Bozo Female Marionette Figure Mali
Among the Bozo and Bamana people of Mali, puppets appear in villages on stages, where they represent various typecast characters living in the village . The puppets will satirize social and personal behavior of the local and national politicians, the braggart, the loose woman, the miser and the foreigner. The puppets often have arms or movable parts and will be covered with clothing and will be accompanied by songs that paraphrase the movements of the puppets as they make social comments upon the excessive behavior of their subjects. In opposition to most African sculpture these puppets are seen wearing cloth.
The Bozo are a West African ethnic group primarily residing along the Niger River in Mali. The name "Bozo" is believed to come from the Bambara term "bo-so," which means "straw house." While they accept this name as a reference to their entire ethnic group, they also use more specific clan names like Sorogoye, Hain, and Tieye to identify themselves.
The Bozo people are well-known for their fishing skills and are often referred to as the "masters of the river." Fishing has been a significant aspect of their culture and livelihood for generations. They have developed intricate knowledge of the Niger River, its currents, and its diverse fish species.
The Bozo language belongs to the Soninke-Bozo subgroup of the Northwestern Mande branch within the Niger-Congo language family. While traditionally considered dialects of a single language, there are at least four distinct varieties of the Bozo language.
Bozo culture emerged during the time of the Ghana Empire in the 10th century. The Bozo people settled along the banks of the Niger River and played a crucial role in the establishment of important trading cities such as Djenne and Mopti.
Although the majority of Bozo people are Muslims, they also retain various animist traditions. Animism is the belief in spirits inhabiting natural objects and phenomena. The Bozo have a special reverence for the bull, which serves as their animal totem. The bull's body symbolizes the Niger River, while its horns represent the Bozo fishing pirogues, which are traditional dugout canoes used for fishing.
Overall, the Bozo people have a rich cultural heritage that revolves around their close connection to the Niger River and their expertise in fishing.