Famille et photos. Histoire et culture

Je reprends et approfondis ici la publication des photos et commentaires que j’ai retouchées et republiées sur Facebook. Bien que l’une et l’autre plateformes permettent de créer des sites web, WordPress offre des outils supérieurs à ceux de Facebook pour une documentation fouillée. Si Facebook relève du Web fermé (Closed Web),  WordPress — en dehors de sa version commerciale —  est une appartient aux technologies Open Source et Open Web.
Les photos originales ont été originellement affichées sur Facebook par des cousins et neveux, parmi lesquels Lamine Baldé, ingénieur chimiste à la retraite en France. Les images montrent le patriarche Tierno Chaikou Baldé, et d’autres membres du vaste clan familial hérité et amplifié par mon grand-père maternel, Tierno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa-Ndiyan, ses frères et ses soeurs, leurs fils et descendants, de la deuxième moitié du 19è siècle jusqu’à nos jours.
J’eus la chance et le bonheur de grandir et de tisser des liens personnels avec la plupart des personnes figurant sur les différents clichés.…
Cet album est évidemment partiel, vu qu’il ne comporte que neuf photos sur des centaines de portraits visuels constitués au fil des décennies. Il reste dynamique et ouvert aux ajouts et contributions. Mes annotations portent sur des données biographiques, et, le cas échéant, elles offrent des remarques sur la contribution culturelle et politique de la personne indiquée. Ce survol et cet effort sont incomplets. Mais ils offrent l’occasion de rendre  un hommage à la mémoire de Tierno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan, mon grand-père maternel, ainsi qu’un rappel sur ses nombreux, pieux et vertueux enfants et leur descendance.

 

Tierno Chaikou Baldé, se fils, fille, bru, petis-fils, à Paris en 1960 (Source: Lamine Baldé)
Tierno Chaikou Baldé, se fils, fille, bru, petis-fils, à Paris en 1960 (Source: Lamine Baldé)
  • Tierno Chaikou Baldé (à l’extrême-droite, mon oncle, 5ème fils de Tierno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa-Ndiyan), instituteur, inspecteur d’académie, chercheur, auteur, précurseur et fondateur de la recherche en sciences sociale de Guinée française (1936-1958).
    Il fut ensuite directeur de l’Institut national de la recherche et de la documentation et de la bibliothèque nationale (INRDG) de la Guinée indépendante (1962-1967?).

    • Membre fondateur de l’Amicale Gilbert Vieillard en 1943
    • Colistier de Barry Ibrahima III à la tête du parti Démocratie Socialiste de Guinée pour l’élection générale de 1956. Le PDG remporta le vote et Sékou Touré devint vice-président du Conseil de gouvernement en 1957. La Guinée ne s’est pas remise des conséquences de ce résultat électoral et de l’accession du dictateur en herbe à la tête de la Guinée française, d’abord, et de la république de Guinée, après 1958
      A noter que la DSG et le Bloc Africain de Guinée (BAG), dirigé par Barry Diawadou fusionnèrent dans le Parti du Rassemblement Africain (PRA) en 1958. Ce parti avait comme leaders des personnalités comme Lamine Guèye, Léopold Sedar Senghor, etc. En Guinée et en Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF) il devint la principale formation d’opposition au Rassemblement Démocratique Africain, mené par Félix Houphouêt-Boigny de Côte d’Ivoire.
    • Co-organisateur pour le domaine Pular/Fulfulde, avec Amadou Hampâté Bâ, Pierre Francis Lacroix, etc., de la réunion des experts de l’UNESCO pour la standardisation de l’alphabet des langues africaines (Bamako, 1966)
  • debout, de gauches à droite :
  • un petit-fils, feu Saifoulaye Sow, fils de Mamadou Sow, fusillé au Camp Boiro
  • sa fille Mariame, épouse du ministre Alioune Dramé, assassiné au Camp Boiro
Tierno Chaikou Baldé, Barratou, Ousmane, Kadidiatou et petite-fille
Tierno Chaikou Baldé, Barratou, Ousmane, Kadidiatou et petite-fille. Labé, vers 1961. (Source : Lamine Baldé)

Tierno Chaikou Baldé, entouré de:

  • Sa nièce: feue Barratou
  • Ses petite-filles: feue Ousmane et Kadidiatou (toutes deux filles de feu Elhadj  Ibrahima Gasama, le père de Siradiou Diallo, et feue Hadja  Rayhanatou, fille de Karamoko Bano et Neenan Tahirou)
  • Son arrière-petite-fille, fille aînée d’Ousmane
Neenan Tahirou, ses fils, fille, neveux
Neenan Tahirou, ses fils, fille, neveux. (Source : Lamine Baldé)

Feue Neenan Tahirou (assise au milieu) épouse de Karamoko Bano (2e fils de Tierno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa-Ndiyan) entourée de:

  • Sa fille, feue Hadja Rayhanatou (ma cousine), assise à sa droite
  • Son fils puiné, feu Elhadj Mamadou Libraire (mon cousin, avec lunettes noires). Il survécut à son emprisonnement au Camp Boiro en 1972-1973.
    Elhadj Bah fut le premier et unique propriétaire d’une librairie à Labé. L’établissement s’appelait “La Petite Librairie”, et se situait à l’angle nord-est du marché central, de 1955 à 1958 environ. Pré-adolescent, j’y passai de longues heures, accoudé au comptoir de la boutique, lisant gratuitement les journaux importés sous l’oeil  bienveillant de mon cousin.
    Les séances de lecture se poursuivront plus tard, de Labé à Conakry, où collégien de 14 ans, je fréquentais régulièrement la bibliothèque nationale sise à Boulbinet. Tierno Chaikou dirigeait l’institution et j’avais alors le loisir d’interrompre mes consultations en montant au dernier étage de l’immeuble où mon oncle résidait avec sa famille. Après le déjeuner feu cousin Tierno Aliou et moi avions une conversation animée et, en rétrospective, formatrice pour moi.

    Fanny Lalande Isnard
    Fanny Lalande Isnard, bibliothécaire retraitée

    Il y a quelques années, l’ancienne bibliothécaire de l’INRDG, Mme Fanny Lalande Isnard —diplômée de La Sorbonne —,  adressa un email de félicitation à mon site webGuinée pour la qualité du contenu. En réponse je la remerciai, elle et mon oncle, pour leur contribution à ma formation.…

    [En 1971-72, bien qu’épuisé et souffrant, Tierno Chaikou se prêta volontiers à mes questions dans le cadre des recherches de mon mémoire de fin d’études supérieures sur le thème de la phonématique du Pular du Fuuta-Jalon.…]

    En définitive, je complimentai Mme Isnard pour les services rendus aux lecteurs de la bibliothèque, moi y compris. Cela, rappellons-le, c’était au milieu des années 1960. Aujourd’hui, au 21ème siècle la Guinée n’a pas de bibliothèque, d’archives et de musée, dignes de ces noms.…
    Elhadj “Libraire” appartenait à l’aile progressiste du Parti démocratique de Guinée. Déployée notamment sur l’axe Mamou-Dalaba-Pita-Labé, cette sensibilité politique essaya de stopper la mégalomanie et le cumul de fonctions par Sékou Touré. En 2003, le rédacteur en chef du satirique hebdomadaire Le Lynx, Abraham Hassan Keita, me donna une copie du procès-verbal d’une rencontre des sous-sections PDG de Labé et de Pita, dans lequel les participants partageaient leur communauté  de vue et exprimaient leur solidarité à la sous-section de Mamou, face à l’intimidation, aux menaces et finalement aux sanctions envisagées par Sékou Touré. Le nom de Mamadou Bah “Libraire” figurait parmi les signataires du procès-verbal. Pour rappel Mamou avait en effet rappelé au secrétaire général du PDG leur adhésion stricte à la hiérarchie doctrinale du parti. Celle-ci plaçait le peuple au-dessus du parti, et le parti au-dessus du leader.
    Mamou avait aussi contraint Sékou Touré à écarter Louis Lansana Béavogui  et à maintenir Saifoulaye — maire de Mamou — comme co-candidat du PDG à l’élection législative de 1957.
    Lire The Parti Démocratique de Guinée and the Mamou ‘deviation’.

