AfricaWrites Discovery of Sacred Bala Ba in Guinea, West Africa

From a media release:

Discovery and restoration of the sacred Bala Ba of Maniselia Village, Guinea by the AfricaWrites research team of Kankan, Guinea. 

The Sacred Bala Ba of Maniselia
By Patrick Gorham

©Copyright 2011
In February 2011 AD, while documenting various Malinke cultural traditions of the Tokonou region of southern Guinea and surrounding villages, the AfricaWrites team discovered the existence of the Bala Ba in Maniselia Village and began work to document its history and ancient origin.

According to the oral history of Djeli Tomba Association, the historical society of the descendents of Bala Fasseke Kouyaté of the Republics of Guinea and Mali, in the year 1205 AD, twenty years before the Kirina War, the ancient Bala of Sosso was acquired by an ambitious mystic and hunter known as Soumaoro or Sumanguru Kanté. In the years that followed and with the aid of the sacred Sosso Bala, Soumaoro raised a mighty army and began a war of conquest against the surrounding chiefdoms establishing the Sosso Empire with Soumaoro Kanté as its king.

Soumaoro’s reign continued unabated until his defeat at Kirina which is estimated by the Djeli Tomba Association to have taken place in the year 1235 AD after he is wounded by his mortal enemy Sundiata Keita during battle. Weakened, Soumaoro fled, leaving behind his many talismans and totems of spiritual power, including the sacred Sosso Bala. With Soumaoro vanquished, his armies were soon defeated.

After the battle, Soumaoro's once prized possession, the sacred Sosso Bala, was passed from Soundiata Keita to Djeli Balafasseke.  Later, after the Kirina War, and under the reign of Mansa Sundiata Keita, Ballafasseke Kouyaté, the former Djeli or traditional singer of Soumaoro Kanté would father three sons. The first son was named Batrou Mory Kouyaté. The second son was named Misaman Kouyaté and the third son was named Moussa Kouyaté.

In the year 1271 AD in the compound of Mansa Soundiata Keita at Niani, Djeli Bala Fasseke Kouyaté died and the sacred Sosso Bala within his possession was given to Moussa Kouyaté, the youngest of the three sons of Balafasseke Kouyaté. Batrou Mory, the oldest son of Bafa Fasseke Kouyaté had fifteen sons. Among the fifteen children was Famouroba Kouyaté. In time, Famouraba Kouyaté fathered a son named Djebourama or Djeli Bourama who traveled south to Niagassola.

Through a series of rituals, Batrou’s Bala Ba was then blessed by two Soro spirits granting it spiritual power near to that of the sacred Sosso Bala now possessed by his youngest brother, Moussa Kouyaté.

Centuries later, the Bala Ba came to rest in Maniselia Village, Guinea and was cared for by the descendents of Batrou Kouyaté. For centuries the Bala Ba has remained in Maniselia under the care and protection of its guardians, passing quietly in secession from one generation to the next, long forgotten by the outside world. In the decades that followed, the sacred Bala Ba fell into a state of ruin as its various components deteriorated with age. For a time, the solemn rituals, elaborate ceremonies, and praise of the once mighty instrument of power ceased and the beating heart of the ancient spirits of the Bala Ba grew silent. 

Following the discovery of the Bala Ba, the AfricaWrites team worked closely in conjunction with the community of Maniselia, elders, Kankan Djeli Tomba and surrounding villages to restore the sacred Bala Ba. Restoration work on the Bala Ba was performed by Maneselia elders, Djeli Tomba and Maniselia Donzo in strict accordance with the Bala Ba’s sacred and ancient traditions as kept by the Kouyaté family.

On June 25th 2011 AD, the fully restored sacred Bala Ba was shown publicly in Maniselia and accompanied by the presence of the Maniselia elders, Konkoba Djeli, Kankan Djeli Tomba representatives, Niagassola Djeli Tomba representatives, Donzo, various Konkoba entities, the AfricaWrites team, Kankan University faculty and students, Guinean Government representatives and nearly 1,500 guests from Maniselia, Gnaldou, Toumaniya, Deledou and the surrounding villages.  

The discovery and restoration of the sacred Bala Ba in Maniselia by the AfricaWrites team in 2011 represents one of the biggest archaeological finds in recent history. Since discovery of the Bala Ba by the AfricaWrites team, the existence and restoration of the sacred Bala Ba have been officially recognized by Guinean governmental authorities of the Tokounou region, Kankan University and the ancient Djeli Tomba Association (Kouyaté) - keepers of the sacred Bala of Sosso of Niagassola in northern Guinea.

About AfricaWrites:
AfricaWrites is an African Non Governmental Organization based in Kankan, Guinea in West Africa. Their mission is the complete and total redefinition of African history and culture through proper observation, documentation and representation of African culture from a local indigenous African perspective. Find out more at the link (AfricaWrites Director Patrick Gorham Lanfia Toure is pictured above)


  1. Hello,the Bala Ba of Maniselia is a sacrosanct Malinke traditional percussion instrument made by the relatives of Djeli Balafassike Kouyate in the late sixteenth century,amid the guideline of the Mali Empire.Djeli are West African traditional artists of commendation;students of history and storytellers in charge of the oral transmission of records of memorable occasions;and those accused of the forethought and oversight of the holy Bala Ba of Maniselia.Thank you.~Kim Wagner.


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