As the story of the founding of the Mali Empire, the Epic of Sundiata is an important oral tradition in the Mande region of West Africa. We will examine the epic as a particular type of historical evidence that allows us to begin to consider early West African history from an African perspective. This assignment provides you with an opportunity to compose a thesis-driven essay examining D.T. Niane’s Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. The essay must focus primarily on Niane’s text. In addition to supporting your argument through textual references to Niane’s version of the epic, your analysis must draw on at least one other course-related material. The three options below provide a guide or starting point as your formulate your own argument. The final option allows you to propose your own paper topic so that you are given every opportunity to shape your essay to suit your own analysis of the epic as part of West African history.
1) How are the concepts (nyama, fadenya, badenya etc.) that have structured Mande society reflected in the Epic of Sundiata and what is the value of trying to interpret the Epic from a “Mande point of view”? As it may not be feasible to consider all of the concepts we’ve discussed, you may choose to focus on a small selection of them.
2) The Epic of Sundiata and the Arabic sources provide different perspectives of early West African history. What are the strengths and weaknesses of these different sources of historical evidence? How can historians effectively use them to illuminate the African past? You might choose to consider these very different sources in a discussion of historical methodology or you might argue why both types of sources are essential to an appreciation of early West African history.
3) Consider the important issues raised in the conflict over Mabo’s education in Dani Kouyaté’s film “Keita: The Heritage of the Griot.” As questions over what children should learn and how they should be taught are relevant at all times and in all societies, it may be worthwhile to discuss the implications of the one approach over another –yet your argument must consider the pedagogical issues raised by the film in light of early West African history (i.e. this must still be an essay relevant to the materials of this course). You might, for instance, think about why Djeliba commands the teacher: “Don’t tell Mabo anymore that his ancestor was a gorilla! He was a king.” Or when Djeliba asks the teacher, “What can you teach children without knowing your own origin?”
i want to do opion number 2.
Propose an essay topic of your own design. You are encouraged to consult with me in advance to ensure that your idea is feasible. Make certain that your essay meets all of the requirements listed below.
-As an essay, your paper must be structured around your argument, i.e. your analysis should be “thesis-driven.” (Don’t just answer the above questions–use them as a starting point for your argument).
-You are required to support your argument through specific references (note the plural) to at least 2 different sources, one of which must be D.T. Niane’s Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali.
-As the assignment does not require outside research, in-text citations are sufficient, i.e. (Niane, 45).
Your essay must include a bibliography of all texts cited (which can be at the bottom of the final page).