Sundiata: an Epic of Old Mali – the Intersection of the Mundane and the Mystical

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Sundiata Keita: A Hero Beyond Physical Strength

The Epic of Sundiata is a poem of the Malinke people. It narrates the story of Sundiata Keita, a hero but also the founder of the Mali empire. The two themes that revolve around this story are the process of perception in an African-centered worldview of the profane and sacred through the body and mind. The other theme concerns the supernatural and its organic supernatural beings, the dynamic entities that can distinguish themselves in various disciplines and combinations.

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In the worldview of Africa, knowledge is based and conceived on top of two levels. The first level revolves around knowledge being verifiable, visible, and concrete. Or pragmatic knowledge. Among the various stories about Sundiata, the epic about him is an observation of what characteristics define him as a hero and the motives and actions that make him heroic. The most obvious being of Sundiata mentioned above is his visibility, verifiability, concrete personality, and strength. For example, when Sundiata was hurt as a kid, he could not walk, even though Sundiata had big arms.

However, when he finally stood up in front of everyone, everyone was surprised. He also bent a massive rod to a bow and pulled the tree roots. Another quality of Sundiata was his bravery, skill, and boldness in battle. However, Sundiata Keita had more than the strength of an animal. Sundiata had patience and showed it; he also had an interest in the ways of the people and their lives. Because he had these qualities, Sundiata was more than a great warrior/hunter. Sundiata was a great king.

Sundiata Keita: A Hero Beyond Physical Strength

The other theme of the Epic of Sundiata was supernatural and sacredness. As mentioned, This kind of knowledge can be acquired only by those who are initiated, those who have access to the secret world. The closing is what Africans call “the realm of the supernatural,” even though they believe it is purely a product of one’s imagination. Contrary to the open discussion of the steps and strategies used in the variety of sorcery materials in the stories under study, in real life, Africans never discussed those in the open. They would instead be considered very privileged and classified knowledge to be shared only between certain types of people. Even though many African Americans were aware of the existence of forces, they at least acknowledged their power and impact in their daily lives.

For example, Ozidi, Soumoro, Mwind, Mohamed, and Keita have an oath in their sorcery that they must confront their enemies. They all made the hero more trustworthy and consistent, giving him and her the confidence to confront and overpower the enemies. According to Kemp, “It is at the core of sorcery and witchcraft lies what he refers to as ‘special energy or occult power.'”

In his words, McNaughton said every task’s required power source was every movement. McNaughton said that the energy that the Bamana people of Mali called nyama and Africans Western describe as the supernatural. The power of nyama is very complex. A person’s vital energy is believed to give way to hisnyama after passing. It is explained as a power of energy that creates types of radiation that can be very harmful. McNaughton finishes by emphasizing that the Bamana people consider that energy to be ‘both natural and mystical,’ but not supernatural.


  1. Sullivan, Maragaret. “Sundiata.” Public Works: The Legacy of the New Deal, Margaret Sullivan, 21 Sept. 2009,
  2. Morales, Lester. “Sundiata.” Monomyth: Hero’s Journey Project | ORIAS, ORIAS, 13 Mar. 2013,    


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Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali - The Intersection of the Mundane and the Mystical. (2023, Aug 28). Retrieved from