Located at the foot of the mountains, in the region of Mandé, Siby is a small town, 45 km south-west of Bamako, the capital of Mali, on the road to Guinea. This is where, every year, a unique event in Africa is held – a festival of the divinatory arts. This brings together professionals in various fields such as astrology, clairvoyance and natural therapy in West Africa.
In the history of the Mandingo Empire, Siby holds a very special, highly symbolic place. The divinatory arts had been celebrated there for centuries. In 2007, Madjou Yattara aims to revitalize this culture linked to the art of clairvoyance and founds the Fescauri – The International Festival of Cowries of Mandé. ” The cowrie shell is an important element of our civilization, having once served as currency. It is also a material object of our civilization very present in traditional medicine.. And above all it is an object of divination in the Mandingo culture. In the history of Mali, cowries have served in great empires serving as an object of prediction of the future. The warriors consulted it regularly before giving battle. So cowries are the basis of our cultural identity. », explains Madjou Yattara
The choice of Siby to organize this festival is not insignificant. ” Siby is the place of Kamanja Kamara, the warlord of Soundjata Keita, the first emperor in the history of the Mandingo Empire. All the warriors of this empire met in Siby, to consult the cowries, and to make major decisions, or to offer the Sankibarou (sacrifice). », Adds Madjou Yattara
In Mali, as in other West African countries, seers are revered as much as they are consulted. They are particularly appreciated by female customers, away from prying eyes.
As part of the Fescauri, the clairvoyants offer consultations in a box dedicated to this purpose in the cowrie village. The profession of seer requiring total discretion, as stipulated in the Fescauri charter, a seer is required to respect the secrecy of the profession. in the same way that a doctor is bound by medical secrecy.
Mamou Koné is a famous seer, much appreciated from Sobenikoro near Bamako. As a child, one day she picks up the cowries on the ground on the way to school. Notorious sign of predestination in the career of clairvoyance. She details her job: I read cowries and give advice on the sacrifices to be made. On my advice, people slaughter sheep or oxen. They find satisfaction and, in return, they offer me parcels as gifts. Now I have a lot of real estate, but I prefer to be given money. » Mamou makes and sells women’s underwear with Koranic verses to protect them from witchcraft and other evil spells.
Among a dozen clairvoyants who made the trip to Siby this year, Fassé Camara, a native of this town, serves as the dean of clairvoyants in Mali. He is the oldest and most revered, and overflows with modesty. At 104 years of age, he has been reading cowries since he was 14 years old. ” In reality, it’s the cowries that tell the truth, it’s not me – I’m just their voice. He confides modestly. I am wanted, but never expose myself. I do not solicit anyone for consultation needs. »
Each turn !
People, from neighboring countries of Mali, or from very distant lands, travel from Siby, to Fescauri, to consult the seers. Everyone patiently waits their turn in the waiting rooms set up by the festival. No one wants to be seen by the curious.
But Zeina Sidibé, a young multimedia student at the Bamako Conservatory, is a regular at Fescauri, which she frequent almost every year. “Modernity and secular education do not prevent us from venerating the art of divination. It is an ancestral art and their beliefs have allowed us to exist since the dawn of time. It’s up to everyone to appreciate it for good or for bad “, she says. Employment, love, marriage, death, future…the cowries are there to predict.
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Fescauri: a festival of divinatory arts in Mali
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