Between Tradition, Islam & Modernity: Carving Bardic Modalities in Coastal Gambia
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis focuses on the West African bards, jalolu and finoolu, in the coastal area of The Gambia. Since pre-Islamic times, these bards have played an important role in society, functioning as historians, praise-singers, mediators and entertainers. Nowadays, however, the bards are no longer formed by a single structure. They are also exposed to Islamic forms and the forces of modernisation. Conceptualising these various influences as ‘ethical structures’, this research focusses on the question how contemporary Gambian bards, referring both the jalolu and the finoolu, reconcile their traditional roles with the precepts of their Islamic faith and the forces of modernisation. Essentially, this essay is concerned with ethical formation and agency. It explores the various ways in which knowledge, or the lack of knowledge, serves as a source of agency; how conforming to another structure is implicated in the process of producing new cultural forms; and how we can come to terms with seemingly contradictory motivations. The central argument is an affirmation of the bards’ creative powers and their ability to maintain their cultural heritage through a process of strategic transformation.