The Gorge - Flash Bristow's Website
Cross-Cultural Communication from Mali
The fishing party - "Bomo"

Greetings from Mali!

In this year's Cross-Cultural Communication we have chosen to tell you about a fishing party! We hope this gives you a deeper insight into life in our beautiful country.

In the village of Nienguencoura in Mali, fishing at the sacred pond "Bo" is a cultural event of great significance for the Bambara community. It is called "Bomo" and explains the roots on Nienguencoura and the use of two different surnames by single families.

The name "Nienguencoura" comes from "Minke Koura" meaning Minke, son of Koura. Colonial power and linguistics have transformed "Minke Koura" into Nieguencoura.

Legend has it that once three strangers came from Sigiri (a village in Guinea). Their family name was "Magassouba". They asked Minke Doumbia, the Chief of the village, to give them some of his land to live on and to farm. The Chief agreed, but in return the Magassoubas had to make an annual sacrifice to the sacred pond "Bo". The strangers accepted this condition. They gained the power to make the sacrifice to the pond. And they started using the name Doumbia.

Because of the acceptance of Magassouba in Nienguencoura, a family sometimes uses both surnames; Doumbia and Magassouba.

The sacrifice to the sacred pond of Bo is called Bomo - "the fishing in Bo" - "mo" meaning fishing.

The "Bomo" generally takes place during the sixth month of the dry season - in April or May - on either a Tuesday or Wednesday. As the date approaches, the Doumbia (or Magassouba) inform the Chief of the village through the "Kante", the blacksmiths of the family. The Chief then gives his authorisation to announce the ceremony to all surrounding villages.

People come from far and wide, adults and children alike gather by the pond.

The ceremony lasts for two days. During the first, the Doumbia give a sacrifice to the "devils" of Bo. The largest fish that are caught are given back as an offering. This ritual, the actual process of the sacrifice, is a secret, known only by initiates. After its completion, people believe that the devils have left, and that the party can continue into the second day without risk.

All the inhabitants of nearby villages, including children, actively participate in the fishing. Women, men and children bring locally made tools to the pond. Everyone enjoys this meeting-up, everyone participates in the fishing. In the water, grown-ups talk while children play. At the end of the day, children clean the fish before they take them home.

Contrary to some traditions that forbid children to eat fish, those caught during the "Bomo" are shared by the whole family. They will also be salted and consumed later throughout the rainy season. Thus Bomo contributes to the nutritional balance of the children's diet.

The "Bomo" is a source of education for the children, as it helps them to understand their culture, gives them a sense of organisation, of courage, and of teamwork. They take no part in the sacrifice ritual - that is reserved for adults - but they do fish, and any fish they catch is theirs to keep. Bomo is a day off from school, a chance for the children to enjoy the party.

Being a great and important event, the ritual of Bomo has never died out. Many people appreciate it and enjoy attending it, year after year.

Koimba Doumbia (11) says, "I like Bomo because the whole village meets up. Even our teachers attend. We all catch a lot of fish and when I get home my mother cooks a delicious meal with the fish I've caught."

Minamba Doumbia (13) says, "At Bomo I play with friends. My father brings me there and my mother cooks fish that I've caught. Everyone is happy that day."

We hope you enjoyed reading this snapshot. Thank you all for your support.

This page last updated: 19 July 2004

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