Home Institution

Northwestern University

Publication Date

Fall 2007

Program Name

Senegal: Arts and Culture


This paper explores the complex dynamics at play surrounding jalis, or professional praisesingers, in the culture of the Mandinka people of West Africa. Jalis, almost certainly present among the Mandinka prior to the arrival of Islam in the area, remain one of the strongest reminders of pre-Islamic culture in Mandinka society. However, the art and social roles of the jali have undergone numerous transformations in adapting, conforming to, and sometimes challenging Muslim cultural norms. This paper explores some of the means by which the two cultural fountainheads of Islam and West Africa are reconciled by jalis and other members of Mandinka society, an elaborate process of cultural negotiation that dates back centuries and continues to the present day.


Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Article Location