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Mali: Mali Art / Culture Profile


Mali Art


Malian musical traditions are derived from the griots or jalis The music of Mali is best known outside of Africa for the kora virtouso Toumani Diabaté, the late roots and blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré and his successors Afel Bocoum and Vieux Farka Touré, the Tuareg band Tinariwen, and several Afro-pop artists such as Salif Keita, the duo Amadou et Mariam, and Oumou Sangare.


Though Mali's literature is less famous than its music, Mali has always been one of Africa's liveliest intellectual centers. Mali's literary tradition is largely oral, with jalis reciting or singing histories and stories from memory. Amadou Hampâté Bâ, Mali's best-known historian, spent much of his life recording these oral traditions. The best-known novel by a Malian writer is Yambo Ouologuem's Le devoir de violence, which won the 1968 Prix Renaudot but whose legacy was marred by accusations of plagiarism. Other well-known Malian writers include Baba Traoré, Ousmane Sembene, Modibo Sounkalo Keita, Maryse Condé, Massa Makan Diabaté, Moussa Konaté, and Fily Dabo Sissoko.

Festivals, food, and clothing

The varied everyday culture of Malians reflects the country's ethnic and geographic diversity. Most Malians wear flowing, colorful robes called boubous that are typical of West Africa. Malians frequently participate in traditional festivals, dances, and ceremonies.Rice and millet are the staples of Malian cuisine, which is heavily based on cereal grains. Grains are generally prepared with sauces made from leaves such spinach or baobab leaves, with tomato, or with peanut sauce, and may be accompanied by pieces of grilled meat (typically chicken, mutton, beef, or goat). Malian cuisine varies regionally.


The most popular sport in Mali is football (soccer), which became more prominent after Mali hosted the 2002 African Cup of Nations. Most towns have regular games; the most popular national teams are Djoliba, Stad, and Real. Informal games are often played by youths using a bundle of rags as a ball. The country has produced several notable players for French teams, including Salif Keita and Jean Tigana. Basketball is another major sport; the Mali women's national basketball team is the only African basketball team competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Traditional wrestling (la lutte) is also somewhat common, though its popularity has declined in recent years. The game wari, a mancala variant, is a common pastime.