The Kingdom of Mali
The Mali Empire was an empire that ruled that rose to power in 1230 b.c. and lost its power around the 1450's. The Mali empire shrank to its original size in the 1600's. Mali was a successful empire due to its abundance of gold that they traded with other countries such as Egypt. So much gold was put into circulation that its value was decreased by 10 to 25 percent. When Mali's mansa, Mansa Musa, converted to Islam, most of the people in Mali did too. This conversion helped Mali gain many valuable trade partners and boosted their economy. Mali's land includes part of the Sahara desert in the north west region, hilly lands in the north, and grasslands in the south with the Niger River running through it providing water for farming. The yearly floods caused by the Niger River provided Mali with fertile lands to be used for farming. This land was mainly used for farming because the other parts of Mali were mainly desert or hilly lands. The people of Mali were originally polytheistic and animistic. Then they converted to Islam because of the numerous Muslim traders that came to Mali for trade. Even though the people of Mali adopted Islam, they did not abandon their traditional animistic beliefs. Art in Mali was mainly created to represent and support life-sustaining activities, physical, and spiritual life. People in Mali also had dances where performers wore masks and imitated animal movements. A grand mud-brick mosque was also built in Mali due to the increase in people converting into Islam. Malian foods vary depending on the region but the most common foods were rice, millet, sorghum and fonio (a type of fine-grained cereal). They also ate fish, meat, and vegetables served with sauces and also used grain to make porridge. The kola nut was a nut that is the size of a chest nut. These nuts were often used as gifts and signs of respect. Malians also greeted new people with a kola nut. The meat of these nuts are said to be bitter and leave a buzz on the tongue and are used as a mild stimulant because they contain caffeine. In some regions, a young man would take three kola nuts to a prospective father-in-law when asking for a girl's hand in marriage.