Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali

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The great Machiavelli once said, "Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times." Indeed, the study of history is important as history does seem to repeat itself. Many people in today's society learn about the past from textbooks and other books, as these are of easy access. Is this really the best way to learn about the past? The people of ancient Africa did not think so, as they had special people called "griots"who passed the people's traditions and history down orally from generation to generation. One such griot, Mamadou Kouyate, recalls the story of the most famous ruler in African history, Sundiata, in D.T. Niane's book Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. This book has become an entertaining, yet scrutinized, source about the history of Mali and it's surrounding areas. Much scrutiny of this tale comes from those who question the validity of the griots, though Mamadou Kouyate is quick to point out that "[His] word is pure and free of all untruth; it is the word of [his] father...griots do not know what lying is" (Niane 1). If the context of the epic is true, then there are many valuable things to be learned from it including the traditions and customs of ancient Africa, and how Sundiata came to rule over such a large area. Based upon a reading of the text, it is easy to see that Sundiata's political power was not based soley on religion, as he used many conventional methods to gain and remain in power. One conventional method that Sundiata used to gain political power was alliances. Before he was even born, it was foretold that Sundiata would be a great king someday. The people of ancient Mali respected the "soothsayers" who foretold the future... ... middle of paper ... ...ral and written methods. The important part is what can be learned from these sources. Though Americans might not be accustomed to hearing great details of their history recited to them as their only means of learning it, it certainly does not mean that other means produce false information. The griots of ancient Africa are sincere in their efforts to consistently pass down their countries' histories, and much of what they say should at least be taken into consideration, this includes the words of Mamadou Kouyate, the griot who tells of Sundiata and ancient Mali. The things learned from his wisdom, including how Sundiata came to power, are important not only to the people of Mali, but also to the world as Sundiata proved to be one of the greatest rulers of the ancient world (Niane 1-84). Works Cited---Only used this one book, so find the info and cite it
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