The Saman dance is part of the cultural heritage of the Gayo people of Aceh province in Sumatra. Boys and young men perform the Saman sitting on their heels or kneeling in tight rows. Each wears a black costume embroidered with colourful Gayo motifs symbolizing nature and noble values. The leader sits in the middle of the row and leads the singing of verses, mostly in the Gayo language. These offer guidance and can be religious, romantic or humorous in tone. Dancers clap their hands, slap their chests, thighs and the ground, click their fingers, and sway and twist their bodies and heads in time with the shifting rhythm – in unison or alternating with the moves of opposing dancers. These movements symbolize the daily lives of the Gayo people and their natural environment. The Saman is performed to celebrate national and religious holidays, cementing relationships between village groups who invite each other for performances. The frequency of Saman performances and its transmission are decreasing, however. Many leaders with knowledge of the Saman are now elderly and without successors. Other forms of entertainment and new games are replacing informal transmission, and many young people now emigrate to further their education. Lack of funds is also a constraint, as Saman costumes and performances involve considerable expense.
Secret society of the Kôrêdugaw,
the rite of wisdom in Mali
The secret society of the Kôrêdugaw is a rite of wisdom central to the cultural identity of the Bambara, Malinké, Senufo and Samogo peoples of Mali. Initiates dress in ragged coats adorned with red bean necklaces and a large quantity of miscellaneous items. They provoke laughter with behaviour characterized by gluttony, caustic humour and wit, but also possess great intelligence and wisdom. The society educates, trains and prepares children to cope with life and to deal with social problems. Its members also act as social mediators and play key roles in festivals and many other occasions. The Kôrêdugaw are also herbalists and traditional therapists whose knowledge of plants is used to cure illnesses, ward off bad luck, treat childless women and impart blessings. They symbolize generosity, tolerance, inoffensiveness and mastery of knowledge, embodying the rules of conduct that they advocate for others. Members come from all social and professional groups, irrespective of ethnicity, gender or religion, and one becomes a Kôrêduga by inherited status, instruction by spirits or training with a master. Knowledge and know-how are transmitted during annual initiation ceremonies. Today, traditional modes of transmission are threatened by the decreasing number of initiates due to the predominance of urban lifestyles among younger generations, and ritual practices take place less and less regularly.