Cultural Space of ‘Sosso-Bala’ in Niagassola
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.
Sosso-Bala and its site are at risk from rural migration, the
difficult living conditions in Niagassola, trafficking in
artifacts, and frequent fires.
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.