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Kambili, Who Does Not Want to Stay in the Womb


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(Mandinka/Mali)

Kanji, a general of Imam Samory Toure, leader of the Mandinka, tells Samory that he has nine wives but none of them has yet given birth. Samory calls experts to discover if Kanji will have a child and who the mother will be, but they are unable to help. But one holy man states that Kanji's first child will be born of Dugo, a despised wife who has been forced by the chief wife to live in a goat pen. The name of the wife who will bear the child is kept secret so that cowives do not kill her out of jealousy. The holy man convinces the wives that they must not spend the night with Kanji for a month, and during this time, he sneaks Dugo into Kanji's bed after nightfall and sneaks her out before daybreak. Dugo becomes pregnant. The first wife discovers this and accuses her of having relations with the goats. She swears to Samory that this is the case and declares that she will sweep his compound with her buttocks if it is not so. After some difficulty with Kambili, who does not want to stay in the womb, the nine months eventually pass and Kambili, resembling his father perfectly, is born in the goat pen. The first wife is made to keep her promise, and Dugo is brought back to Kanji's compound to live. The first wife, jealous, attempts to kill Kambili but is caught by Kanji, who kills her. Dugo becomes the favored wife. Kambili spends his youth hunting; he kills every possible animal. He marries Kumba, who was promised to one Cekura, who becomes angry at this betrayal. Cekura, having the power to transform himself into a lion, sets out to ravage the village. Samory calls on the hunters to stop the lion-man. Kumba knows who the lion-man is, and, to develop an antidote, she requires hair from Cekura's head, underarm, and crotch. She goes to Cekura and, pretending that she loves him, tricks him into giving her the needed hairs. She returns with them, and a sacrifice is made. Kambili, having consulted a spirit to determine where best to set the trap for the lion-man, ties a boy under a tree and climbs up into the tree with his weapon. Kumba gives the boy a talisman to protect him from the lion-man, then, transforming herself into a lion, lures Cekura to the trap. She brings Cekura to the tree, but he has a powerful medicine that causes Kambili to fall asleep. The boy sings a song to awaken Kambili, who fires his rifle, killing the lion-man with one shot. At a celebration, Samory gives gifts to Kambili and a song of praise is sung for Kumba.

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