Yale University Library


Arcadia Niane

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Al Cantío de un Gallo
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Djiibril Tamsir Niane Audiorecordings

Project Summary | Access

This unique digitized audio collection, collected and catalogued by David Conrad, comprises an oral history of Guinea, including Baga history, Mande musical performances, and oral narrative. The 63 reel-to-reel tapes, accessioned by the Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Department as MS 1935, were made by the noted Guinean scholar, Professor Djibril Tamsir Niane in the 1970s and include field recordings, interviews, ceremonies, and practices of several ethnic groups, but in particular, the Baga and Maninka.  In Guinea-Conakry during 1969-71, Professor Niane conducted research while the Sekou Touré regime’s "demystification program" focused on the destruction of all traditional cultural elements, actively discouraging academic interest in such subjects. At considerable personal risk, Niane and a team of his university students broke new ground by investigating Baga culture in their coastal villages, as well as collecting oral history and tradition elsewhere in Guinea. Niane was later imprisoned and eventually escaped into exile.

The research expeditions conducted in Guinea by Professor Niane and his students were historical events in themselves. Near the beginning of one of the most illustrious of West African academic careers, Niane had introduced the Sundiata epic to the world in 1960 with his Epopée de Soundiata (Eng. ed. 1964). In light of Sekou Touré’s murderous regime during the years in question, it was courageous of Niane to undertake research anywhere in Guinea. In November, 1972, just over a year after his third research trip, the Sekou Touré regime began hanging perceived political enemies from the "8th of November Bridge" in Conakry. At that time, it became clear to Niane and his wife Aissatou that it was time for them to leave Guinea. Earlier that year, Niane had received a medical dispensation to travel to Romania for his health, so instead of returning to Conakry from Bucharest, he flew to Paris. After hiding the precious reel-to-reel tape collection with relatives in Conakry, Madame Niane fled Guinea by crossing the border into Sierra Leone with her children and eventually managed to reunite with Professor Niane in Dakar, Senegal where they remained in exile as guests of President Léopold Senghor until after the death of Touré in 1984.

The resulting material is the only significant body of audio historical data on indigenous history and culture collected between 1958 and Sekou Touré’s death in 1984. It would not be possible for outside researchers to work in Guinea until after Touré’s demise in 1984, so the Niane collection represents virtually the only research on Guinean history and culture between the period of French administration and the end of the 1980s. The preservation and online access of this unique collection allows a valuable primary source to be available to scholars of Guinea worldwide.
This collection was digitized through the generous support of Arcadia.  Arcadia is the charitable foundation of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. Since inception in 2001 Arcadia has awarded grants in excess of $190 million. Arcadia works to protect endangered culture and nature. For more information please see: http://www.arcadiafund.org.uk/about/about-arcadia

Access to the Digital Recordings
Access the digital recordings by searching descriptions of the contents of the recordings in the Finding Aid and then request a CD of the tracks you'd like to listen to or visit Manuscripts and Archives in person.
Finding Aid: http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ms.1935