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The Sundiata is named after the founder of the Mali Empire in the 13th century. This epic story follows the exploits and life of Sundiata (also known as Sunjata or Son-Jara) from his infancy, when, due to a curse, he could only crawl. As a result, Son-Jara and his family were exiled, and he eventually became the Mandinka territory's triumphant King, expanding his kingdom. The legendary Sunjata, according to Cartwright, is an embroidered variant of the historic Sunjata (43). Nonetheless, he acknowledges that, in the absence of any documentary evidence from his day, it is impossible to separate the fictional from the historical elements in the tale. Prevailing solely as the oral epic of the centuries, the Sundiata continues to be done in the current time in the Western Africa by bards or griots, who practice wider latitude regarding which characteristics of the epic to put the emphasis. Through the arrival of different and transcripts print versions, Sundiata text has garnered more academic attention as well as becoming one of the most critically praised of entire African epics. As a result, it is vital to analyze the Mali epic of Son-Jara.
Sunjata epic has many variations; however, the essence of the poem is the same. Sundiata is the son of Mandinka king, Maghan Kung Fatta, and among his spouses, Sukulung, the pagan who has secret knowledge. Son-Jara’s main enemy is an elder half-brother, Tuma Dankaran (Rutledge 39). The mother of Tuma sets a curse on Sunjata that renders him incapable of walking; he crawls in fours until his puberty, at which his mother provides him a “thing” prepared from a sacred plant and orders him to stand up. Skinner stated that after the King’s death, Dankaran Tuma leads for a short period before the magician Sumanguru seizes the leadership of Mali (19). On the other hand, Sumanguru is cautioned by seers that Sundiata is intended to become the king. Rutledge asserts that to attempt to avoid this, Sumanguru sends her children and Sukulung into exile (21). Sundiata performs several daring accomplishments and gains the admiration and respect of various monarchs who later came to his help (Cartwright 25). Conversely, Sunjata, as well as his foe, engage in a fight. The sister of Sundiata seduces Sumanguru to trick him to reveal the top-secret of his witchcraft. Rutledge writes that she then passes the information on to Sundiata, who quickly made use of it to do away with Sumanguru; however not earlier before Sumanguru protects himself by shifting into a bird (46). Sundiata not contented with the land size of his kingdom, he proceeds to enlarge it at the expense of his neighboring territory’s lands.
"Song to the Bow," composed by Balla Fasseke when Sundiata stands first, is a symbol of hero's power and seems to be identified all over the land. Life and music are intertwined; Balla saves his life through inventing a song to Soumaoro. Rutledge argues that whether used as a metaphor for history and community or merely as a major portion of Mali community celebrated by a whole, music is among the most vital themes in the poem (30).
The epic defines Sundiata implicit qualities of a hero and besides, what features are heroic. One of the most glaring is Sundiata strength. The idea is supported by Cartwright who maintains that even while he cannot walk, the young man has stronger arms (37). Nevertheless, when he stands, he amazes everybody, bending a gigantic rod to the bow as well as pulling a plant up and about by its roots. His grit and skill display the quality of Sundiata bravery in battle. Skinner notes that Sundiata has further than an animal power, he reflects interest, patience in other individuals and ways, besides humility to the magical world (17). Similarly, the theme of loyalty occurs both between associates in the battle that Sundiata puts against Soumaoro, as well between tribes and individuals (Rutledge 52). What inspires Sunjata to construct an empire is the ability to motivate tribes to remain loyal to each other and keep an eye on his laws. Lastly, the strongest loyalty is expressed between the king and his loyal griot. Through remaining faithful to a griot, the great king guarantees the family griot will stay loyal to the recall of his activities.
In conclusion, the Mali epic poem explores serious issue, reflected in a high style usingPoetry, song, chants or rhythmic prose with some unsung portions. Centers on quasi-divine or heroic figures expresses adventures of unique persons accustomed to their fortune on whose deeds depend on the destiny of humankind or a group. In fact, epic brave characters have greater authorities and act near or at the restrictions of desire. Additionally, power struggle, battle, and war are frequently centered in the epic and inspired by revenge, by a yearning to claim lost rights or lost lands; by the move to accomplish heroine's destiny, social duties or to preserve and reaffirm social continuity and unity of the culture.
Cartwright, Keith. Reading Africa into American Literature: Epics, fables, and gothic tales. University Press of Kentucky, 2015.
Rutledge, Gregory E. "Jedi Knights and Epic Performance." A Galaxy Here and Now: Historical and Cultural Readings of Star Wars 104 (2016): 106.
Skinner, Ryan Thomas. "An Afropolitan Muse." Research in African Literatures 46.2 (2015): 15-31.
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