Then they went to Morcok. This is a revolt. We are going to continue the bal. If you want to turn me in to your friends, do it, but the bal is going to continue. The young men then went to Motiya.
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Pierre Demba was from that ward. Come on, go on and dance your bal. He did not succeed. Then the young men went to Kapinta, and young Kande talked to his grandfather in much the same way as the others had done, with the same result. He obtained permission for the bal.
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In the exchange, there was direct emotional blackmail. Each young man talked to his own grandfather, convincing him that if witchcraft reprisals were attempted against the youths, he, his dear grandchild, would die as well. In effect, they were emphasising their readiness to sacrifice themselves for the cause — and so consolidating the unity of youth while undermining the solidarity of the grandfathers. As a memorial of this contract, right in the middle of the ward there used to be an African fan palm Borassus aethiopicus of special significance to the elders.
The African fan palm, incidentally, was later to be cut down by the iconoclastic youths a bit later, in Because the bal was danced one couple at a time, it was a brother and sister who opened it. The young couple danced their morceau and after them other couples came out to the dance floor.
A short time after this revolt in Bukor, the young people of the neighbouring village of Kufen, in Canton Baga, did more or less the same thing and, encouraged by their age mates in Bukor, introduced the bal in their village too. These were big changes, yet no more than a prelude to even bigger ones. Older men appeared to be losing control of the patriarchal status quo. Young women did not belong to them any more; new musical instruments appeared that challenged notions of power, bringing to the village the sound of the wood; and, as if all this modern soundscape were not enough, men now danced with their own sisters!
How on earth could all this happen? In the first place, challenging gerontocracy was not something necessarily new in the region. I do not know of any youth revolt among the Baga Sitem in earlier colonial times, and certainly not in the pre-French period. Yet there are sound reasons to suspect that, as with many other African societies, accumulation of power by male elders could be challenged by younger strata of the population from time to time, as Michael McGovern has demonstrated in his study on the political culture of the Upper Guinea forest societies The answer lies in the fact that, according to notions of personhood prevalent in the whole Guinean region and probably beyond, some young people have more mystical power than elders.
Elders may acquire mystical powers with age — they may be initiated, they may even buy membership of some cults — but some people are simply born with powers, and these people become potentially dangerous, even to older men. This is what was going on in that group of youngsters. Some of the young men sitting next to the instruments at the Catholic mission of Bukor were regarded as innately powerful.
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Obviously, having conducted my fieldwork in the s and s, I could never interview anyone who had been an elder in the s; but I could imagine that they found themselves living in a very strange world. Indeed they were. Young men outnumbered them; they had the support of women; they could count on the support of new political institutions; new religions appeared that encouraged them to abrogate their ritual obligations; and in their fight against the power of ritual elders, they counted on the support of strangers, too.
Elders tried to hang on to their power as much as they could, but to no avail. His name was Asekou Sayon. He was an anti-witchcraft specialist and a Muslim converter who, with the support of the RDA, reached the village of Bukor in September , starting an iconoclastic religious movement among dissatisfied Baga Sitem youths that was to change the history of the region and of the whole Guinean territory, which became an independent modern nation in — and a highly modernist one at that, if we are to follow James Scott characterisation of this kind of socialist state that attempted to create a perfect society through modernizing schemes Scott, My objective in this paper is another one.
What are the conditions of possibility and plausibility for such a mysterious and inexplicable thing as charisma to become a social fact. What I set out to show in this paper is that for such a disruptive event as the unexpected arrival of Sayon among the Baga Sitem to become meaningful and for his charisma to be fully effective you needed an accumulation of dissatisfactions and frustrations such as the ones this narrative unearths, as well as young people that were already finding their own ways to contest the power of their tyrannical elders.
There were some confrontations between Catholic and Muslim youths about the reception of Sayon and about the interpretation of his actions and words, but most of them followed him — even if they were Christian and not Muslim — because above the religious differences between them they all felt that Sayon was a holy man who came to put an end to old things and bring about a new order and a fascinating modernity. In this respect, I think, they were not that different from the young people of today.
In independent Republic of Guinea, i.
Yet, on one occasion, in , when Pierre Demba was about to leave the country to travel to the USA to perform with Les Ballets Africains on one of their tours, he suddenly and quite mystically felt that the elders of the village were calling him and was afraid to travel. He cancelled his trip and in fact gave up music altogether and went back to the village, where he became a farmer and a Catholic catechist.
He never played the flute, horn or saxophone again. When I met him in he was a rather sad old man, often getting infuriated with the very noisy amplifiers recently introduced by the young animateurs a category of semi-nomad DJs. Demba, who was instrumental in introducing modernity in his village fifty years ago, does not understand this new form of modernity and becomes as angry at it as the old men in were at him. I do not blame him. Unlike tradition , which is immediately recognizable as being valuable, the condition of modernity is such that you have to let it rest for fifty years before assessing its values.
But then again, do you accept it because it was new fifty years before, or because it has become traditional ever since? I suppose nothing would look more traditional to me today that the dances of the bal as they were performed by Baga Sitem youths in Toby Green. John Young. Paul E. William Reno. Said S. Myron Echenberg. Mariana P. James Fairhead. Richard B.
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Home Contact us Help Free delivery worldwide. Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. In this book, Phyllis Martin, a well-known Africanist scholar, opens up a whole new field of African research: the leisure activities of urban Africans.
Her comprehensive study, set in colonial Brazzaville and based on a wide variety of written sources and interviews, investigates recreational activities from football and fashion to music, dance and night life. In it, she In this book, Phyllis Martin, a well-known Africanist scholar, opens up a whole new field of African research: the leisure activities of urban Africans.
In it, she brings out the ways in which these activities built social networks, humanised daily life and forged new identities, and explains how they ultimately helped to remake older traditions and values with new cultural forms. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Original Title. Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize Other Editions 2.
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