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by: Cory Kassulke


Cory Kassulke
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Cory Kassulke on Saturday September 12, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to CMLT 3030 at University of Georgia taught by Traore in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 69 views. For similar materials see /class/202429/cmlt-3030-university-of-georgia in Literature at University of Georgia.

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Date Created: 09/12/15
Smith 1 Jennifer Smith Final Paper Prof Traore May 8 2011 The Importance of Women in Mande Society When discussing the cultural and sociological aspects of the Mande people of West Africa one must take great care in understanding the signi cant role of the female to their culture The society of the Mande is one in which the male and female play opposite yet equally important roles The male embodying fadenya malechildness is seen as individuallyoriented while the female embodying badenya femalechildness is seen as communityoriented The feminine side of humanity is viewed as nurturing and orderly the counterpoint to the chaotic independence that the male side of life embodies In this culture it is felt that without the love order and balance that the female brings the male side would fall out of balance and into chaos However this ideal of the balance of power between men and women regrettably does not exist in some communities There is a clear patriarchal rule established amongst many West African villages where the men rule government and business while the women rule the home However even this authority over the home that women lay claim to is challenged at times It is a harsh duality amongst the Mande that while the female is respected and known to be the bearer of life she is also subjugated and repressed Through certain cultural aspects disguised as tradition men of the communities can abuse their power in order to repress women further into obedience It is through this veil of tradition that the abuse of power is exercised by men over women In order to Smith 2 understand how this dynamic works however one must first look at the place of women in Mande society The female plays many parts in the workings of society but the most important is arguably that of the mother She is a caretaker ensuring that peace and harmony are maintained in the midst of the chaos of the community Her role is not only to raise children but to nurture them and to protect the sanctity of the family In this aspect the female is a guardian a protector of community and family The power of the female and most importantly the mother is exemplified in stories such as the Epic of Sunjata F inzan and Moolaade From Sogolon mother of the hero Sunj ata to Colle and her rebellious invocation of Moolaade in order to protect the daughters of the village the role of the female is incredibly important For instance in Sunjata the Buffalo Woman is an example of the mysticism that surrounds the female in Mande culture and the power that women hold She is the bane of many villagers only being captured when she wished to be There is strength within her that is not shown by even the hunters who stalk her This strength is passed on to her daughter Sogolon When the King takes Sogolon as his wife because of the prophecy even he is afraid of her She is shown to be fierce and strong and always willing to defend her child Sunjata Even though Sogolon is considered ugly and malformed she gives birth to a child of great strength and importance This highlights the belief that all women no matter their station harness the power to raise great leaders The mysticism surrounding the mother in this story is the manifestation of the belief that women give life to the world and through them great change can occur even though they are aligned with the order of badenya Though the role of the female as a protector and nurturer is exemplified in Mande culture these ideals regrettably do not re ect the way women are treated Smith 3 in some communities The incredibly important role that women play in Mande society is forgotten at times This is perhaps best shown in the trials of Nanyuma and Fili in the lm F 139 nzan In this story Nanyuma can be seen as representative of many women in the Mande culture who are both needed yet also exploited She is forced to marry the brother of her deceased husband solely upon the basis of a belief The village chief is steadfast is his notion that Nan must marry her husband s brother but his convictions are based upon opinion and belief His views though shared by many men across the society are not the true traditions of the Mande The oppression of women through familial political and economical means is a regrettable one but it must be realized that the actions taken by men such as the chief are not grounded in historical tradition Ifthe villagers were following tradition and moral guidance from history then they would recognize the woman as a powerful and independent entity Just as is shown by the ugly Sogolon in the Epic of Sunjata the lowliest woman can raise the most powerful man It is made apparent that without the love and concern that Sogolon showed for Sunjata he would never have realized his full potential The mother is the protector of all even the King of Kings Through this perspective the female is an almost godlike entity She is capable of creating the most powerful of life and of protecting it Through the woman comes the gift of life This adoration of the female is regrettably not exercised in many Mande communities This is where a distinction must be made Fili s excision in F inzan is a perfect example of this Excision is a product of opinions and beliefs by certain members of the Mande community it is not tradition The belief in the strength of the masculine side of life fadenya to enact change and the belief in the feminine side of life badenya to nurture bonds between


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