Sundiata And God?S Bits Of Wood Essay, Research Paper
When I was finished reading both Sundiata and God’s Bits of Wood I had a better understanding of the strong relationship between the African people and their leaders. Even though Sundiata and Ihamim Bakayoko became leaders by different means, they displayed a lot of similarities. Sundiata was a king, so the people had to obey him because of his status. However his subjects did not follow him for that reason, they listened to Sundiata because he was a good leader. As a wise African leader, Sundiata ruled in consultation. Sundiata’s number one consultant was his griot, Balla Fasseke. As D.T. Niane said griots know the history of kings and their kingdoms, which is why they are the best advisors of kings because whoever knows the history of a country can read its future. This could be seen when Sundiata and his family were preparing to leave Mali in exile. Sundiata’s mother who, also served as a consultant, had warned him that the queen mother was preparing to harm his family and that it would be in their best interest to leave the kingdom and return at a later time. Balla Fasseke counseled Sundiata by preparing for his departure in detail and informing him of his destiny. Balla Fasseke’s influence could be seen again on the eve of Krina before Sundiata went into battle with Soumaoro. That evening Balla Fasseke sat down with Sundiata and discussed everything with him from the history of the Mali to his role as a leader. Finally Sundiata’s dedication to consultation was obvious when the fighting finally ceased. Instead of keeping all the land he acquired for himself, Sundiata returned it to the leaders. He also set a system up whereby all the leaders would get together and discuss their problems.
Ihamim Bakayoko was not a king. He was not even a member of the union, but people listened to him and wanted him for their spokesman. I think they listened to him for two reasons. He was a good speaker who showed leadership qualities. Also, they thought he was a little better than them because he knew French. Ihamim Bakayoko, like Sundiata, ruled in consultation. For example, when there were problems concerning the strike that needed to be resolved, the people in the union would assemble and discuss it among themselves. Another example is when Bakayoko went to talk with the railway management. Before the meeting Bakayoko discussed with the union how he felt about the situation and then asked if everyone agreed with what he had said. Towards the end of the book, the women were even consulting Bakayoko. This could be seen in the From Thies to Dakar chapter where the women were taking an active role in the strike.
The next topic covered by the two books was the role of emotional self-control in African leadership. Traditionally leaders were to show very little if any emotion. That is how Sundiata mainly appears throughout the book. For instance, when he went into battle, he showed no emotion, i.e. whether he was afraid or not. However, he did display some emotion when it was necessary. This was evident in the beginning of the book when Sundiata’s mother was being ridiculed because her son was not able to walk. Hearing this made Sundiata angry. However, instead of flying off the handle, he focused his anger inward and used it successfully to raise himself to his feet and eventually to walk. Sundiata’s anger also shows when the queen mother takes his griot away from him. This time his mother calms him some but not before he has a few words with King Touman. Sundiata also showed his sensitive side when his sister, Nana Triban and his griot escaped from Soumaoro. When his sister told him of Niani’s destruction and the captivity of its people, Sundiata was very sympathetic to the situation reinforcing his desire to recapture the land that was rightfully his.
Ihamim Bakayoko had good emotional self-control too. He displayed this self-control the time he met the work inspector. The work inspector told the union that only some, mostly the unimportant, demands of the workers would be accepted. The remaining ones would be considered later. Instead of getting angry, Bakayoko calmly turned and asked the members of the union if they agreed that this decision wouldn’t be acceptable. In that same section we saw Bakayoko get angry when, in a meeting with the railway management, Dejean the director slapped him across the face. In anger, Bakayoko jumped up and wrapped his fingers around the director’s neck. It took some of the union delegates to calm him down. One problem Bakayoko had was showing too little emotion. For instance, when he got word that his mother was killed and his daughter was hurt, instead of returning home to be with his family, he went on to Dakar leaving people wondering if he had a heart at all. Toward the end of the book Bakayoko did start to show that he could demonstrate his feelings.
I think that the key to emotional self-control for African leaders is that while they are not suppose to show too much emotion, sometimes it is ok to just as long as you do it in an appropriate manner.
On the other issue about European political structures changing African leadership, while researching my term paper, I found out that before the European influence, African leadership was not unified. Each individual group had its own leaders. The Europeans introduced a system of government in Africa whereby everyone was unified under either one leader or a group of leaders. This type of rule could be seen in God’s Bits of Wood. The union served as the central control for all the people. It allowed people to come together and discuss working conditions and made it possible for everyone to realize that there were others that had similar feelings about the way they were being treated at work. As a united force they would have leverage against unscrupulous European business owners. With this alliance, they could force change, take back some of the control that had been taken from them and mold a new future for the African people.