Article 6 of the Manding Charter (Kurugan Fuga) incorporates the concept of working for one’s subsistence in its provisions thus; To win the battle of prosperity, the general system of supervision has been established to fight against laziness and idleness.
Article 32 further states; There are five ways to acquire property [wealth]: buying, donation, exchange, work and inheriting. Any other form without convincing testimony is doubtful.
To this end and out of this concept, every craft is honored and celebrated. It is not uncommon to hear of elders in a traditional Manding settlement venture out to scout for craftsmen whose skills are needed to have them settle in their village for ease of the villagers. Almost every settlement has a smith, weaver, cobbler and teacher. Although these crafts are essential, everyone farms for subsistence and some for commerce. Albeit in primitive fashion, it is still an honored tradition, workers who excel in farming and show dedication to working hard are celebrated figures.
Expanding on the nuances of our language; in the famous tune Jor-Kaa; dedicated to such men of hard work and dedication known as Timpolu, we can see language at use both in poetry and song form. In addition to the various social attributes and symbolism in the poetry/tune; the whole narrative is laced with proverbs and old sayings that still hold true.
What follows are excerpts of the Jor-Kaa Bunibo (poetry)
Yirihuuma boita maloo la in essence saying this will progress steadily starting from the top
Tang tang jali taa lo kuntu kungho to meng baayeh kay wulu n’saa long
This challenges the participants/competitors to prove their manly strength, presence of which is credited to a dedicated mother. It also acknowledges the fact that the same standards cannot be applied to all barring certain limitations.
Borro yeh Kolleh, borri laal singholu mang kaa nyang. Regardless though of one’s strength, all must be tested.
Kaabu beng ta, Jaasing beng ta, Pakawu beng ta Mandinka Demba yaa beh dang. When the emergence of a new champion was relayed to a champion Timpo named Kamang Sanneh, he was so displeased at such outcome that he refused to eat for four days.
Kamang nyaa wuleh ta ko saama la tunkang kembo
Eyes as red as the embers of a blacksmith’s furnace, fuming with rage; a pouting Kamang Sanneh was comforted by his griot Hayri.
Fang Fo mu Jaling taa yaa letti
Hayri told him that singing one’s own praises means the individual lacks a praise singer. Kamang Sanneh’s strength in tilling, in contrast to other men was like that of a plough ox relative to men.
At that contest of strength and endurance come the nuances we seek. Contestants named their plough instruments (hoes) to convey meaning and traits, embellished with symbolism.
Tang Tang Jalolu yeh jenkeh, jang mang keh bantaba beng ti.It’s about to get serious, the only Jaliallowed are the Timpa Jalo.
Each contestant has to name his instrument, in essence relaying a promise at the start as to what outcome to be expected. The names and attributes go as follows;
Wolo N’ding – Jaa jewo kono firrtaa firrtaa. This speaks to the agility of the bearer of that name. Where others may be stalled by obstacles, Wolo N’ding finds no trouble at all and moves with speed effortlessly. So essentially ready for the challenge in light of that trait.
Sayla Koi – E teh meng jella coma for nyaato. Sayla Koi swears by his speed that he will not be seen in the rear, always in the lead.
Kankurang – Kaybalu jimindi ko ding ding. Kankurang here signifies endurance. Considering how labor intensive such work is, people stand up every few moments to catch their breath and stretch their backs. Kankurang in this sense is relatively younger and if the older ones want to keep up, their backs must stay bent in work to earn the coveted title.
Kondi Kondi – Kayba kung bondi baling kono. The seemingly dismissible one who actually gives the seasoned ones a run for their money
Kulang Jang – Baa tayma bamba ding so laa. Daring despite the odds and accompanying risks.
Ninki Nanka – Nyaa meng ngha jeh, ala koi n’teh. A legendary creature whose sighting alone is said to invite death; hence seeing a Ninki Nanka cannot be attributed to good sight but misfortune. In essence, everyone avoids Ninki Nanka much less having anything to do with him. That inherent fear of him is his strength that he will rely on to be crowned the Timpo.
Sunkuto – Sunjolu momo ka dee duu ta la leh. A beautiful young woman is every man’s desire. Naming his tool thus, the competitor is pointing to the efficiency of his tool, and to top it off it is so perfect that to appreciate the beauty and feel of it one has to rise at dawn.
Sunkalang – Kini kandi mondo baa bee la. Sunkalang does not care how hot a dish is; he will dive in, thrive and emerge unscathed. This speaks to the already threatening environment emerging with the above characters and their traits; Sunkalang obviously sounds intimidated but regardless is ready to hold his own. Fear will not deter him.
Beeti Fing – Tilo la boyo ka kuyaa yeh. This variation may not sound familiar to none Niumi natives. Beeti Fing never likes to see the setting sun which signifies the end of the work day. His desire is to keep at it.
Furu N’ding – Baa daa la juu jemmah jay la. They are essentially laggards pulling up the rear, who must have demonstrated such a trait beforehand if not consistently. For that they are taunted with an extra line that goes thus; baa faa taa waamo dunta Furu n’ding sawung naal beh tenkung ta. When the pros hit the tracks, the amateurs assume the sidelines. They pull back right at the beginning to watch the spectacle.
Amongst them too are those with excuses, who’d blame just about anything for their failure.
Yiri kuntu jamba n’tang na buyo bula e kanatu kaywolu beng n’dang na.These ones blame their thumping on stumps holding them back because their clothes got tangled in them.
Kunko to lo laa baalu kala fo leh yiri jang kunol hayi nang.Sneakily trying to stretch their backs, these ones will draw attention to distant colorful birds that will require some straining to see as a delaying tactic thus buying time to rest along with whomever they can interest in their quest.
The poem is much longer than this of course but this abstract in a way helps give some insight into the tradition and what it signifies. Beyond that it points to the complexities of language, a lot of which sadly is disappearing fast in the name of ‘being civilized’; abandoned to be replaced by other foreign languages as used in this medium. Such languages are cannot capture events in their essence, considering the nuances and specifics thereof as determined by geography.
To be continued…