  • Son neveu feu Elhadj Bah Mamadou Bano, (mon cousin à l’extrême-droite, avec lunettes claires). Arrêté peu après son père, alors qu’il était secrétaire d’Etat au Budget, il fut emprisonné pendant 8 ans au Camp Boiro. Bah Bano était le fils aîné de Tierno Mamadou Bah, frère cadet de Karamoko Bano et quatrième fils de Tierno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa-Ndiyan. Deux fois retraité, imam adjoint de la Mosquée Karamoko Alfa, Tierno Mamdou fut absurdement accusé d’être un mercenaire et emprisonné au Camp Soundiata Keita de Kankan en décembre 1970. Il y tomba malade et mourut privé de soins médicaux. Pis, Sékou refusa le rite funéraire musulman à la dépouille du vénérable patriarche, qui fut enterré secrètement dans une tombe anonyme.
  • Feu Elhadj Amadou Daara Sow, instituteur, frère aîné d’Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow (bonnet laafa)
  • Feu Elhadj Elimane Bah (mon cousin, en bonnet noir), neveu de Tierno Chaikou
  • Feu Siradiou Tounni Bah, instituteur et allié familial
Hadja Kadidiatou Jiwo Ɓuuɓa
Hadja Kadidiatou Jiwo Ɓuuɓa. (Source : Lamine Baldé)
  • Feue Hadja Jiwo Ɓuuɓa (ma cousine, et la nièce et grande amie de ma mère). On la connut davantage par ce surnom (qui signifie littéralement la Fille de Ɓuuɓa-Ndiyan, le village de résidence de son grand-père). Mais son nom de baptême est Kadidiatou en l’honneur de sa tante, la soeur cadette de Tierno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa-Ndiyan et grand-mère paternelle de Saifoulaye Diallo et de ses trois frères (Alfa Mamadou Daa’i, Kawousullaye, Maadiou).  Par déférence à cette matriarche, le surnom Jiwo Ɓuuɓa éclipsa le nom de baptême. Ma mère et Hadja Jiwo sont toutes deux filleules et homonymes —parmi tant d’autres — de la vénérée Pati Kadidiatou.
  • Fille aînée de Karamoko Bano​
  • Aînée des petites-filles de Tierno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa-Ndiyan
  • Epouse de Tierno Chaikou Manda, mon cousin, éducateur, auteur Ajamiyya Pular, fils aîné de Tierno Siradiou : mon oncle maternel, parrain, maître d’école coranique, et l’ainé de Tierno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa-Ndiyan. Tierno Siradiou succéda à son père comme imam de la Mosquée Karamoko Alfa mo Labe (1937-1958).
  • Matriarche d’une nombreuse descendance
Neenan Roughiata Diallo et famille
Neenan Roughiata Diallo et famille. (Source : Lamine Baldé)

Feue Hadja Roughiata Diallo, belle-soeur et grande amie de ma mère. Epouse d’abord de Tierno Abdoulaye, enterré dans l’enceinte de la mosquée de Kissidougou. Au décès de celui-ci, elle épousa le frère cadet, feu Tierno Habib, qui succéda à Tierno Siradiou comme imam de la Mosquée Karamoko Alfa mo Labe.
Elle est entourée de ses enfants:

  • De gauche à droite, mes deux jeunes cousins Misbaou et le benjamin, Abdoul-Majid (?)
  • Cousin feu Hassimiou Baldé, avocat tenant sa fille aînée dans ses bras. Il fut condamné et purgea cinq ans de prison au Camp Camayenne, devenu Camp Boiro dans le faux Complot des Enseignants, qui brisa l’élan et la vocation de l’intelligentsia guinéenne.
  • Cousin Elhadj Tierno Aliou Bah, promotion Lénine (la première) de l’université guinéenne
  • Cousine Hadja Asmaou, fille aînée de Neenan Roughiata, épouse d’Elhadj Mountagha Baldé, un survivant du Camp Boiro
Elhadj Siradiou Baldé et Elhadj Abdoulaye Pilimini
Elhadj Siradiou Baldé et Elhadj Tierno Abdoulaye Pilimini. (Source : Lamine Baldé)

Deux de mes défunts cousins, respectivement 2ème et 3è fils de Karamoko Bano (le 2ème fils de Tierno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa-Ndiyan). Ils survécurent aux geôles du Camp Boiro. 

  • A gauche, feu Elhadj Siradiou Baldé, qui fut Commandant du Cercle de Pita, Guinée française, puis gouverneur de région (Boffa, etc.) sous la première république
  • A droite, feu Elhadj Tierno Abdoulaye Pilimini, érudit, commerçant, que seule la mort sépara du Poète national du Fuuta-Jalon, Tierno Abdourahmane, son oncle, camarade d’enfance et de formation à Daara-Labe, et compagnon de tous les jours.

Chacun d’eux est le fondateur d’une nombreuse lignée.

Abdourahmane “Para” et Mountagha Balde
Abdourahmane “Para” Bah et Mountagha Baldé. (Source : Lamine Baldé)
  • A gauche feu Elhadj Abdourahmane “Para” Bah (mon neveu), fils aîné de feu Elhadj Oumar Rafiou et feue Hadja Fatoumata Sylla Diallo
  • A droite, Elhadj Mountagha Baldé (mon cousin), condamné en 1961 à cinq ans de prison dans le faux Complot des Enseignants

Tierno S. Bah

Sacré

Maître et élève d'école coranique, Dionfo, Labé, Fuuta-Jalon. 1955
Maître et élève d’école coranique, Dionfo, Labé, Fuuta-Jalon. 1955 (Archives de l’IFAN, Dakar)

Musique & Poésie Sacrées Fulɓe/Halpular

Gimɗi Ajamiyya

Hadja Mariama Keso. Labe, 2001
Hadja Mariama Keso Bah. Ley-Saare. Labe, 2001 (Photo: T.S. Bah)

(Skype Stereo recording & Adobe Audition digital sound editing — Tierno S. Bah)

Beytol

Si le Filon du bonheur éternel de Tierno Muhammadu Samba Mombeya continue, cent cinquante ans après sa rédaction, à émouvoir les lecteurs de notre pays, c’est surtout à cause de la vocation littéraire qu’il assure au Pular-Fulfulde, à cause de sa versification juste, sûre et élégante, de sa langue saine, savante et subtile, de la volonté nationale d’affirmation culturelle qu’il incarne et du désir d’autonomie et de dignité linguistiques qu’il exprime.

If, one hundred years following its composition, Tierno Muhammadu Samba Mombeya‘s Lode of Eternal Bliss continues to move readers of our country, it’s chiefly because of the literary vocation it bestows on Pular-Fulfulde, because of its balanced, sure and elegant versification, its healthy, erudite and subtle language, and the national will of cultural assertiveness that it embodies as well as the desire for linguistic autonomy and dignity that it expresses. (Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow, 1938-2005)

Sacré
Foi islamique & Tradition orale

Jaaroore

Toraare

Wirdu

Du’aa

Oogude
verbe ; puiser, extraire une matière solide.
Oogirde (nde), pl. oogirɗe (ɗe)
nom ; mine, filon, minerai, métal ; lieu où l’on puise ou extrait une matière solide ; syn. ma’dini, de l’arabe.
Ƴoogude
verbe ; puiser, extraire de l’eau ou une matière liquide.
Ƴoogol (ngol)
nom ; action de puiser, puisage.

Paul Marty. L’Islam en Guinée : Fouta-Djallon

Paul Marty.  Muslim education — Islamic teaching

Translated from French by Tierno S. Bah

I. The clerics (marabout, karamoko)

Fouta-Diallon is replete with clerical schools or dudhe, singular dudhal. There is no single village, even the most humble hamlet, that does not have its teaching karamoko.
There is usually one teacher. However, there is exception to that rule. And it consists in the dozen of important religious centers, convents, or monasteries (zawiya), where up to four professors can hold teaching jobs under the watch of the chief of the brotherhood. Otherwise, the school has but only one teacher, even when the attendance rises to 40 or 50 students.

In such cases, the teachers relies on the older students, who serve as assistants.

