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 The Cultural Space of ‘Sosso-Bala’ in Niagassola


  The sacred instrument Sosso-Bala has symbolized the freedom and cohesion of the Mandingue community since the 13th century. The ritual site where the Sosso-Bala is practiced is also the home of the Dökala family in the village of Niagassola, Guinea. The Balatigui or patriarch of the Dökala family is the guardian of the Sosso-Bala, a long version of the balafon, an African percussion instrument. The patriarch can only play the Sosso-Bala on special occasions like Islamic New Year or for certain burials. He is also responsible for teaching children from the age of seven how to play the sacred instrument. The Sosso-Bala accompanies epic poems of the African Middles Ages, and hymns celebrating the builders of the "Empire of Mali" of the Middle Ages.

Threats:  The Sosso-Bala and its site are at risk from rural migration, the difficult living conditions in Niagassola, trafficking in artifacts, and frequent fires.

Action plan:  Proposals include balafon festivals and conferences and introducing young people to instrument-making. A museum conserving the Sosso-Bala is foreseen as well as a special library at Niagassola. A school where the Balatigui and his brothers can hand on their traditional knowledge is envisioned along with a research institute. Plans call for re-foresting Niagassola and its surroundings to protect the eco-system and control the invasion of the desert.