Saturday, 7 April 2018

G is for Griot...and...G-pyramids...


is for



Guesting - which is what the foursome at Write...Edit...Publish... are doing today at the main A-Z blog...illustrating Genre. Chuffed, Glad you could say - because that's two of my favouritest blogfests in one post.  Okay now to the main business at hand  -

Take a listen to Dobet Gnahore, an Ivorian musician, here’s her Zina, powerful and heartbreaking and uplifting all in one - 




And here's Coumba Gawlo from Senegal, with her golden voice and Allez Africa - 






Griot Much of African history, especially West African history, is transmitted orally. A griot is a living archive, a repository of the oral traditions, a historian, poet, story-teller, musician and/or eulogist. Since these oral bits of history are transmitted from one generation to another, this archiving activity is restricted to certain families in a locality. It is a hereditary art and science, keeping history alive. Griots make a living by recording births, marriages, deaths, war, famines, and other important events both individual and communal. Their role often extends to mediators and counsellors as well.

There are griot families all through West Africa, among the Mande peoples, the Hausa, the Fula, the Wolof, the Songhai, the Mauritanian Arabs and many other smaller groups/tribes. The corresponding word for griot (which has its roots in French) in the African languages are djeli or jeli in Mande, guewei in Wolof, and gawlo among the Fula. Families are endogamous, meaning that a person from a griot family traditionally marries into another griot family. I guess so that the histories are not lost or diluted. Where there are no written records, the preservation of the oral archives is crucial.  Many of the famous musicians from West Africa come from griot families, an example in the music above. Read about some modern griots here.

Groundnut pyramids -  Africa is a major producer of groundnuts (peanuts) accounting for roughly 47-48% of the total world production. Nigeria alone contributes a major chunk of the harvest in Africa, Sudan and Senegal are the other top producers. (Fun fact – in Arabic, groundnuts are called the “Sudanese beans”)

Source
Up till the 70’s, groundnuts were the single most important agricultural export crop for Nigeria, and these pyramids made of groundnut sacks used to be common in Kano, the main transport hub in Northern Nigeria. Sadly, that changed with the oil boom in the 70’s, and the share of agricultural exports in forex earnings fell from nearly 50% to less than half between 1971 and 1980. Production has risen 90’s onwards, but it caters mostly to domestic demand, the export performance has never quite recovered the same shine. There is some talk of replacing the groundnut pyramids with rice pyramids at present, as Kano is trying to incentivise rice production. Waiting to see what happens...

From the Safaris


Books n Stuff

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) was a South African writer and social activist and a Nobel Laureate in Literature.  She was an early bloomer, she published her first short story when she was just 15. Most of her writing concerns the effects of apartheid on the lives of South Africans, clear-eyed, concise, unsentimental and sometimes quite searing. She won the Booker jointly for The Conservationist in 1974, and won much acclaim for many of her other works. My own introduction to her work was through The House Gun published in 1998.

Marina Gasbe  - Not much is known about Marina, not even an accurate birthdate. She is from Kenya. Here is an excerpt from one of her poems - ‘The Village,’ which I found interesting.

Village of unending work.
Like a never dying spring,
Old women dark and bent
Trudge along with their hoes
To plots of weedy maize.
Young wives with donkeys
From cockcrow to setting of the sun
Go about their timeless duties…


A very vivid picture she’s painted of a village abandoned by young men – they’ve all walked off at dawn to the cities for work – and the women carry on with the tending of animals and the planting of fields. Urbanisation! and its challenges. True for many nations in Africa.





Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2018

26 comments:

  1. I will be over to check out your guesting post shortly. Which makes me feel a bit like a stalker.
    Love the oral tradtions and hadn't realised that they have a name/title.
    And am so grateful to continue to learn from your posts.

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    1. Grateful is a great G-word - I am too, for your support...thank you.

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  2. Hari OM
    That oral tradition was a key part of Sanskrit history... and in Scottish. The Gaelic word equivalent is sgeulaiche ("skuulahie")... a treasure of culture!

    Thank you for bringin WEP into full view - I had seen reference to it in passing elsewhere, but will now be checking it out much more closely!!! YAM xx

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    1. All cultures started out as oral traditions as far as I know...India had its sruti. I'm not sure why we've got into this notion that only written sources are 'proper' history and all else is dismissable :) as if no-one ever wrote down a lie...

      The WEP is a small and close knit community of writers - please do check it out.

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  3. Kind of a sneaky "g" pyramid but very interesting to see!

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  4. That's such a fascinating way to stack the sacks of groundnuts. Had no idea that Africa produces such a high percentage of the world's peanuts.

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    1. Used to produce...now the scene is a bit different I think.

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  5. I'd heard the term griot, but did not know the whole story. All a GREAT post

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    1. All cultures I understand started off as oral...so I presume there are counterparts to the griots everywhere...

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  6. Glad to have made it here! Your posts are so full and informative that I must come back to read more. WEP sounds interesting also, so will be checking that out more, too!
    Mainely Write

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    1. Pleased you enjoyed the post. WEP is a pleasant way to write and get help with writing

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  7. Beautiful post. I've learned a lot and been experience to new music. What a great theme and creative way to implement it.

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    1. Pleased you enjoyed the post and thanks for visiting.

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  8. You've packed a lot of goodness into today's post as usual. I'm fascinated by the peanuts in all their wonderful names, but especially those pyramids.

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  9. I wrote a research paper on griot traditions once. As a storyteller, I am completely awed by them, and the stories they carry.
    The Multicolored Diary: Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales

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    1. That must have been one heck of an interesting paper to write...and to read as well!

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  10. Hi Nila - love all your Gs ... and I too will be back to listen and to read and absorb ... I listened and watched Zina's video - heart breaking, yet wonderfully constructed. Great you've incorporated WEP in here - and I see picked up a few new interested parties ... and Griot - what a word ... the First Nations here, or indigenous peoples, have oral traditions too - lovely post - thank you ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Ya, oral transmission of stories is found worldwide I understand. Makes sense when you think speech came before writing...

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  11. Oral history is an important component of African American history because during slavery so many records were not saved or not made. Until recently the larger genealogical community poo pooed the idea that oral history could even be genealogy. In my own case, I have found the oral history in my family has usually proven to be true, maybe with a change here and there, but true enough to find the documentation. Maybe it was a different generation than the one I was told, for instance. www.findingeliza.com

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    1. African history itself has been poopooed because it was oral rather than written, can't imagine how ridiculous...but more about that in my next post :)

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  12. The Griots are fascinating! They reminded me slightly of the traveling bards of Europe, although of a much more personal and familial nature. :)

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