Secret society of the Kôrêdugaw, the rite of wisdom in Mali


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Inscribed in 2011 (6.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

© Direction Nationale du Patrimoine Culturel (Mali), 2010

The secret society of the Kôrêdugaw is a rite of wisdom central to the cultural identity of the Bambara, Malinké, Senufo and Samogo peoples of Mali. Initiates dress in ragged coats adorned with red bean necklaces and a large quantity of miscellaneous items. They provoke laughter with behaviour characterized by gluttony, caustic humour and wit, but also possess great intelligence and wisdom. The society educates, trains and prepares children to cope with life and to deal with social problems. Its members also act as social mediators and play key roles in festivals and many other occasions. The Kôrêdugaw are also herbalists and traditional therapists whose knowledge of plants is used to cure illnesses, ward off bad luck, treat childless women and impart blessings. They symbolize generosity, tolerance, inoffensiveness and mastery of knowledge, embodying the rules of conduct that they advocate for others. Members come from all social and professional groups, irrespective of ethnicity, gender or religion, and one becomes a Kôrêduga by inherited status, instruction by spirits or training with a master. Knowledge and know-how are transmitted during annual initiation ceremonies. Today, traditional modes of transmission are threatened by the decreasing number of initiates due to the predominance of urban lifestyles among younger generations, and ritual practices take place less and less regularly.