In general, the cleric is of the same genealogical lineage as the village inhabitants. Parents are reluctant to depend on a teacher of foreign origin for the education of their children. As a result, the clerics are generally FulBe in the Fouta-Diallon, Maninka and Soninke in the colonies et villages of those ethnic groups… The Diallonké, who are superficially islamized do not have their own teacher. They send their children to FulBe or Malinke schools.

Contrary to Senegal and Mauritania, there are no women heads of schools in the Fouta-Diallon. The Karamoko is always a man, even though his classes often count more girls than boys.

The religious affiliation of the Karamoko has been discussed in detail in previous chapters. It appears that the FulBe belong in majority to the Tidianiya mysticism (Sufi tarikh), as a result of the campaigns of Cheikh Umar Taal from Fouta-Toro and the Toucouleurs of Dinguiraye.
Umar Tall convinced the Fouta-Diallon Karamoko, who accepted his teachings, and who in turn ‘converted’ their students, relatives and the entire country to Tidianiya.

A small number of FulBe Karamokos have remained loya to the Chadeliya tarikh of their their ancestors. That is the case namely in Zawia (Labé) and various other constituencies in Yamberen, Binani, Ndama, and Pita. The Maninka and their cousins, the Diakanké, belong almost all to the Qadria tarikh. The Soninke Karamoko — rulers of the Ghana empire 7th-12th century— are split between the Qaderiya of the Moors Cheikhs and the Tidianiya of the Tukulor masters of Dinguiraye.
Most Karamokos are agriculturalists. And they integrate the teaching curiculum
with the labor of their students. Some are imams at mosques or muezzin (salli). Few are dealers (dioula). None of them holds public functions (province or village chief, tribunal juges). Tradition holds that such functions are incompatible with Koranic teaching…

The Karamoko are routinely involved in the supply of amulettes and other spiritual objects. Some of them derived considerable income from such activities.
Every teaching cleric owns a small book collection, whose content rarely varies:

  • The Coran form two or three different editions, and in often manuscript version.
  • One or two law books: the Risaala, Tohfa, or the Lakhdari « Concise »
  • A treaty or two about mysticism and theology, such as the “Little Soleymi” and the Rima by Al-Hadj Omar
  • Writings in Pular
  • Pious works such as the Dalaïl al-Khairat.

Catalogs of the most important arabic libraries owned by Clerics are listed in the appendix.

One finds also old issues of newspapers and journals or magazines from Morocco and the Middle East. Often, there are handwritten fragments of recipes for amulettes, charms, and other magical objects. Sometimes, excerpts from the Protestant Bible, published in London or Boston, and sold by preachers based in Sierra-Leone…

II. The students

The number of Koranic schools is hard to estimate. It’s in perpetual change. Perhaps, it has decreased a little in recent years, particularly in the provinces where it was flourishing before our [the French] occupation: Labé, Touba, Dinguiraye.

The average number of students (Karanden, a Maninka composite term from karan = to read and den = pupil) seems to have dropped both in the institutions of higher learning (zawiya) and in the elementary koranic local schools.

The Karamoko and others attribute the drop in Koranic school enrollment to the freeing of the servile labor by French colonial authorities. As a result, the economic status of former well-to-do families has been severely affected. And such families were the main source of enrollment of students in Koranic schools. They must now employ their children to work in the fields, or to watch the herds of cattle, or to gather india-rubber. Consequently, those offspring can no longer attend the dudhal. Others drop out as soon as they have acquired the minimum familiarity with the Koran.

Conversely, the captives, who formerly paid no attention to instruction, are able to provide for themselves and, imitating their former masters, are sending their children to Koranic schools.

On the other hand, the coming of the French school has deprived Karamokos of some of their educational practice, and perhaps of the best elements. Yesterday’s chiefs, today’s up-and-coming elements, all perceive that european know-how and the mastery of French language, are absolutely necessary to achieve and to keep up by oneself with the French authorities. Accordingly, they shorten the Koranic curriculum of their children to free them for the French school…

Girls enrollment in Koranic schools is quite impressive. They represent a third, sometimes half of the school. Most parents allow them to study for two or three years. This is the length of time needed for learning the Fatiha, the short Opening the Holy Book, and the ritual of prayer.

Boys study longer. The setting is co-educational, but the two sex-groups each study in their corner. For equal schooling, the girl shows equal intellectual progress as her male schoolmates.

Up until recently, the French colonial government had organized the timetable so as to allow teaching in both Arabic and French. The schedule was a follows:

  • 7-10 am: French class
  • 10 – 11:30 am: Arabic class
  • 14-16 pm: French class
  • 16 – 17:30 pm: Arabic class

The experiment was quite successful. And the natives enjoyed it. Their performance in Arabic at the detriment of the French results. They advanced their knowledge of the Koran, the Borhan, the Risala and the Miyara, well ahead of their master of the metric system. The Arabic instructor copied his lessons from the French teacher, and he heeded the latter advice. Thus, all over Fouta-Diallo little merdersas flourished, where Arabic thrived at the expense of modern instruction. Today, it has been established that such fusion of the two school systems does not benefit the French component. Besides, we do not have to work for the expansion of the Arabic language and the religion of the Prophet. Consequently, the two schools were separated… Insistance was placed on the need for Koranic dudhe to provide the French school with as many students as possible.

The Karamoko —Foula, Toucouleur or Diakanké— is very interested in the future of his pupils. He monitors them closely, even after-school hours. He keeps their parents informed of their work and school results…

III. The school
1. Physical environment.

The class takes place in open air. There is no specific building or housing. It is held in the middle of the compound (galle), between the houses; in the rainy season, it uses the verandah of the house of the teacher.

There is even sometimes an itinerant school. The teacher travels with his pupils and he teaches during halts and stop-overs.

The teaching equipment is rudimentary. First, the small plank (alluwal, from Arabic al-luhaa) of rectangular shape rounded up at the top, and purchase for 50 centimes at the blacksmith shop. Often it is made of two joint small planks, linked by a cupper ring. The plank is carved out of green wood. It dries up with time and the fiber tends to fall apart.

The planks are made out of well-known tree species: endhamma, munnirke, belende, and koyli.

The pen is a reed made of various acquatic species found on the banks of rivers, or with bamboo cuts.

Ink (ndaha) is of two types. It is fabricated with local ingredients.

• The first type of ink comes from the fruit of the boori and wombuDi trees. The fruits are boiled for hours, then a small piece of iron (from an ax or a hoe) is added, along with tobacco. The concoction is left to simmer for awhile before the product is exposed to the sunlight for days.

The other type of ink is made of bark from the kahi-boodye tree. It follows the same procedure as above. However, the iron piece is replaced with residue from the blacksmith’s crucible. The students make their ink and pens, under the teacher’s supervision. The industrial ink is unknown in Koranic schools.

The plank is cleaned and polished white with the green leaves of the nyennye tree. When they become dry, it is used a sponge after been soaked in water.

2. Time table

There are three class sessions a day.

In the early morning, from sunup to 8 am. The students rise earlier than their parents, or even their Karamoko. They arrive individually, silently pick up their plank in the verandah, and they begin reading aloud and memorizing their lesson. Arguably, this hum does not interfere with the sleep of the teacher, who appears only at 7 am. His presence is not acknowledge by any mark of deference or politeness.

  • From 8 am to noon, the class works in the field of the teacher. At noon, come the break, the meal and some rest.
  • From 2 pm to 4 pm, work resumes in the field. At 4 pm, the students scatter in the bush to gather firewood, thatch grass, ink ingredients, pen stems, etc. This exercise is more like a recreation intended to enliven a long evening. However, it allows for the gathering of the supplies needed for lighting and the nightwork.
  • From 6 pm to 8 pm, more studying. Then, the teacher says: Enough. The children pile up the planks as usual in the verandah, and everyone goes home.

The young students can misbehave. The little oversight from the teacher allows them to play and chat. And they do not hesitate. Accordingly, there is no specific time set aside for breaks in the class schedule. They are playful even in presence of the teacher, although they behave mischeviously. A proverb says that :

If you see a karanden misbehave, that’s because he is out of sight of the Karamoko.

There are two holidays per week: Thursday and Friday. Thursday is a resting in homage to the leave given to the children of Mecca, in honor of his son-in-law, Ali, who had come home a victor. Friday is a holy day, and work is not allowed, therefore the Karamoko cannot teach. Thursday is for the children, and Friday for the teacher.

