In West Africa, a region that has seen its fair share of turmoil, Mali has remained a largely peaceful and open society. Much of the counsel and stories communicated by traditional music and arts recount Malian history and how the various ethnic groups in Mali learned to co-exist. Traditional stories explain the origins of interethnic cooperation and family ties, and dictate appropriate behavior in disputes and reconciliation strategies.
Beginning in October of 2014, I4A will coordinate 16 village (rural communes) music festivals over the course of two years. In addition to music and dance, the events will include peace building forums, theatrical presentations on reconciliation, children’s stages, and livelihood fairs. The aim of the festivals is contribute to the reparation of the social fabric of today’s Mali through a return to shared artistic expression, culture, and history, as a way of emphasizing Malian’s similarities and their long-standing tradition of tolerance.
The cultural traditions which will be supported by these festivals, have helped to maintain the peace between Malian tribal groups across generations. If large parts of oral and musical traditions disappear, some traditional belief structures can disappear with them. People can lose their bearings and “right” actions are no longer reinforced. Such a loss of community structure is particularly dangerous as fundamentalism and extremist ideologies seek to infiltrate the historically peaceful and religiously tolerant societies of Mali.
Moreover, protecting time-tested cultural activities that support a positive cultural identity will reinforce traditional values of tolerance and peaceful conflict resolution. With the understanding that a large part of cyclical poverty is mental, the project aims to buttress the value of and traditional cultural “wealth” and support its transfer from generation to generation. Such validation adds to the village and societal cohesion, and strengthens generational ties. Such ties will help inoculate these village populations against the influence of extremist ideologies which threaten Mali, especially in the north of the country.