I. Symbolism of cola in literature.
The cola plays several functions in the life of the ethno peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa: economy, information, communication, protection against evil forces, thanks, recognition. The importance of cola leads to its reappropriation by writers as a source of inspiration, thus justifying a rapprochement between ethnology and literature. What ethnological reading can cola be made in traditional societies? What role does cola play in the work of signifying literary works? These research questions highlight the link between the internal system of the literary work and the cultural system from which it comes.
II. Ethnology of cola
The cola is present in most ceremonies of the ethno peoples of sub-Saharan Africa: engagement, birth, baptism, funeral. The size of this nut in cultural practices in sub-Saharan Africa justifies this research among representatives of two ethnic groups in Burkina: Mossi, Lyela. In addition we take in our nets the Dioulas who have a very strong tradition of cola. The study on the functioning of cola in rituals shows common characteristics among the representatives of these two ethnic groups (Mossi and Lyela) with the Dioulas. The various cultural formations are therefore not monolithic as one might think. In the rituals examined, it appears that: – the cola unites two people in one before a community of witnesses and symbolizes the unity of the conjugal couple; – the cola ensures the longevity of the couple. With him, marriage should not be broken at the risk of being single all his life; – cola is associated with health, sexuality, economy: – Cola is respect. Visiting the elderly and the patriarchs with cola is a sign of consideration; – Cola contributes to the socialization and training of the individual and the resolution of conflicts; – Cola helps ward off bad spells or attract luck.
III. From the ethnology of cola in the novel
Literature contains several types of scientific knowledge. Taking the example of the novel Robinson Crusoe, Roland Barthes noted so well the presence of a “historical, geographical, social (colonial), technical, botanical, anthropological knowledge.” The lesson of Roland Barthes convinces and legitimizes this research on written African literature, rich in knowledge in general and ethnological in particular. Literary writers often use oral texts, themes, ritual and magical practices, objects of ethnology as a source of inspiration. Literature becomes a gateway to the understanding and / or interpretation of reality, of otherness, of oneself, of the facts, practices and cultural objects of peoples. Examination of four novels (The strange destiny of Wangrin de Amadou Hampaté Bah, The defeat of the Yargha of Etienne Sawadogo, The world collapses of Chinua Achebe and Under the storm of Seydou Badian) shows the topos of Africa mysterious through the cola. The cola plays an aesthetic function by knotting between the characters of bonds of solidarity, mutual aid, friendliness, respect. But it sometimes breaks with the aesthetic model advocated by society to play a treacherous function, to be an instrument of betrayal, deceit. In conclusion, fiction gives knowledge about our existence to corroborate the unity of an internal and external reading of the work.
Vincent Ouattara is a journalist, writer and academic from Burkina Faso. He is the author ofLITTÉRATURE ET SCIENCES DE L’ÉDUCATION and Ideologie at Tradition en Afrique Noire: Pour une Nouvelle Pensee Africaine, Les Secrets des sorciers noirs. L’Ere Compaoré.
Cover image: Photo by Linda Cozzarelli