Saturday, November 19, 2016

Some illustrated Senufo proverbs

"Yì fwù ɲara na" (welcome)
On the margins of some other research, I was recently able to pay a visit to the Centre de Recherche pour la Sauvegarde et la Promotion de la Culture Sénoufo (CRSPCS) in Sikasso, Mali. Although the purpose of going there was not primarily language-related, it is worth noting that among the CRSPCS's areas of activity are research and publication on the Senufo language(s) spoken in southern Mali, northern Ivory Coast, and western Burkina Faso.

The center was founded in 2005, the result of an effort begun by Rev. Emilio Escudero Yangüela . It serves educational roles, including in coordination with the regional museum in Sikasso, and has collected cultural objects that are on display. (A short video in French that evidently aired on Malian TV gives a more complete introduction.)

In a tour of the grounds and buildings housing collections - for which we thank Mr. Elie Yaya Bambe - one notices several outside walls that are decorated with proverbs and illustrations. Some of these follow:
Dù fànŋà kà mà sâ, ká mū dí ŋkwōō wólò, kìmàhā mpɔ́rɔ́ mūnā.
If a donkey gives you a kick, and you reply in kind, it is better than you.

Ná mū sí kàcɛ̀nnɛ̀ pyǐ kùnùŋɔ́nā, mùmàhā kǐyǎhǎ ywɔ̌hɔ̌ ɲɔ́ná.
If you want to be good to the tortoise, put it close to the water.

Kùtùnɔ̌ ká ncyɛ̌ jyègěě kǎnɛ̀ŋɛ̀nǐ, ŋkórò kǐyɛ̀.
If the monkey refuses to enter into the dew, it ends up being all alone.

Mūhà bìmâ lē mā khɔ́hɔ́ɲɛ́ɛ́n ɲìī nī, mū màhā ŋkhɔ̀hɔ̀lì mā yɛ̀.
If you put dust in the eyes of your dancing partner, you dance alone.
I did not get a clear answer about which Senufo language these proverbs are written in, but the main Senufo variety in Sikasso is Supyire. (The tone markings as seen in the paintings are reproduced as best as possible as text in the captions; English translations from the French translations. Corrections of course welcome.)

Senufo proverbs, riddles, and tales

The CRSPCS has not published Senufo proverbs, but it has produced small books of riddles and tales in Senufo with parallel French text. One riddle from Devinettes Sénoufo, Vol 1 (Elie Yaya Mpê Bamba and Bernard Delay, eds., Collection "Wu Nire," Harmattan Burkina, 2015):
Ŋuni a tɔɔn, tɛgɛlɛ bàa. (It is so long that it has no end.)
Kudo. (A path.)
Note the more sparing use of tone marks. Judging from the CRSPCS publications I saw, and by an online dictionary of Mamara/Minianka (another Senufo language), usage of tone marks in writing generally may be more sparing than what one sees in the proverbs above.

For more proverbs, there is a collection published by Timothy F. Garrard in 2001 as La sagesse d'un peuple : 2000 proverbes Senoufo (link to description; this work is not yet available online).

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