Learning About a Different Culture in Maryse Conde’s Segu

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Maryse Conde’s novel Segu tells the vivid story of a family hurtled into the chaos of a rapidly changing world. Conde does a phenomenal job of putting readers into the mindset of her many colorful characters allowing readers access to thoughts and motivations behind these characters’ actions. The story is exceptionally intricate and yet the individual stories all feel interconnected back to the Traore family who are the focus point of the novel. Various themes all play a part in the telling of Segu. From religion to the transatlantic slave trade, from family to commerce, all these themes come together to form a story that ultimately spans cultures, continents, and centuries. This paper will be focusing on the themes of family and religion. The first thing people usually do when encountering or learning about a culture or civilization different from their own is to instantly begin comparing and contrasting the two, especially the family unit. The vast differences between Bambara, Fulani, and Muslim cultures in various parts of Afrca alone are great. When compared to a European style of living, it might as well be a whole other world entirely. A striking attribute of the Bambara people displayed in the novel is the size of their family units. A main character that a good portion of the novel surrounds, Dousika Traore, is father of twenty something children bore by legitimate wives and at least two illegitimate children bore by a concubine and another by a slave. On top of his own large family, Dousika lives in a compound with his own brothers along with their own individual families. The interconnectedness of the family and the ties between them are undeniably loyal, however the actual feelings they hold for one another are an entir... ... middle of paper ... ...ekoro a “dirty nigger” and stating that she would never marry a stinking black. A striking point after this encounter is when Tiekoro explains the events to Siga and contemplates how the terms black and Negro have no meaning to him. In his mind he is a Bambara nobleman. In Gorée, following the storyline of Naba, renamed Jean Baptiste as a slave, a glimpse of Christianity’s racism is seen. Slaves were separated into two distinct groups, one smaller group was made up of the domestic slaves who worked for officers of the local fort on Gorée, signares, or various officials working on the island, the second and staggeringly larger group was “human cattle huddled into the slave houses.” This seemingly indistinct separation of African people into domestic slaves and slaves who would ultimately perform arduous physical labor seems reminiscent of slave practices in America.

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