Septennial re-roofing ceremony of the Kamablon

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The Malinke and other peoples of the Manden region of south-west Mali gather every seven years to celebrate when a new thatch roof is installed atop the Kamablon (or House of Speech) in the village of Kangaba. Built in 1653, the distinctive circular Kamablon of Kangaba shelters objects and furniture of high symbolic value to the community and serves as a village senate. Members of the Keita clan – descendants of the Mali Empire’s founder, Sundiata Keita – and griots with the patronym Diabate are the keepers of the Kamablon’s history and organizers of the ceremony. The re-roofing is an occasion to evoke the history and culture of the Manden through oral traditions and an opportunity to strengthen social bonds, settle conflicts, and predict what will happen for the next seven years. During five days, young people of 20 or 21 years of age take down the old roof and put in place a new one under the supervision and guidance of community elders who transmit on that occasion their knowledge relating to the house, its construction, history and symbolic value. Griots from the nearby village of Kela carry out homage to Sundiata and recount the oral history of the Manden region.

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The Malinke and other peoples of the Manden region of south-west Mali gather every seven years to celebrate when a new thatch roof is installed atop the Kamablon (or House of Speech) in the village of Kangaba. Built in 1653, the distinctive circular Kamablon of Kangaba shelters objects and...

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