The meaning of name

Posted: July 19, 2012 by thanhn09 in Context of Film

In the film, the little boy Mabo Keita was asked about the meaning of his name by griot Djieba. Mabo didn’t know, so griot Djieba Kouyate decided to tell him a long story of his ancestor, king Sundjata Keita, who was also in search for his name before coming to reign Mali empire. “Name” here does not only mean the name literally, but it also means origin and identity. For the griots, the only way for the African people to find their identity is to come back to history. Their roots stay in history. However, it is the long way to reach the end, and each one has to go by himself. The griot’s role is just like a compass, pointing out and help them to go in the right direction. In fact, the film ends with the scene the griot left Mabo and let him alone continue searching for his “name”. The same situation happened with king Sundjiata Keita.

Anyway, it is interesting to find out a little bit what the names, Keita and Kouyate, literally mean.

Keita is a combination of “Ke”, meaning “inheritance”, and “Ta”, meaning “to take”. So Keita means “the one who took the inheritance”, which implies to the story of Sundjiata “stealing” the inheritance from his older brother, the first born son of  King Nare Maghann Konate( Aggatuci, 2010). .

Kouyate means “there is a secret between you and me”. Secret here can be understood as stories of history, ancestors and identity being shared among Kouyate generations and between Keita descendants and Kouyate griots (Eyre, 2000, p. 31).

Aggatuci, C. (2010). Keita film notes & reviewing guides

Eyre, B. (2000). In griot time: an American guitarist in Mali. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Posted by Nguyen Thanh Hang.

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