The periods of vacation (gurte) varient widely from the Senegalese or the Moors.There are two annual periods.

The entire month of Shua’l, or second month of the lunar calendar.

The first two decades sometimes including the third decade of the month of Hijja, the twelth month of the year.

The Koranic teachers recommend to the children to work a little durant the vacation. Older students must read every day a few chapters (Surats). The little ones keep their plank to review it.

The season of fieldwork induce a noticeable reduction in the intellectual fervor. The children must carry out intense work in the property of their Karamoko: tillage, sowing, weeding, and harvest. Such a schedule only allows them to return to the village in the evening. By that time, they have no desire to spend time reading their lesson. And the teacher is quite understanding.

Sometimes also, especially when the gardens are somewhat distant, the children stay away for five days of servile labor. They return home only on Friday evening. In such cases, the Karamoko ask them to take their plank so that they can study a little during pauses.

The regular regime is non-residency. Children go home when class is dismissed. However, often, —and this rules applies to the older students—, they live in a hut within the compound of the teacher and under his responsibility. Their parents supply the food, and they eat together.

For children whose parents reside in distant hamlets, such rule applies generally. Then the children have a host family, who send them day and night a meal of maize or fonio. The parents compensate the expenses. The Karamoko does not intervene.

School holidays coincide with the progress of the students in their learning of the Koranic text. There are six levels of such acknowledgment. They are examined in detail the sub-section about the curriculum. Each level is the occasion of culinary celebrations. The parents send to the compound of the Karamoko calebashes filled to the rim with maize, mil, or fonio.

They complement the food with a live chicken, a goat, a sheep, and toward the completion of the cycle, one or several bulls. Everyone shares the meals and enjoys the feast.

The Foula sobriety precludes the inclusion of music and drum beating in such festivities, as is customary in other black countries. However, external signs are evident: visits, exchange of gifts, congratulations, new clothes, pulled out of the coffres and jewelry testify to the accomplishments of these school laureates.

3. The teaching.

The overall objective is to teach students the fundamental texts of Islam, beginning with the Kur’an. The advanced stages of learning will dispense the basics of law and interpretation, in Pular this time, as opposed to the mechanical memorization of the lower degrees.

Meanwhile, the Karamoko emphasizes the initiation to the rites of the prayer, the technique of zikr of the brotherhood, the recitation of the wird etc. All in all, he accomplishes a mission of practical catechism, unknown to the other Black marabouts.

The pedagogy of teaching is structured as follows:

  • Jangugol: Reading
  • Windugol: Writing
  • Firugol: Explanation of the Koran in en Pular, or pratical exegesis
  • Fennyingol: Advanced studies.

A. Jangugol, or the first cycle of teaching, aims at teaching the children to read in Arabic. It includes three parts:

  • Ba or study of the alphabet
  • Sigi or pronunciation and spelling
  • Findituru or rendingol, assembling together letters, sounds, and words, for correct reading.

The Karamoko begins with tracing on the child’s plank the first word of the Koran:

Bismi « In the Name of » and he teaches him to chant, by breaking down the letters

  • ba, sin-nyiiyhe, miimu, ra, i.e., « the ba, then the siin-with-teeth, the rat-like miim »Such a method is perfectly reminiscent of the Lancelot [college] at Port-Royal [during the French Renaissance] and the Garden of Greek Roots [Onos « the donkey that sings so well ».The Karamoko continues with the second word:« Allah », which yield the following four letters:
  • Alif, lam, lam, haa-piBo [the curved H].

It goes on for the entire Fatiha, then for the last Surats of the Koran, studying in reverse from the last Surats du Coran, up to Waylun li Kulli (Sourat IV, Hamza).

The Ba ends at that level. All the letters of alphabet have been reviewed in their different occurrence in the syllable and the word. They are now familiar.

Then, it’s back to the Fatiha for the drilling in correct pronunciation and spelling (Sigi). The same passages of the Koran are used.

Finally, the focus —still on the same corpus of texts— shifts to reading proper, combining letters and sentences.

The Jangugol ends. It’s time for the first school celebration.

Henceforth, the study of the Koran resumes uninterrupted. Based on the tradition, it is carried out from bottom up, in six portions, each punctuated with a feast. Those periods are:

  • From the Opening (Fatiha) of the Koran to Surat IV, Hamza
  • From Surat Hamza to Surat Al-Malk (LLXXII)
  • From Surat Al-Malk to Surat Yaasin
  • From Surat Yaasin to Surat Mariama
  • From Surat Mariama to Surat Tuuba IX
  • From Surat Tuuba to Surat II (The Cow)

Even before completing the Jangugol, the child begins the rudiments of writing, or Windugol.

The Karamoko trains the karanden in the usage of the writing reed (karambol, sing.; karambi, plur.) as he makes copy a sample text he wrote himself at the top of the plank. Once they are fluent in this exercise, the Karamoko give the students a copy of the Kur’an. They must transcribe a passage every day. Such a practice of the book by the Foula differs markedly from the Moorish custom, where the student receives a Kur’an only after he has memorized thoroughly the Surats. That way, he is compelled to learn them. In Fouta-Diallon, to the contrary, the teachers are unanimous in their finding that mnemonic knowledge has been declined considerably in the last quarter century. They blame the phenomenon on the widespread availability of copies of the Kur’an at bargain prices. Hence, it has become needless to rehash indefinitely the holy book, since one could get a copy for 3.50 Fr. at the dealer.

C. Jangugol and Windugol

They are carried out until the age of circumcision. Indeed, most karanden do not complete the first two cycles. As soon as they reached the level of « DursuBe » (sing. « DursuDo »), i.e., graduates in Kur’an, they move on.

After circumcision, the level of higher learning begins, with theologie and exegesis. It is the Firugol, which includes:

• Kabbhe (or Tobbhe), the equivalent of Arabic Tawhid , which is the study of Divine One-ness, considered as the founding principle and the bedrock of islamic catechism.

• Tafsir, exegesis of the Koranic text, with interpretation et explication in Pul-pulle [Pular].

For a while, the French colonial authorities made a big fuss about Kabbhe, perceived either as a secret society or as a mysticism special to the Foula. Actually, Kabbhe is simply a translation in Pul-pulle [Pular] of the Arabic word Tawhid. In Islamic studies, the science of Kabbhe teaches the tenets of divine unity, in short the theological dogma itself.

On the basis of the teaching of the Soleymis (Soleymi Bobo and Soleymi Mawnde, i.e., the Little and the Great Soleymi), as well as the Barahin of Sanusi, the FulBe scholars build combinations of words, letters and numbers: a practice they share with Eastern and Western erudites. This brings to memory the academic rivalries in the universities of the Middle Age.Today, it is perpetuated in the “brain teasing” sections of newspapers. There is not even the shadow of a cabal or a sect here. The initiates are simply the most learned people, and their mysterious knowledge is only those of the savant who has deepened the discovery of the dogma and who has consumed the fruit of the tree of science. All things that are out of reach for the servant and the Pullo Buruuro (the non-educated Bush Pullo)

Here are the opening words of the Kabbhe, as they are found in the works of Arab theologians. They are provided to refute the current opinion lending to this Foula teaching the mystery of a cabal.

The books revealed by God to humans number in 104. However, 100 still remain unknown to us in this day and age. The four we know are:

  1. The Pentateuque of Moses
  2. The Psaums of David
  3. The Evangile of Issa (Jesus Christ)
  4. The Kor’an of Muhammed

But the doctrines of the 104 revealed books are contained and condensed in the last four.

The last four are contained and condensed in the Qur’an.

The entire Qur’an is contained within Fatiha, which is the Opener of the Holy Book.

The Fatiha is contained in its entierety in introductory formula:

  • In
    Arabic: Bismilaahi Rahmani Rahiimi
  • In Pular: En barkinorii Inde Allaahu, Jom Moyyhere Huubhunde, Jom Moyyhere Heeriinde.
  • In English: In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

That formula is condensed in Allah. The numerical value of the letters composing Allah is 66. It breaks down as follows:

A (1) L (30) L (30) AH (5)

By adding up the above numbers, we get a result: 66 (sittu wa sittuuna, in Arabic), which is a sacred number. All the qualities of Allah (50) and his Prophet, Muhammad (16) are embedded within.

