Teaching Timbuktu and learning about Mali in West Africa

All 3rd Graders in Virginia learn about the Lion King, the medieval Empire of Mali and the mythical city of Timbuktu – where gold was traded for salt ….. sometimes ounce-for-ounce! Here is a photo of VFoM volunteers in Richmond VA teaching young children about Malian art and design.

DID YOU KNOW THE LION KING CREATED THE EMPIRE OF MALI? The Original Lion King was a real man called Sunjata Keita. He seized back his late father’s kingdom at the Battle of Kirina n 1235, where he defeated the Wicked Sorcerer Blacksmith King Sumanguru Kanté who had killed Sunjata’s father. Sunjata was then crowned Mansa = King of Kings.

DID YOU KNOW THERE WERE EARLIER EMPIRES IN WEST AFRICA? The Kingdom of Wagadou was created 1600 years ago by Blacksmiths called Cissé; and it grew to become the powerful Ghana Empire by the year 900. In the late 1100s Ghana became weak and the Soso Empire replaced it, led by another Blacksmith King called Sumanguru Kanté – famous for his music and for his magic.

DID YOU KNOW THAT TRADE ALONG THE NIGER RIVER MADE MALI RICH? Trade was the basis of Mali’s wealth and power; while fish was a major source of protein. The river served a similar function for the Ghana and Soso Empires earlier and for the Sonrai Empire later. Gold was taken north to Timbuktu in canoes, and trade goods from the Sahara (salt, silks, books from Morocco) were carried south. Here is a trading canoe bringing people to the market at Ségou (sister city of Richmond VA).

The beauty of the Niger River at sunset: Africa’s third greatest river flows through Mali.

DID YOU KNOW THAT MOST AMERICAN MUSIC CAME FROM MALI? The people of West Africa brought the blues to America. Mali an music is the root of reggae, jazz, rock ‘n roll, soul, pop, hip hop, rap, even Bluegrass music which fuses Celtic (Irish and Scottish) rhythms with African beats.

TO LEARN MORE look at our Teaching Timbuktu section, or the blog https://robinpoulton.com/africa-asia/teaching-about-mali

Here is a picture of El Haj Papa Suso playing the cora (West African classical harp) in Virginia.