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Epic of Sundiata

This is about the Epic of Sundiata Keita, who founded the Manden Kurufaba, otherwise known as the Mali Empire.
This also and mainly about the foundation of the Manden Kurufaba

Epic of Sundiata
General info

The Epic of Sundiata is an old West-African epic telling the story of Sundiata Keita and how he founded the Manden Kurufaba, the Mali Empire.

Important places

Wagadou (Ghana Empire)

Wagadou, today known as the Ghana Empire, was a powerful West-African Soninké empire that existed from c. 300 to c. 1240. It ruled over several peoples, among which the Mandé people, in the Ka-Ba province.
In 1075-1076, Wagadou was invaded by the Almoravids, a Northern people. This strongly weakened Wagadou, and the internal strife that ensued allowed Kaniaga to easily conquer most of its land.

Ka-ba province

Today known as Kangaba, Ka-ba was a province of Wagadou, named after its capital, Ka-ba. It was the land of the Manden.
When Wagadou fell, Ka-ba was split into two main regions, Dodougo in the North-East, and Kri in the South-East. In these two regions, no longer under Wagadou's control, 12 kingdoms appeared, among which, in Kri, the small kingdom of Niani.

Kaniaga Kingdom

A former vassal of Wagadou. After Wagadou had been invaded by the Almoravids, Kaniaga turned against Wagadou and took most of its land. Afterward, Soumaoro Kanté came into power in Kianaga, and violently conquered the land of the Manden, the province of Ka-Ba.
Kaniaga was eventually conquered by the forces of Sundiata Keita around the time of the battle of Krina.

Niani Kingdom

In Kri, the Southern territory of Ka-ba, lied a very small kingdom named Niani. Its faama (prince) was Nare Fa, father of Sundiata Keita.




Sundiata Keita

The main character of the epic. Son of Nare Fa (faama or prince of Niani, and nicknamed Djata, which possibly meant "lion"), and Sogolon Kédjou, Nare Fa's second wife.
Its name comes from the first name of his mother, Sogolon, and the nickname of its father, Djata. Sogolon Djata, when pronounced fast, makes Sondiata, which in turn gives Sundiata.
After being sent in exile by its step-brother Dankaran Toumani (then faama of Niani), who resented him, Sundiata Keita was joined by a Niani delegation informing him of the invasion of the Sosso Empire (Kianaga), and begging him to come back to Niani to free the kingdom. Sundiata formed a coalition consisting of Wagadou, Mema and other small Madinka kingdoms, and he freed Niani, along with all the land of the Manden, Ka-ba, by defeating the Sosso Imperial Army at the Battle of Krina (1235).

Nare Fa

The faama (prince) of Niani, and father of both Dankaran Toumani Keita and Sundiata Keita. His first wife was Sassouma Bereté, but he re-married with Sogolon Kédjou after a hunter told him that the son he'd have with its second wife would become a great king (the prophecy was of course referring to Sundiata Keita).

Sassouma Bereté

First official wife of Nare Fa. Hated Sogolon Kédjou, Nare Fa's second wife, and the son Sogolon had with Nare Fa, Sundiata. When her own son, Dankaran Toumani Keita, succeded to Nare Fa, they both forced Sogolon and Sundiata into exile.

Sogolon Kédjou

Second official wife of Nare Fa. Was reportedly very ugly. Had a son with Nare Fa, Sundiata Keita.

Soumaoro Kanté of the Sosso

A powerful evil wizard who came into power in Kaniaga. He invaded the kingdom of Niani after Sundiata and its mother were sent into exile.
He led its forces at the great Battle of Krina against the coalition of Sundiata Keita, but disappeared after its troops were defeated.



The story

In 1075-1076, Wagadou, today remembered as the Ghana Empire, mainly populated by Soninké people, is invaded by the Almoravids. A period of internal strife ensues, and by ~1200, the empire is ready to fall. In the kingdom of Kaniaga, formerly part of Wagadou, an evil wizard named Soumaoro Kanté, of the Sosso Clan, ascends in power. He conquers manu militari its neighbors, including Wagadou, former capital of the larger empire. Soon the territories conquered by Kaniaga become part of the Sosso Empire.
Meanwhile, the fall of Wagadou has freed one of the former province of the empire, the province of Ka-ba. In that land, also called the Manden, the land of the Mandé people, twelve kingdoms arise, among which the small kingdom of Niani. Nare Fa is its faama.
Nare Fa is married with a woman named Sassouma Bereté, and he has a son with her, Dankaran Toumani. One day, a soothsaying hunter crosses the Niani Kingdom, and pay his respects to Nare Fa, and to thank him for his hospitality, he agrees to predict his future. The hunter sees that in the near future, Nare Fa will encounter a very ugly woman. The thing is, if he marries that woman and has a son with her, this son will later become a great king. The hunter then leaves.
Some time later, indeed, Nare Fa encounters a ugly woman, and, believing the prophecy, he marries her. This woman is named Sogolon Kédjou. He soon has a son with her, named Sundiata.
Sundiata is thus destined to become a great king. But at the age of seven, he still cannot walk. However, through much efforts, he eventually manages to stand tall using sticks and such, and some years later he becomes a proficient and respected hunter. In fact, he becomes increasingly popular in the kingdom, so much that his half-brother Dankaran Toumani and Sassouma Bereté begins to ressent him, and envy him. Jalousy ensues.
One day, Nare Fa steps down because of old age or because he dies, can't remember, and Dankaran takes the throne. Now in charge, he proceeds to force Sundiata and his mother Sogolon into exile. Both of them leave Niani.
Time and years pass. One day, Sundiata is joined by a delegation of Niani official bringing dire news: Niani and, in fact, the whole Manden, has been invaded by the Sosso Empire, and the wizard Soumaoro Kanté is using his powers and his troops to pillage the land and commit other atrocities against the people. The delegation begs Sundiata for help.
Sundiata then travels through the Manden and the neighbouring kingdoms and territories to seek help. Soon, he forms a coalition powerful enough to match the Sosso Imperial Army. This coalition includes, among others, Wagadou and the Mema kingdom.
Sundiata throws its newly-formed coalition into a campaign to reclaim the Manden. In 1235, in the climatic battle of Krina (today remembered as Kirina), he leads the alliance to victory and defeats the armies of the Sosso Empire. After which, the wizard Soumaoro disappeared.
Then, Sundiata and its allies finish off the last remnants of the Sosso Army. Once the whole Manden and even beyond has been reclaimed, Sundiata is given the title of Mansa, king of kings or emperor, and he establishes the Manden Kurufaba, the Great Assembly of the Mandé People, which becomes the center of what is remembered nowadays as the Mali Empire.
In ~1300, Sundiata's grand nephew, Mansa Mussa, ascends into power.

See also


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