Those divines qualities are as follows:

  • 25 positives qualities:
    • Existence
    • Eternity
    • Immutability, etc.,
  • 25 negative qualities (i.e. that are NOT applicable to Allah):
    • Non-existence
    • Contingence
    • Non-permanence, etc.

The same schema applies for the 16 Prophetic qualities.

After the Qur’an, the students assimilate quickly those introductory notions to the Kabbhe (Nodes of Knowledge), which are prerequisites, argue the Karamoko, for a fulfilled life.

A Pullo who does not know these fundamental truths cannot validly and ritually slaughter an animal (hirsugol ko dagii). These revelations are at the roots of Islam.

The study of the Kabbhe is followed up by the Tafsir, or exegesis and interpretation of the Koranic text. The FulBe have long established that their language is a sacred idiom, second only to Arabic, but preceding by far the languages of their neighbors, fetishists as well as Muslims.

It is a fact that Qur’an can only preserve its sacred nature by keeping its arabic form. A translation would thus alter its formal composition and its meaning. That explains why up until recently, the great Sheick ul-Islam of Istanbul, issued a interdiction (fatwa) against the translation of the Qur’an in any foreign language.

For quite some time, however, the Qur’an has been translated in Pular, both orally and in writing. Several versions, remarquable for their precision and elegance, circulate among the Karamoko of Fouta. Such works are the basis of the instruction that the Foula give to their students. The school system relies probably less on memory, but it is more intelligent and rational than that of the other Black countries.

In addition to the literary arabic publications already mentionned, (the two Soleymi, Sanusi and all the other commentaries of the Holy Book) the Firugol includes the study of several local works. These contributions complement the religious studies with elements of mystical science:

  • Rimah
  • Soyuf
  • Safinat as-sa’ada
  • Djuahir al-Maani

Al-Hadj Omar authored the first three, which provide ascetic and mystical grounding. The last book, by the founder of the Tijaniya tarikh, is a manual of piety, a breviary, and a meditation guide.

Last, M. A. Le Chatelier has underscored the local characteristic of Foula religious studies. Already in 1888 he had noticed a collection of works written in Pular by FulBe authors, who are still revered in the universities of the country. The most renowned are:

  • A book of theology by Usman dan Fodio, founder of the Sokoto empire (Northern Nigeria)
  • A book of prayer and ethics by Tierno Saadou Dalen, named: Jangen Yo Musibbhe « Let us read, O my brothers »
  • A book of theology and law by Tierno Mamadou Samba Mombeya and titled Oogirde Malal (the Source of Eternal Bliss).
  • A book of law and ethics, titled Kabbhe Pular, also by Tierno Mamadou Samba
  • The Ballafuyee by Tierno Jaaje, a poetic compilation in honor of the Prophet.

The Firugol culminates in an exam taken in the yard of the mosque, in presence of a jury composed of the main Karamoko of the province. An examiner reads out loud a passage excerpt from the lower end of the Qur’an (location of the longer and more difficult chapters). The postulant must translate the portion in Pular, highlighting his translation with the appropriate comments.

Upon admission, he is conferred with the title of Tierno, which is a lifetime distinction and title. The ritual slaughter of a bull marks the end of this academic ceremony.

D. The top students who have completed the Firugol enter the Fennyu or general domaine islamic sciences . Essentially, this means the study of:

  • Law,
    Fiqh or Fiqha in the following books: Tohfa, Risaala, Lakhdaari, Khalil and the various comments available about them
  • Classical Arabic as availableintreateses such as:
    • Maqamat
    • Dura’id
    • Borda
    • Mu’allaqat, etc.
  • Grammar in the Jarrumiyya, the Alfiya, etc.
  • Various collections of Hadiths, etc.

Only an elite of few in Fouta-Diallon possesses such a high degree of knowledge of Islamic culture. They are the Alfa, which is Pular abbreviation of the Arabic expression Al-Fahim, i.e., the savant, the sage. In essence, this academic title crowns the cycle of islamic studies. It’s the last graduate degree of knowledge. Somehow, it’s the equivalent of the doctorate inasmuch as Tierno was comparatively the equivalent of a masters degree. It requires a public exam before a jury at the Mosque, just like the Tierno ceremony. Upon passing the test, the Alfa earns the right to bear a turban, just like the Almamy. A significant distinction is enforced though: the tail of the headcover must fall on the back not on the shoulder, which is the exclusive hallmark of the Almamy. Also, the Alfa can wear his turban only of Fridays and on other holidays. In contrast the Almamy bears his in permanence.

As for the Qutubu and Waliyu titles, they derive from Arabic. They designate an erudite Karamoko who has reached the level of perfect sainthood (Waliyu), or the full mastery of islamic science (Qutubu). Currently, public opinion holds that Tierno Aliou Bhuubha Ndiyan of Labe, Tierno Ma’awiatu of Pita and Tierno Mamadou Chérifou, of Zawiya (Labe), are all Waliyu.

Tierno S. Bah
Technical & Cultural Adviser
Prince Among Slaves.
Washington, DC. 2005

Morts et rédemption d’Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow

Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow (1933-2005)
Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow (1933-2005)

Certains individus meurent plusieurs fois avant de rendre l’âme. Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow appartient à cette catégorie exceptionnelle dans la mesure où trois morts ponctuèrent sa vie.

  1. La première fut pseudo-juridique. Elle fut proclamée par contumace le 23 janvier 1971, conformément aux verdicts du Tribunal ‘révolutionnaire’ du régime de Sékou Touré.
    Alfâ dut la survie à son exil en France, où il vécut
    jusqu’à l’effondrement du parti-état. On ignore l’impact psychologique des procès staliniens du PDG sur les réfugiés. Mais l’on sait que, selon le Général Lansana Conté, telle une épée de Damoclès, leurs sentences extra-judiciaires pendent encore sur la tête des anciens exilés. Cependant, ces menaces cyniques ne sauraient effrayer ni les vivants (Alpha Condé et cie.), ni encore moins ceux — Ibrahima Baba Kaké, Siradiou Diallo, Alfâ Ibrahim Sow— qui ont déjà rejoint l’au-delà.
  2. La deuxième fut symbolique. Elle résulta de son abandon des études Pular pour la politique, à son retour d’exil à Conakry, au début des années 1990.
  3. La troisième fut physique. Elle eut lieu le 20 janvier 2005. Aucun signe avant-coureur ne nous prépara à une perte aussi grande. Quel mal virulent et pressé a-t-il pu ainsi terrasser ce fleuron de l’intelligentsia doublé d’un vieux routier de la politique guinéennes ? Nous n’en savons rien. Car, en plus de sa courte et fatale maladie, son enterrement hâtif ajoute à la confusion et au choc. Pour la postérité toutefois, la dimension intellectuelle d’Alfâ transcendera son décès.

Les hommages à Alfâ Sow ont mis l’accent sur son activité politique. En réalité, si la politique devint le sommet, la culture était la base de cet iceberg. Lorsqu’il voulut inverser ce rapport, l’univers de cet aîné et modèle de mes années universitaires, s’effrita inexorablement.

Dara-Labé

Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow naquit à Dara-Labé, à une quinzaine de kilomètres au sud de Labé-ville. Cette vaste et populeuse bourgade est l’un des pôles du savoir sur le haut-plateau fuutanien. Vieille paroisse (misiide) du pouvoir théocratique, Dara-Labé fut un haut-lieu de la foi et de la culture islamiques dans la grande province (diiwal) du Labé. La piété et l’érudition de ses maîtres
attirèrent de nombreux disciples (talibaaɓe). Les quatre patronymes Fulɓe (Bah, Barry, Diallo, Sow) s’y installèrent paisiblement avec des étrangers. Parmi eux, un rameau des Nduyeeɓe de Kompanya, village de la banlieue nord de Labé, patrie des Hubbu. Hostiles à la malgouvernance des Almami, ces orthodoxes Qadriya, anciens précepteurs (karamoko) des princes Sediyanke, s’emparèrent par deux fois de Timbo dans les années
1870. Il fallut la ruse, la puissance et la cruauté de Samory pour les réduire…

Dara-Labé jouit aussi du double honneur d’être la lignée maternelle de :

Mais le village est surtout renommé pour les saints (waliyu) : Shayku Oumarou Rafiou Barry (1800-1885)
et Tierno Oumar Sow. Le premier avait reçu le wird tjiani d’Al-Hadj Omar lui-même. Il le transmit à son tour à Tierno Aliou Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan, l’un des grands maîtres des chaînes spirituelles de cet ordre religieux en Afrique de l’Ouest. Quant au second, il assura la formation de son cousin, Tierno Abdourahmane Bah :
théologien, poète, politicien, auteur de la splendide anthologie Yheewirde Fuuta,
et actuel Imam de la Mosquée Karamoko Alfa mo Labe.
Il contribua aux recherches initiales d’Alfâ Sow, qui l’en remercia dans l’avant- propos des Chroniques et Récits du Foûta Djalon.

