Kingdom of Mali

People and Culture of Mali

Mali families lived in groups and most of them had a griot, or storyteller, who told the family history. Griots (also called jalis) would also perform songs and tell stories for nobles and kings. The griots were so important to the kings and nobles. Sometimes one king would try to steal another king's griot. This cause conflict between the two kings. The songs and stories they used to play are still very important part of culture today. They are still played and told by the Mali people.

The Kingdoms most famous king was Mansa Musa. He divided the empire into provinses, each had its own governor, and towns that were administer by a mayor. A huge army kept the peace, putting down rebellions in the smaller kingdoms. The Mali Empire collapsed when several states, proclaimed and defended their independence.


The Mali Kingdom was located in West Africa. The Niger River is largest river. It provided water for farming, laundering (wash) and bathing. The northwestern region of it extended into the Sahara desert and it was extremely arid. Then, the central and southern areas, had a annual flood cycle from the Niger River in between August and November. Also, a savannah stretches across the southern region. The people of Mali used the Niger river to travel. They transported bulky goods and larger loads easier than by land. Since the people were living by the Niger river, the lands were fertile so the people did not have drought as much as those living in drier regions. Crops were grown by the river because the land was most fertile there. The Niger River helped develop the kingdom of Mali into a stable economy.

Religious Values

Many peasant farmers believed in the "spirits of the land." They believed in this so their crops would have a lot of success and were closely dependent on them. The religion of Islam was brought over to Mali in 1324 by Mansa Musa, their ruler. He went on a pilgrimage over to Mecca. Before his pilgrimage, Islam was starting to be introduced by traders. Ever since Islam was brought over, it has remained present in the area. The religion of Islam was slowly introduced into their belief system.

Art of Mali

Art played a huge role in the culture of Mali. There were many different type of art forms. Mali artists made masks, statues and jewelry. Wood deteriorates over time unlike the materials that they used. The Mali people used sturdy materials like terracotta and fired clay to make sure that the art would not deteriorate. Both of the statues below represent military soldiers. They symbolize a military soldier going into war. This shows that war was an important topic to the people.

The Mali artists also created masks used for religious purposes. They believed that if the masks were used in ceremonies, it would bring successful hunting and good harvest. They used copper, bronze, and tin to create these masks. The faces are usually long and the mouths on the masks are small. The eyes on the masks are usually looking downward as a sign of respect. Sometimes the artists would decorate the masks with cowrie shells and grass. This shows that the masks were decorated to please the gods.

Mali artists also made jewelry. Jewelry was important to both men and women. The jewelry was made out of gold and occasionally silver. The jewelry was mainly gold because gold was so abundant at the time. Women wore heavy earrings with red wool or silk to protect the woman's ears. The jewelry sometimes had clay or stone beads that were decorated in geometrical patterns. Cowrie shells were also used to decorate the jewelry. The people of Mali wore talismans and charms to ward off evil spirits. Some other pieces of jewelry that the people of Mali wore were amulets, bracelets, and rings.


At all types of gatherings, including gatherings and celebrations Mali people loved to dance. The diversity of Mali greatly influenced their music. There were different styles of music called "Hunters music," "Wassolou music," and "Griot Music."

Some of the famous instruments they used were the Kora, Balafon, Dunun. The Kora was the most recognizable instrument. It is a harp-like instrument and it contains 21 strings. The Balafon is a percussion idiophone that was mostly used in West Africa. Finally, the "Dunun" is typically a cylindrical drum that was covered in rawhide skin. Mali music was very influential and is still very alive today.

Works Cited

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Mali Empire and Djenne Figures: Works of Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2015. <>."Mali." Mali. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <>.

"The Embassy of Mali - Music." The Embassy of Mali - Music. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <>.

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"Mali Breakout - Culture." Mali Breakout - Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <>.