Contadores de histórias, mensageiros oficiais, guardiões de tradições milenares: todos esses termos caracterizam o papel dos Griots, que na África Antiga eram responsáveis por firmar transações comerciais entre os impérios e comunidades e passar aos jovens ensinamentos culturais, sendo hoje em dia a prova viva da força da tradição oral entre os povos africanos.

Utilizando instrumentos musicais como o Agogô e o Akoting (semelhante ao banjo), os griots e griottes estavam presentes em inúmeros povos, da África do Sul à Subsaariana, transitando entre os territórios para firmar tratados comerciais por meio da fala e também ensinando às crianças de seu povo o uso de plantas medicinais, os cantos e danças tradicionais e as histórias ancestrais.

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Cultural Crossroads: Professor Wendy Doniger










Professor Wendy Doniger is a scholar of Hindu culture. She studied at Harvard and Oxford and is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago. Her numerous books include Hindu Myths: an Anthology, Women, Androgynes and Other Mythical Beasts, and The Hindus: An Alternative History. This last work became a No. 1 bestseller on its publication in 2009, but was later withdrawn from sale by its publisher, Penguin India, after coming under attack. It is now published by Speaking Tiger Books.

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How East and West think in profoundly different ways

As Horace Capron first travelled through Hokkaido in 1871, he searched for a sign of human life among the vast prairies, wooded glades and threatening black mountains. “The stillness of death reigned over this magnificent scene,” he later wrote. “Not a leaf was stirred, not the chirping of a bird or a living thing.” It was, he thought, a timeless place, straight out of pre-history.

“How amazing it is that this rich and beautiful country, the property of one of the oldest and most densely populated nations of the world… should have remained so long unoccupied and almost as unknown as the African deserts,” he added.

This was Japan’s frontier – its own version of the American ‘Wild West’. The northernmost of Japan’s islands, Hokkaido was remote, with a stormy sea separating it from Honshu. Travellers daring to make the crossing would have then had to endure the notoriously brutal winters, rugged volcanic landscape and savage wildlife. And so the Japanese government had largely left it to the indigenous Ainu people, who survived through hunting and fishing.


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Coverage of violence and Islam often go hand in hand. So it comes as a relief to be reminded that historically, culturally and intellectually, Islam is less a nihilistic creed than a global civilisation. A new book by Chase Robinson, which includes 30 pen-portraits of significant figures in Islamic history, is an elegant digest of the many colourful, creative and technologically innovative manifestations that the Prophet Muhammad inspired from his seventh-century oases in the Arabian peninsula.  Leer Más