Enfin, l’apport de Dara-Labé à la Guinée en cadres est remarquable. Certains d’entre eux (Mamadou Sow,
ministre, Abbass Barry,
haut-fonctionnaire, etc.) périrent en 1971 au Camp Boiro.
D’autres, tel feu Elhadj Kolon Barry, eurent une vie longue
et remplie.

C’est donc un jeune homme pétri d’histoire, imprégné de culture, et rompu à l’apprentissage mental, qui s’inscrivit à l’école française. Il en franchit aisément les étapes, tout en approfondissant le goût des belles-lettres et la maîtrise des humanités.

Nanti de diplômes universitaires, Alfâ comprit vite et s’engagea résolument dans sa mission de défense et d’illustration de la culture pular-fulfulde.

Les décennies productives

Professeur, chercheur, éditeur, et opposant au régime du PDG, il devient un publiciste actif et un traducteur brillant. Les livres, articles, conférences et interviews se succèdent. Sa bibliographie inclut les livres des grands maîtres passés et contemporains du Fuuta-Jaloo.
Il popularise la littérature ajami Pular. Successivement, il publie Tierno
Samba Mombeya
, Tierno Sadou Dalen, Tierno Aliou Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan, etc. Les éditeurs français Armand Colin, Julliard, et Klincksieck distribuent ses textes rafraîchissants et cultivés, parmi lesquels le Dictionnaire des Hommes Saints et Illustres du Labé de Tierno Diawo Pellel. En 1966, Alfâ Sow participe à Bamako à la codification des alphabets ouest-africains, organisée par Amadou Hampâté Bâ sous l’égide de l’UNESCO.

Ses recherches fructueuses enrichissent ses cours à l’Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (Paris), où il dirigera la Chaire de Pular/Fulfulde. Son analyse technique de la poésie pular devient une référence. Il campe magnifiquement la pédagogie traditionnelle et la contribution originale des écrivains du Fuuta-Jaloo à la littérature islamique. Alfâ Sow ne se limite pas au Pular occidental
de son terroir. Il ajoute le Fulfulde oriental à son répertoire linguistique. Collaborateur du Centre d’Etudes Linguistiques et Historiques par la Tradition Orale (CELHTO, Niamey), il devient un expert en études halpular. Sa carrière et sa stature gagnent en avancement et en réputation.
Les institutions culturelles et ses pairs l’embrassent. Son intelligence, son
dynamisme et sa productivité le hissent au panthéon des grands pularisants : Henri Labouret, Oumar Bâ, Pierre-François Lacroix, Ousmane Poreko Diallo, Christiane Seydou, Eldridge Mohammadou, etc.
Il fonde les Editions Nubia et dirige, avec Amadou Hampâté Bâ,
la Société d’Etudes Peules. Les deux hommes animent la traduction en Pular/Fulfulde de l’Histoire générale de l’Afrique (UNESCO). Alfâ Sow s’épanouit sur les traces de ses ancêtres, les Hommes du Livre et de l’Encrier. Il bénéficie de leur grâce efficiente (baraka). En public comme en privé, tout semble lui réussir. C’est l’apothéose.

Mais parallèlement à cette prodigieuse activité intellectuelle, et depuis le milieu des années 1950, le virus de la politique le ronge. Ses débuts militants coïncident avec l’époque des rêves de la décolonisation et l’espoir d’un renouveau africain. Les promesses de l’autonomie et l’aurore des “soleils des indépendances”, éveillèrent les passions. Dr. Thierno Bah (Le Lynx n° 671) et Saïdou Nour Bokoum (La Lance, n° 421) ont dégagé la place d’Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow dans le leadership étudiant et son rôle dans la lutte contre la dictature du PDG.

En 1990 donc, il prend la retraite et se tourne exclusivement vers la politique. Il abandonne plus de trente ans de créativité pour fonder l’UFD à Conakry. Ce faisant, il s’écarte du modèle d’Amadou Hampâté Bâ, qui résista aux sirènes politiciennes et consacra sa vie à l’étude des civilisations du Bafour : les Fulɓe/Toroɓɓe et leurs voisins.
Cela n’empêchera pas le régime de Modibo Keita de l’accuser injustement de corruption. Hampâté riposta dans la presse française. Toutefois, écoeuré par l’ingratitude des autorités de son pays, il s’exila définitivement à Abidjan.

Les conséquences d’un choix

En 1991, Hampâté Bâ meurt. C’était l’occasion unique pour Alfâ Sow de saisir le flambeau du Fils Aîné du 20è siècle.
C’était une chance historique pour cet universitaire du Pulaaku de prendre le relais des Henri Gaden, François de Coutouly, Gilbert Vieillard, Tierno Chaikou Baldé, etc. Hélas, il revint à feue Hélène Heckmann de s’occuper des archives de Hampâté Bâ.
Alfâ Sow quitte donc les cafés parisiens de La Seine et du Quartier Latin. Au lieu de consolider son entreprise intellectuelle, il s’installe à la Pâtisserie Centrale de Conakry. L’exhumation des trésors culturels du Fuuta-Jaloo ne l’intéresse plus. Il se détourne de la recherche pour les mirages de la politique. Il rejoint ainsi les légions de Fuutanke auto-exilés à Conakry. Et qui, par leur exode massif, accentuent la crise de leur région. C’était une forme de suicide. Et pourtant, la politique lui avait déjà valu sa première mort (voir plus haut). Alfâ savait donc que si la Guinée broie ses éducateurs, scientifiques, intellectuels, artistes, et sportifs, elle dévore ses politiciens. Son parti n’ajouta rien à son prestige de chercheur. Au contraire. En 1998, il devint le directeur de campagne d’Alpha Condé. Ce rôle secondaire ne fit guère l’unanimité. De fait, il lui valut l’incompréhension et le rejet. Son parti éclata peu après.

En 2001 et en 2004 les ONG Tabital Pulaaku International et Tabital Pulaaku Guinée (TPG) sont créées à Bamako et à Conakry respectivement.
Toujours victime de l’aveuglement partisan, de l’ostracisme politique des siens et de son auto-isolement culturel, et comble d’ironie, Alfâ Sow est écarté du processus. De toute évidence, l’environnement politicisé et intellectuellement stérile de TPG n’aurait pas favorisé une participation effective de l’expert. La collaboration eût été donc impossible.

Rédemption d’Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow

L’hérédité et la destinée avaient programmé et préparé Alfâ non pas pour la politique, mais pour la quête intellectuelle. Sa réussite ou sa faillite ici-bas furent fonction de l’acceptation ou du rejet de son propre sort.

En août 2004, au crépuscule de sa vie, j’eus un entretien inopiné avec lui dans les locaux du Lynx. Je l’invitai à participer à des causeries que je voulais organiser sur ses publications. D’emblée, il accepta l’offre. Mais le rendez-vous n’eut pas lieu de son vivant. Il sera désormais posthume, et consistera en l’étude rédemptrice de l’oeuvre culturelle d’Alfâ Ibrâhîm
Sow.

