The territory that now comprises the modern day, Western African nation, the Republic of Mail was once part of three great empires that controlled trade across the Sahara Desert – the Ghana Empire, the Malian Empire (of which the country proudly takes it’s name), and the Songhai Empire. By the 1300s, Mail had become not just one of the most expansive empires in the world, but it was also known for the legendary city of Timbuktu, one of the world’s great intellectual and cultural centers known for advances in literature, math, astronomy, and art.
Sadly, by the 19th century the French had controlled Mail, making it part of French Sudan. But by 1959, French Sudan, later known as the Sudanese Republic joined Senegal to form the Mail Federation and they won their independence by 1960. Senegal later withdrew from the Mail Federation, and the Sudanese Republic renamed itself, the Republic of Mail. The country and it’s proud people suffered through one party rule and several coups before they finally achieved true multi-party democracy in 1991. Thee country was was quickly considered one of Africa’s most socially and politically stable nations – until last January when the Tuaregs, residents of Northern Mail rebelled and sought independence with the assistance of several Islamist groups. A few months later, their democratically elected president was thrown out in a coup d’etat. Adding to the disarray, the Islamist groups who once fought alongside the Tuaregs, have recently turned on the Tuaregs and have taken over Northern Mali with the hopes of implementing Sharia Law. A once democratic and known for it’s various ethnicities living together and influencing each other peacefully is being torn apart with the threat of a brutal civil war. The country, lives and beautiful cultural gifts of countless peaceful people are being threatened. Mailian singer, Fatoumata Diawara enlisted the help of Amadou and Mariam, Baba Salah and her fellow countrymen and countrywomen to record “Mali-ko (La Paix/Peace). The song is meant to do two things: bring attention to the plight of one of the world’s great nations and as a call for peace and brotherhood. (In the English subtitles you’ll see that the lyrics plead for peace with the idea that the current infighting is destroying a beautiful and beloved country.
Check the video out, and pass the word on. If there’s one thing that we should all remember is that art can make a difference.