SUNDIATA, The King of Mali

Afriky Lolo’s 2010 production is entitled Sundiata-The King of Mali and is based on the traditional West African story about the life of Sundiata – “The Lion King.” Long before Disney created its epic animated film, the story of Sundiata was told for centuries throughout all of Africa and is included in school curricula as part of history instruction today. The Afriky Lolo production will draw from both fact and legend to retell the story of one of Africa’s greatest heroes.

Sundiata is to West African history what King Arthur is to English history, in that both are popular figures about whom very little is known with certainty. Most knowledge about both has come to us orally from traditions passed down through the centuries. His life story follows the universal theme of a cultural hero’s overcoming of extreme adversity to attain greatness.

Sundiata was the son of Naré Magan Konaté, ruler of the small Malinke kingdom of Kangaba, situated on the Niger River a short distance to the southwest of Bamako, the capital of modern Mali. Tradition says Sundiata’s birth fulfilled an unusual prophecy foretold by a hunter to his father that predicted the boy’s eventual rise to greatness. He was unable to walk throughout his childhood and he and his mother were forced into exile by his half brother.

Sumanguru Kanté, the cruel sorcerer king of Sosso, attacked the Mandinka kingdom causing Sundiata’s half-brother to abandon his throne in fear. Now stepping up to the throne of his father’s kingdom, Sundiata forged a coalition of neighboring small kingdoms to wage a war against the Sosso. He finally defeated Sumanguru Kanté at the Battle of Kirina in 1235 and Sumanguru Kanté disappeared in the Kilikoro Mountains.

This victory is clearly the major event in his life, and it marks the beginning of the Mali Empire. Sundiata was crowned with the title “Massa,” or “king of kings,” as the first ruler of the Mali Empire. Before he retired from active leadership of his armies about 1240, Sundiata and his generals expanded the new empire in all directions, even incorporating the formerly great Ghana Empire and the previously unconquered gold fields of the Senegal
River valley. His model for government would guide the empire into greatness and beyond its zenith toward its eventual dissolution in 1645.