Bogolan: Shaping Culture through Cloth in Contemporary Mali

Rovine, Victoria L. Bogolan: Shaping Culture through Cloth in Contemporary Mali. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2008. $24.95 paper.

Jessica Berndt
Indiana University

The second edition of Victoria Rovine’s book, Bogolan: Shaping Culture through Cloth in Contemporary Mali, presents a well-structured look at Bogolan traditional cloth in Mali. She focuses her writing on Bamako, the capital of the West African country. Throughout the book she explores themes of identity, authenticity, and tradition, as they are connected with the popular cloth, called bogolan. Bogolan is a traditional Malian cloth, which typically requires a labor-intensive process to create. Rovine details the production process, from the weaving of the cloth to the multiple dyeing processes. The author provides a  concise overview of the cloth, as well as a solid background for her arguments about the cloth’s changing role in Mali and abroad. Continue reading “Bogolan: Shaping Culture through Cloth in Contemporary Mali”

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Patrick R. McNaughton. A Bird Dance Near Saturday City: Sidi Ballo and the Art of West African Masquerade

Patrick R. McNaughton.  A Bird Dance Near Saturday City: Sidi Ballo and the Art of West African MasqueradeBloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.  Pp. xvii+300, photographs, notes, index.  $65.00 cloth, $24.95 paper.

Nichole Tramel
Indiana University

Patrick McNaughton’s work, A Bird Dance Near Saturday City: Sidi Ballo and the Art of West African Masquerade, chronicles and investigates a particularly resonant masquerade performance of Sidi Ballo’s decades ago in a small town near Saturday City, Mali, as the text’s title implies.  For years, the author struggled with how to accurately and fairly depict this powerful experience, the product of Sidi Ballo’s genius and the other talented dancers, singers, and community members that contributed to the performance.  This book is the result of his journey.  Accordingly, A Bird Dance Near Saturday City devotes equal attention to Sidi Ballo’s virtuosity, elements of bird dance performance, the performance itself, and the forms and functions of aesthetics.  Examining both the particular and the general, McNaughton provides a useful and engaging account of Sidi Ballo’s June 1978 Dogoduman bird dance performance; in so doing, he examines its components and contributors, and Sidi Ballo as a performer and artist.  Additionally, the author discusses artistry, aesthetics, and performance theory, both philosophically and practically.  He looks at each of these in terms of the bird dance(s), Mande culture, and society in general. Continue reading “Patrick R. McNaughton. A Bird Dance Near Saturday City: Sidi Ballo and the Art of West African Masquerade”

So, What Is the Story Behind This Name?: Royal Praise-Poetry As an Oral Mythic Narrative

So, What Is the Story Behind This Name?: Royal Praise-Poetry As an Oral Mythic Narrative

Abdulai Salifu
Indiana University

Abstract
The Dagomba praise singing genre of northern Ghana employs figurative language to recapture historical events in the political life of the people. A reigning chief occupies a central, pivotal position in the daily life of the community and is seen as a reincarnation of his ancestors, whose exploits are used to praise him or her. Royal praises rely on stories which depict supernatural ancestral achievements. This piece looks at the metaphors and mythical elements to be found in the language used to praise a chief during a social event in Tamale, Ghana, and focuses on the mythical elements in the praise song, based on real historical events. This happens in the context of a revered epic tradition at a Dagomba King’s palace.


The praise names drummers sing or use to address their patrons at ceremonies are abridged historical mythic narratives, taken from the myths and legends of the Dagbamba (also called Dagombas) of Northern Ghana. The narration assumes mythical dimensions and religious beliefs and practices are woven into the telling of the tale.

Continue reading “So, What Is the Story Behind This Name?: Royal Praise-Poetry As an Oral Mythic Narrative”