THE MEDIUM OF “TRADITION”: AMADOU HAMPÂTÉ BÂ’S CONFRONTATIONS WITH LANGUAGES, LITERACY, AND COLONIALISM

In: Islamic Africa
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  • 1 University of Chicago

In his efforts to communicate his research on African “tradition”—more specifically oral texts—Hampâté Bâ was faced with a choice of languages and alphabets. Much of his work appeared only in French, the language of his main formal education and administrative training. In collaboration with several French colonial scholar-administrators (Henri Gaden, Colonel R. Figaret, and Gilbert Vieillard) Hampâté Bâ eventually developed a system for writing his native Fulfulde in Roman characters. However for his own Fulfulde religious poetry (“mes seules oeuvres de ‘creation’”), Hampâté Bâ used Ajami (Arabic letters representing non-Arabic languages), a writing system that he also promoted as a medium of wider Fulbe literacy.

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