Tierno Siradiou Bah

Note. Lire également : Le Professeur Alfa Ibrahima Sow

The cultural policy of the PDG

“Such regimes of the family sort seem to go back to the old laws of inbreeding, and not anger but shame is felt when we are faced with such stupidity, such an imposture, such an intellectual and spiritual poverty.” (Frantz Fanon. The Wretched of the Earth)

The following is a review of the situation of library and information science, of precolonial Ajami literature and oral tradition under the regime of the Parti Démocratique de Guinée, referred to hereafter as the PDG. The emphasis on the Party stems from historical circumstances. The PDG won the 1956 elections by a landslide and gained an overwhelming majority (57 of the 60 seats) in the Territorial Assembly. Under the provision of the Loi-Cadre, adopted by Paris to enforce semi-autonomy in the sub-Saharan French colonies, it was consequently called on to form the Government. After the proclamation of independence in October 1958, the PDG went on to establish an unchallenged supremacy over the legislative, judiciary and executive branches of the State. As suggested, I identify here three domains. The first two, the urban and the Ajami domains, are relevant to library and information science in Guinea; the third, the oral domain, pertains to the broader realm of cultural policy.

  1. The ‘urban’ culture resulted from early contacts with Europe and the subsequent colonial domination. It encompasses a wide range of communicative skills in French, mainly in the administrative, professional, technical, educational and diplomatic sectors. Under the PDG rule, import and distribution restrictions severely affected the circulation of printed information. Moreover, the primacy of ideology and politics seriously hampered scientific, intellectual and artistic endeavors. Thus not only was education hard hit by the regime’s chaotic policy, but learned activities and technical skills, which together support teaching, recorded a tremendous setback. At the demise of the PDG regime, in April 1984, the country had only one library, squeezed in the wing of an office building which was not designed for intensive public access. The previous facility had been vacated to house the ministry of information. Besides the national library, the other facility was at the Institut Polytechnique Gamal Abdel Nasser (IPGAN) of Conakry. It was open to students, faculty and staff. However, that library was in even worse shape. For with the exception of occasional and symbolic donations by diplomatic missions, the University library did not receive any addition to its stacks from 1970 to 1981. It lacked an acquisition policy: purchase, subscriptions, exchange agreements. At the time of my appointment as director of the IPGAN library and during my short term (1981-1982), I could witness, helpless, the extent of the degradation of Guinea’s information and library resources. Finally, a smaller collection was kept at the Ecole des Cadres du Parti. It consisted of a roomful of political and literary books in French. But its access was even more restricted. At the same time, Guinea was boasting one of the highest school graduation ratios in Africa. Thus the University, or Centre d’Education Revolutionnaire (CER) du 4è Cycle, in the official jargon, counted more than 30 departments of agriculture, botany, zoology, etc. These stunted institutions remained in a total denudement with respect to teaching and research equipment. The school system did not provide students and instructors with the minimum documentation and research tools. As a result, the education received by two or three generations of Guineans remains questionable. Faculty and students lacked reading material while Guinea possessed the P. Lumumba printing plant, probably the largest in West Africa. Equipped with a complete if not state-of-the-art East German technology, the plant ran way below its installed capacity. But nothing mattered as long as it managed to publish Horoya, the official newspaper and the literature of the Party: essentially the writings (more than 25 volumes, two collections of poems) and lengthy speeches written by Ahmed Sekou Toure, the Supreme leader of the Revolution. Meanwhile, mismanagement, lack of incentives in training, promotion, salaries, stretched employees apathy to extremes. Plant workers’ indifference was lifted only when they could carry out side orders (business and invitation cards) to make ends meet. The situation at the National Archives was identical. The building — formerly a leprosy sanatorium located on the seashore — had no ventilation, no air conditioning. Invaluable documents were either mutilated, removed or let to decay in the humidity of the oceanic climate. Elsewhere, in the respective sites of local government in the hinterland, documents were subject to the same fate. In Labe, for instance, papers of historical importance piled up on the floor instead of being filed. In 25 years of rule, the PDG regime did not show any concern for the collection and the preservation of the country’s history. For instance, collections relating to Guinea’s colonial past, such as the Fonds Gilbert Vieillard at IFAN (Dakar) were ignored. In the same way, history unfolding under the revolution was poorly or not recorded at all.
  2. The Ajami domain. Despite its prevalence, the literature in Roman alphabet is not the only form of written communication in Guinea. Quite on the contrary, Guinea has had an extensive Ajami literature, dating from the precolonial era. Mainly written in Pular using a customized Arabic alphabet, the Ajami counts masterpieces, such as Tierno M. Samba Mombeya’s pioneering work, which now belongs to the universal literary domain. Embedded in tradition, this literature has greatly contributed to Islamic culture, by and large. Its authors use their thorough knowledge of classical Arabic to emulate its poetic system and authoring techniques. Takhmis is one of these techniques; it has to do with inserting new verses in another writer’s poem without disturbing the fundamental pattern(s): alliteration, rhyme, musicality, rhythm, etc. The addition of three lines to the previous binary rhymes yields five-verse stanzas, also rhymed. The Ajami provides the framework for a creative spirituality expressed in various aspects of theology and philosophy. Finally, it is conducive to an ethnography of speaking (sermons: waaju, chant: jaaroore, psalms: beyti, recitations: hunjo) and to an ethnography of writing (calligraphy: bindi nhardhinaaɗi, talismanic: talki, etc.) Today, although Alfa Ibrahim Sow, et al. have edited an important Pular Ajami collection in Paris, in Guinea, handwritten Ajami works continue to be scattered in rural private collections of Muslim scholars. Evidently, the PDG regime did not perceive the relevance of Ajami to the national heritage. In the same regard, the Nko (Maninka) graphic system developed by Suleymane Kante and the Kpelewo-Lomaghoy scriptures of the Forest, received only a short-lived official interest on the eve of the World, African, and Black Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) held in 1977, in Lagos (Nigeria).
    The ‘urban’ and Ajami domains reflect each the nature of the dominant culture, i.e., the colonial state (1896-1958) and the precolonial Islamic hegemonies, for instance, the Fuuta Jaloo Islamic theocracy (1725-1896). They must be distinguished from oral popular culture per se.
  3. The oral domain and the PDG’s cultural policy. Last but not least, orality and verbal art represent the bulk of Guinea’s cultural life. Yet, despite the availability of modern recording technology, they received no support. The State radio, the University, the National library, and the Party’s institutions failed to give orality the adequate and neccessary attention it deserves. Consequently, the land of Farba Mamma Niang, Farba Tuura Seck, Bakary Cissoko, Facely Kante, and many other brilliant carriers/performers, Guinea, today, has no consistent records on the life and contribution of these and other great minds and talents. Furthermore, there was no effort to enhance the diverse genres of popular art and knowledge. No center, institute or otherwise funded body for the endowment of traditional art was created. Yet valorization of African culture is still considered by some as a tangible achievement of the revolutionary regime. Such an opinion can only be based on a superficial evaluation of the PDG’s views and praxis regarding traditional society. The fact is that the PDG failed to build a lasting legacy, domestically as well as externally.

PDG’s domestic cultural policy

Popular art was selectively enlisted in the ideological propaganda aimed at strengthening the nation-building process. Slogans such as “la creation d’un homme nouveau” asserted the necessity to eradicate colonial mentality. To convey its message the Government encouraged the creation of an official art: songs, dance, poetry, and painting. However, by dwelling on the Party’s past achievement, mainly the proclamation of independence from France this art only materialized Fanon’s foresightful analysis regarding “the baleful influence” of the Leader. The charisma of the Leader, the panegyric of his genealogy , the celebration of his assumed qualities and virtues, became central themes. Simultaneously, a system was set in motion in the youth organization (JRDA) of the Party: it promoted cultural products only if they conformed to the official esthetic doctrine. The Party codified artistic expression and regulated freedom of association. It scheduled cultural festivals, distributed themes, awarded or banned productions, rewarded or castigated artists and their local sponsors. In the course of this authoritative policy, official festivals offered the only legitimate opportunity for voicing social critique while avoiding a zealous censorhip. For instance, drama pieces denounced bureaucratic corruption, abuse of authority, false women’s liberation, etc. In 1983, the drama “A qui la faute ?” expressed a widespread sentiment of failure and waste (of energy, time and human life) when it asked the bitter question “Who bears the culprit?” The theater group of Mamou staged the play. [This may not come as a surprise insofar as the town of Mamou, located in Central Guinea, hosted in the early 1960s an important left-wing faction. The National Political Bureau moved swiftly to disband it. Nonetheless, in the following years Mamou deservedly claimed the title of cultural capital of Guinea for its remarkable contributions to the success of the Party’s festivals.] Not surprisingly, the script of the drama A qui la faute ? was never published, although pirate audio-cassettes of the performance were available on the market. Several other drama pieces addressed burning social issues. But, with the exception of erratic radio re-plays, they all had a life cycle limited to the duration of the Festival itself. La Cinquieme Bis (which I co-edited in 1977) was the only printed version of these products of popular dramaturgy, which indeed document aspects of life under the PDG. The play La Cinquieme Bis depicts the fate of a high-school girl whose education was undermined after she became pregnant from a State company executive, who seduced her with embezzled money, gifts, frivolous parties and a deceitful promise of marriage.

