speech

The work of Kaschula (2001) entitled: “African Oral Literature: Functions in Contemporary Contexts” states that Hampate Ba stated the following precise remark: “In the African tradition — at least those that I now and that have to do with the entire savanna regions south of the Sahara -, the spoke word possessed besides a fundamental moral value, a sacred quality linked to its divine origin and to the occult forces deposited in it. As a magical agent par excellence and a great vector of ethereal forces, it was not used wisely.” (1982: 182) Hampate Ba stated that in and among the African traditional culture “to know means to live” and the reality of the African society cannot be comprehended by a foreigner through mere verbal explanations because experiential knowledge is required. (Kaschula, 2001, paraphrased)

Hampate Ba notes how that “…at the level of primary materials, there has been a similar threat to the general growth and continuity of oral literary performance traced also to the so-called modernization syndrome.” Locating relevant primary materials is nigh impossible due to their no longer existing or being untraceable or non-accessible. Many of the traditional individuals who were resources of this material are long past buried “with their invaluable wealth of native knowledge and experience or have converted to either Christianity or Islam. Amadou Hampate Ba stated that the death “of an old traditional person who possessed the resource of tribal and traditional knowledge was like the library full of rich knowledge going up in flames.

The knowledgeable man was described by Hampate Ba as one that “practices the discipline of the word and does not use it unwisely. For if the speech…is considered to be the externalization of the vibrations of internal forces, inversely, the internal strength is born of the internalization of the speech. From this point, one can understand better the importance that traditional African education gives to self-control. To speak little is a sign of good manners and nobility.” (1982:180 in Kaschula, 2001)

Summary & Conclusion

This work set out to examine the use of the didactic in the work of Amadou Hampate Ba and this study has accomplished just that. This work has reviewed the work of Palmberg and Baaz and their statement relating to the additive strategy being connected to the “….aspects of the griot’s storytelling, reiteration being one of the most simple techniques for making sure that one’s message is understood. In longer and more complex tales, the central theme may even be repeated through a string of parallel plots or though accompanying songs and dances so that even the most inattentive spectator will have no doubts as to the message conveyed.” (Palmberg and Baaz, 2001)

According to Martinez the stories of Amadou Hampate Ba and others in traditional African storytelling relate their stories and use “didactic vocation related to the way Fulini Initiation, which we define as the maximum path degree of worldly and spiritual knowledge.” (nd) There is stated to be various knowledge contained in the initiation stories in what is a type of encyclopedia with multiple digressions for integration of various aspects and experiences in educational attainment. (Martinez, nd, paraphrased)

Hampate Ba emphasized continuously that African knowledge could not be divided into “traditional disciplines or silos.” (Martinez, nd) in fact there is interplay in all fields of knowledge and this is too is an aspect of orally transmitted knowledge in the African traditional conceptual school-of-thought as the initiation aspect is interwoven throughout the traditional societies in Africa and all children pass through rites of passage requiring extreme courage and resistance to develop and be tested and having passed these rites the children enter into the world of adulthood.

The use of the didactic by Hampate Ba was not only for providing illustration to assist conceptualization but as well symbology and imagery is deeply ingrained and imbedded in the oral transmission of knowledge that were given by Hampate Ba. These oral transmissions are of the nature that only the individual having experientially lived in the African traditional culture are able to provide a clear explanation of and of which a deep and meaningful understanding of these stories is able to be grasped.


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