Area : 1,241,238 sq km (approx. 3.3 times the size of Japan)
Population : 11,670,000 (2003)
People : More than 23 ethnic groups including Bambara, Soninke, Fulani, Songhai and Dogon
Religion : Muslim (80%), Christian and Animist
Language : French (official language). Ethnic languages include Bambara, Fulfulde, Songhai and Tamashek
Capital City: Bamako (population around 1million)
Climate : subtropical to arid; hot and dry February to June; rainy, humid, and mild June to November; cool and dry November to February
A landlocked country in West Africa, Mali shares borders with seven other countries. The Niger River and the Senegal River run respectively for 1700 km and 800 km through the south and east of the country, while the northern region forms part of the Sahara Desert.
The seasons are divided broadly into dry and wet, the dry season being from around November to May, and the wet season being from around June to October. Temperatures and rainfall vary greatly depending on the region. Rainfall, extremely low in the desert areas to the north, exceeds 700 mm annually in the south due to the tropical climate. The country as a whole is characterized by a significant disparity between day/night time temperatures and humidity levels.
The population is concentrated in central and southern areas, where the climate is relatively mild. That 45 % of the population is under 15 years of age can be considered one of Mali's strengths.
The middle and upper reaches of the Niger River have played an important role in West African history. This area in Western Sudan was a base for the camel caravan routes crossing the Sahara to the Mediterranean, while a black nation is reputed to have existed there from around the 3rd or 4th centuries A.C.
The Mali Empire flourished in the 13th century, with the city of Timbuktu on the banks of the Niger River as an intellectual, artistic and religious center. The Songhai Empire reigned in the 15th century, followed notably by the Bambara Kingdom in the 17th and 18th centuries. From the latter half of the 16th century, Mali experienced a period under Moroccan control in its north party.
In the 19th century the French army advanced into the region, making Mali a part of French West Africa from 1898 to 1960. Mali became an autonomous republic within the French Community in 1958, formed the Mali Federation with Senegal in April 1959, and gained independence in its own right on September 22, 1960.
• Society & Custom
The great Moroccan geographer Ibn Battuta wrote this about Mali's people and society after visiting the country in 1352:
- This society does not permit dishonest or unfair behavior, and severely reprimands anyone who acts dishonestly.
- Safe travel is possible with the highest guarantee of security.
- Rather than guests being removed of their possessions, an environment of secure safekeeping is assured.
- A strongly religious society.
- The people of this society are always stylishly dressed.
These virtues noted by Battuta remain unchanged even today. Malian society places importance interpersonal relations, and is as a whole intent on upholding morality. In particular, local societies are not exclusionary, and are by nature open to anyone. While Malians are strongly religious, the fact that other faiths and ideas are also flexibly accepted makes it possible for Islam, natural religions and Christianity, for example, to coexist peacefully.
Although Mali's 23 ethnic groups, each having their own culture,language and social etiquette, appear unconnected, the individual groups actually have an amicable relationship in which they thoroughly permeate one another, both culturally and socially. The family, forming the nucleus of Mali's social structure, possesses a strong sense of solidarity. In Malian society it is commonly accepted that one must respect those of your parent's age as you would your parents, and provide support if possible. This sense of responsibility for others is felt deeply and extensively throughout Malian society.
• Mali's tea ceremony
The custom in Mali is to welcome people with tea. Green tea is simmered together with mint leaves in a small teapot, and the resultant tea, with plenty of sugar added, is drunk from small glasses. Tea signifies welcome and friendship, and serves as a pleasurable pastime. It is an indispensable part of enjoying the company of family and friends. The considerable time required to make the tea is spent chatting and relaxing.
Export : cotton, vegetable oil fat etc. / Import : car, motorcycle, etc.
Cultural relation Director Souleymane Cisse is invited in 1988 and the Film preview of the work "light" with which this supervisor won Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1987 is held." The Japanese movie festival" was held in Bamako in February, 1992. After that, information activities of Japan is broadly performed through media on the public holiday of Mali.