PDG’s external cultural policy

The government of the PDG used a few cultural organizations (Ballets Africains, Ballet Joliba, National Bands) as ostentatious window displays. Featuring talented artists, these institutions earned admiration in Africa. They brought recognition to the regime from delighted audiences around the globe. Their performances heightened the stays of visiting dignitaries. However, the deserved success of these groups should be seen as the exception rather than the rule in the revolutionary regime’ s policy toward traditional culture. Such a success served as a smokescreen for an opportunistic and shallow policy. For Guinea’s brief triumph in music and the performing arts was rooted in the early nationalization of the Ballets Africains (1959) of Keita Fodeba and of the Balla and Keletigui (1961) bands, all founded in the mid-1950s. Subsequently, under the watchful patronage of the Party the performing arts blossomed during a short decade (1960-1970). Adversely, this development created an imbalance, as the material (craftsmanship) and verbal (speech art) lore, traditional sports and games, etc. were neglected. Anyway, a reputation of Guinea as a heaven for African music emerged. It peaked in 1968 when the Bembeya Jazz led by Demba Camara performed its milestone concert Regards sur le Passe: a tribute to Samory Toure, who fought French military expansion. The Bembeya and later the Horoya Band were promoted Orchestres Nationaux. Both bands relocated from their hometowns (Beyla and Kankan) to Conakry. Again, all these bands casted members with impressive credentials and solid mastery of their instruments. For instance, they included young Jeli (Griots) who blended admirably traditional and modern techniques. These individuals turned to oral tradition for ‘new’ material they arranged to suit their style and satisfy their listeners. Guinea’s musical reputation lingered well into the 1970’s, until at least the memorable FESTAC ‘77, where the Ballet Joliba merged with the Ballets Africains in outstanding choreographic shows. Also, on the opening day of the Festival the Nigerian Federal Government hosted a dinner for attending Heads of State and chiefs of delegations. The ceremony was enlivened with live cora music and medieval Mande songs performed by Sory Kandia Kouyate. This Jeli genius grew up as a court poet in the Fuuta Jaloo. He rose to international fame as a stage mezzo-soprano.

Back inGuinea, when television began broadcasting the same year, the Information ministry scheduled Kandia and his Ensemble as the main attraction during the trial phase. However, displaying incredible shortsightedness, the authorities failed to adequately supply the production services with blank videotape to record, duplicate and archive the shows. Instead, they resorted to filming new performances over previous ones, thereby permanently erasing precious artistic material. Consequently, when Kandia died prematurely a few months later, in December 1977, they were left with only a couple of shows. Kandia’s death somehow hastened Guinea’s decline on the African music scene. Sekou Toure, himself, officially acknowledged the setback in the inaugural speech of the 1978 Congress of the Party. In the same regard, when the Ministry of Information stalled the construction of a recording studio, it probably spoiled a chance to reinvigorate a withering official music. The project was cancelled after the director of the state-owned records distribution company fled to Ivory Coast. He allegedly took with him a collection of master recordings. Nobody officially assessed the damage. Whether it was serious remains doubtful given the pace and the nature of the records production program, which depended on scarce contracts with foreign companies. As a matter of fact, the few albums released under the revolutionary regime were those of modern bands. The bureaucracy consistently shunned traditional art (epics, legends, tales, story-telling, etc.), who was only distributed on the radio. It is not clear whether this discrimination was based on elitism or on the assumption that the modern audience had more buying power and thus constituted a viable market. The fact is that the ministry of information treated even the most noted troubadours (Fode Conte, Hamidou Balde aka Bonnere, Moussa Fode, etc.) like second-class artists

Nota bene. After 1970, Senainon Behanzin was appointed Minister of Information and Ideology. This mathematician received Jesuit education, eluded priesthood and claimed to be Marxist. In fact, Behanzin personifies the uprooted African intellectual. As the intellectual adviser to the President he was (with Mamadi Keita, an intellectual nonentity) the official ideologue of the Party. In that capacity he masterminded the cultural policy and the drastic reforms of the education system. Endowed with a photographic memory, Behanzin knew more about Europe’s traditions of scholarship that about Guinea’s people, their history and customs. Highly proficient in French he never sought to achieve competence in a Guinean language. He therefore lacked both knowledge and comprehension of a country his policies affected so dramatically. In 1985, Behanzin was freed from detention and repatriated to the Republic of Benin without further explanations from the current ruling body, the Comité Militaire de Redressement National.
In any case, by the mid-1970s Guinea had fallen under a strife-ridden family dictatorship. The nation building process became less relevant than the ambitions of a kin-based political coterie, anxious to perpetuate its power. Consequently, the extent to which the State sponsored musical groups and soccer teams (Hafia Football Club and Sily National) represented Guinea’s cultural diversity is questionable. In the countryside, such a diversity expressed itself during the 1960s. Minorities’ cultural genres, for instance, Kebendo from the Kissi in the South-East, Patyar from the Wamey in the North-West, gained popularity. However, at the State level the major ethnocultural and linguistic traditions gradually become the standard of creativity and success. This applied particularly to Maninka, who prevailed in the repertoire of the national bands and ensembles —and to a lesser degree to Soso and Pular.

In conclusion, it is not possible to summarize in one formula the PDG’s 30 years of contradictory theory and practice on traditional society. Therefore I shall only make four remarks:

  • After the euphoria of independence had faded and during the last two decades of the PDG rule, the nation-building process was stifled in Guinea by contradictions between the ways of life of a multiethnic, multilinguistic peasant (more than 85%) society and the aspirations of a post-colonial elite to ‘modernity’. For instance, the successive literacy campaigns ended in an impasse, not because workers and peasants did not want to learn but because they could not link literacy to the betterment of their living conditions and to their cultural background. In fact, they passively withdrew from the campaigns after they realized the futility of mastering literacy in their native tongues. They figured out that despite the Party’s claims to the contrary communicative competence in French remained the key to social mobility.
  • During that period, popular oral tradition faced the PDG’s coercive thrust to create its own ‘revolutionary’ tradition. The latter sought to control, exploit and/or suppress the former. Control existed in the form of a tight grid applied to the country. This political, economic and administrative mapping was designed to fit the Party’s structure of democratic centralism. Exploitation took the well-know form of folklorism, i.e., a situation in which the dominant ideology legitimizes the reification and the use by the State of selected aspects tradition and folklore as propaganda tools and internationally marketable items. Suppression was ruthlessly imposed by the PDG leadership, who silenced the small French-schooled intellectual fraction of the capital, snubbed traditional knowledge groups, patronized the peasantry, and resorted privately to beliefs and value systems, behavior patterns, cultural objects and symbols it publicly derided and attacked as “irrational” and “backward”.
  • The hegemonic assault on popular culture failed because it met the resistance of the people and because the PDG was ill-equipped to implement its program. It is true that France’s ‘mission civilisatrice’ spelled domination, exploitation and alienation for her colonies. But again, the singularity of the Guinean case is that instead of building on the meager colonial infrastructure the PDG plunged the country to a critical level of mass deprivation and hardship. It created a repressive environment which shattered a people’s hopes and dreams.
  • A final and optimistic remark though: behind its apparent obedience, oral culture withstood State pressure. It folded but did not break. Today, it provides us with an advantageous platform for study. I submit therefore that it is still possible and urgent to organize the preservation of oral culture by combining conventional fieldwork with the limitless capabilities of digital technology.

Tierno Siradiou Bah
Anthropology Department
The University of Texas at Austin. 1986