Academic journal article Africa

Manimory and the Aesthetics of Mimesis: Forest, Islam and State in Ivoirian Dozoya

Academic journal article Africa

Manimory and the Aesthetics of Mimesis: Forest, Islam and State in Ivoirian Dozoya

Article excerpt


This article explores the hunting aesthetics of initiated Jula hunters of Cote d'Ivoire who call themselves dozos. It explains how their hunting aesthetic structures their relationship to Islam and the Ivoirian state. Although many Africans approach Islam in the context of tensions between local ritual traditions and modernizing Muslim reform, dozos approach Islam the way they approach the forests where they hunt, assimilating to both in order to tame them. They organize their hunting activities around an aesthetic centred on notions of sweetness and fullness; their contraries, difficulty and emptiness; and the process of mimetic transformation (shape-shifting) that mediates between these extremes. With these categories dozos assimilate themselves to and appropriate power from the forest to kill game. They also link themselves to pre-Qur'anic Muslim figures to legitimize themselves as Muslims. More recently, they tried to assimilate to the Ivoirian state to become a parallel police force. Stories of their tutelary spirit, Manimory, and the texts of their hunting songs, incantations, and epics encode diverse ways for dozos to relate to Islam, leaving room for dozos to eschew it as well. Their texts reveal a dynamic sense of history that defies classification in terms of tradition, modernity or postmodernity.


Cet article examine l'esthetique de la chasse chez les chasseurs inities julas de Cote d'Ivoire, qui se donnent le nom de dozos. Il explique comme leur esthetique de chasse structure leur rapport a l'islam et a l'Etat ivoirien. Alors que de nombreux Africains abordent l'islam dans le contexte de tensions entre traditions rituelles locales et reforme musulmane modemisatrice, les dozos abordent l'islam de la meme maniere qu'ils abordent les forets dans lesquelles ils chassent, s'assimilant aux deux pour les maitriser. Ils organisent leurs activites de chasse autour d'une esthetique centree sur des notions de douceur et de plenitude, des notions contraires de difficulte et de vide, ainsi que sur le processus de transformation mimetique (metamorphose) qui assure la mediation entre ces extremes. Avec ces categories, les dozos s'assimilent fi la foret et s'en approprient les pouvoirs pour tuer le gibier. Ils s'associent egalement a des figures musulmanes pre-coraniques pour se justifier en tant que musulmans. Plus recemment, ils ont essaye de s'assimiler a l'Etat ivoirien pour devenir une force de police parallele. Les recits de leur esprit tutelaire, Manimory, ainsi que les textes de leurs chants de chasse, incantations et recits epiques codifient les differentes manieres qu'ont les dozos de se situer par rapport a l'islam et qui leur laissent egalement latitude pour l'eviter. Leurs textes revelent un sens dynamique de l'histoire qui defie la classification en termes de tradition, de modernite ou de postmodernite.


In the north-western Denguele region of Cote d'Ivoire, initiated Jula hunters, who call themselves dozos, relate to Islam the way they relate to the forest where they hunt, assimilating to both in order to master them. In contrast to Africans who relate to Islam in the context of tensions between tradition and modernity (Grosz-Ngate 2002; Lambek 2002; Lewis 1989; Masquelier 2001; Stoller 1989a), dozos obviate such distinctions (see Wagner 1978). They embrace Islam's modernity--its des to a worldwide religious community (Launay 1992: 106-21) and references to universal scriptural texts (Sanneh 1994)--in the same way they hunt, by assimilating mimetically to their surroundings to empower themselves within them (see Stoller 1995; Taussig 1993).

No sources better illustrate dozos' mimetic aesthetic than stories of their tutelary spirit, Manimory, and the texts of their hunting songs, incantations and epics. In this article, I examine these texts to suggest that dozos' discourses and practices defy description as post-modern, modern, or traditional. …

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