The number of Japanese residents in Mali 12 persons ( The end of December, 2002 )
The number of Malian residents in Japan 90 persons ( The end of December, 2002 )
Bilateral treaty November, 1964 Trade agreement
Mali, where the government is actively pushing economic liberalization, recorded an economic growth rate of 9.7 % for the 2002 financial year, and is currently seeking to develop various industries. Mali's primary industries are agriculture and farming. Agriculture is practiced in the south and in the Niger River inland delta, where corn, cotton, rice, Sugarcane, peanuts and other crops are cultivated. The list of principal exports includes peanuts, cotton, livestock and hides (cattle, goat, etc.), and gold.
Gross national income (GNI)
: US$2.5 billion (2001) GNI per capita
: US$240 (2001) Currency
: CFA Franc Exchange rate
: 656.113 CFA Francs = 1 Euro (fixed rate) Major industries
: agriculture (cotton, peanuts, millet, sorghum), livestock, manufacturing, and mining (phosphates, salt, gold) Major trade items
: Exports: cotton, gold and livestock
: Imports: machinery, petroleum products and consumer goods
Major trading partners
: Exports: France, Germany, Italy, Thailand, Canada etc.
: Imports: Cote d'Ivoire, France, Senegal, Belgium etc.
• World heritage
In the 13th century, Timbuktu supported the prosperity of the Mali and Songhai empires as a trading center for salt and gold. Timbuktu's decline started from the late 16th century. The current desertification of surrounding areas has seen Timbuktu inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Today it is still one of the destinations most visited by foreign tourists, particularly those from Europe, America, Asia, and the Near/Middle East.
Djenne is known as Timbuktu's twin sister. From the 13th century, Djenne developed as the distribution point for everyday commodities such as rice and corn, and also as a center of arts, learning and religion. In the middle of the old city stands a great Sudanese-style mosque. Djenne society was organized around this mosque, and even today the region is noted for its strong Islamic faith and high intellect.
The villages of the Dogon, who live on an escarpment some 200 km long, are built, as conveyed in their mythology, in the shape of people, their head turned toward the north. The mask dances are also intimately connected with Dogon mythology. Dogon culture has been threatened in recent years, particularly by the severe droughts afflicting the Sahara.
• Festivals & Event
Dogon mask festivals
The Dogon people, living on a huge escarpment in the Bandiagara area of central Mali, are known for their myths, cosmology, and mask dances. The Dogon recreate the large-scale view of the universe and mythology passed down from their ancestors through mask dances performed at funeral ceremonies, the Sigui festival held every sixty years, and the Dama ceremony held once every twelve years to worship the spirits of their ancestors.
During the Dama ceremony, the men retreat into caves to mourn the souls of those who have died in the past twelve years, where they make masks. The souls of the dead are said to reside in the masks, giving them the power to ward off evil spirits. For five days, men wearing these masks stage performances, having run down narrow paths from the cliff tops. The ceremony features sirige masks that bind the spiritual world with the world of the living, and masks symbolizing Amma the god of creation. Water buffalo and hyena masks appear toward the end of the ceremony to tell the Dogon's future. After the ceremony, the souls of the dead are recognized as ancestors protecting the Dogon.
Deegal (Cattle crossing festival)
Every year an enormous festival accompanying the crossing of the cattle is held in the villages of the Fulani of Mopti. This festival celebrates the return of the herders who set out to drive their cattle across the Sahel. According to Fulani custom, young men spend a year away from their village herding cattle, and on their return they report their experiences. The evaluation of these reports has great bearing on the subsequent position of these young men in village life. This festival is also of great interest to prospective wives. On the day that the men return, the whole village is in festival mode from morning till night. There is eating, singing and dancing, and the air pulses with energy of people interacting. For the young Fulani men it is an honor to participate in the herding, this being one of the "rites of passage" to attaining manhood.
Malians love to dance, and not only at festivals and celebrations. Anytime there is a gathering and the mood is right, people will immediately start dancing. While mask dances are performed as traditional events, dance parties and the like are organized within families and neighborhoods as part of daily life.
Dancing requires songs and musical instruments, though not just anyone can perform this role, which is again the station of the griots. In Mali it is considered shameful for anyone other a griot to sing, and music class is not part of school curriculums.
Before the advent of writing, the griots were storytellers who used music to recount history. Their narrating of the history of extended families is hereditary and carried on throughout the generations. They will always be asked to perform at festivities held by the head family, where they sing songs praising the family's ancestors and the head of the family. For their singing they receive money, houses, cars and other huge remunerations.
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