Folklore genre designation among the Manden peoples




oral tradition, Manden, genres, folklore


In this article I deal with the problem of division into genres and genre designation in the oral tradition of the Bamana, Maninka, and Dyula. These people belong to the Manden or Mandinka, Mandingo peoples (Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso). For comparison, the names of similar genres among the Dogon are also given, as the Dogon consider themselves a Manden people, even though their languages do not belong to the Mandé language family. Both expeditionary materials and written sources were used. Almost all the words related to genre formation were recorded, and a description of the genres themselves was given. It was interesting to understand what features are important for choosing genres for Manden peoples. Due to cultural characteristics and historical development, the generally accepted division into genres is not entirely suitable for the Manden peoples and forms a “Procrustean bed” for their subdivision. First of all, the degree of ‘seriousness’ of the genre is important, that is, its significance for tradition: ‘true’ texts are opposed to fictional ones. The degree of rituality of the folklore text is also significant. Restrictions on the performance of texts are associated with the ability to control the occult power of nyama energy. An important role in this is played by the presence of the griot tradition. Also, a formal feature plays a role in defining various folklore genres.


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Author Biography

Olga Zavyalova, Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Olga Zavyalova is associate professor in the Department of African Studies, Faculty of Asian and African Studies of Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia.


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How to Cite

Zavyalova, O. (2023). Folklore genre designation among the Manden peoples. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 60(3), 17–26.



Research articles