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Mali’s Seven Elements Of Culture


People in Mali usually live with their extended family.  Teenagers usually go on dates in groups rather than alone.  Men are allowed, by the law, to have more than one wife.  Though the wives may call themselves housewives, they usually sell crafts and earn a profit.  80% of the population are farmers and 10% are nomadic.   

A Malian Family

“A Malian Family”



When entering someone else’s home, the men usually greet each other by holding right hands and quickly asking about their health.  Shaking hands is more common in office situations, rather than in houses. 

Malians have many other customs.  Before a marriage, the mother of the bride recieves gifts as well as the couple.  When a child is born, women and friends gather to the name-giving ceremony and bring the mother gifts.  When someone of the Islamic faith dies, only males can attend the burial.  Though they may seem unusual to outsiders, these are common traditions that are a part of Malians everyday life. 

A Dogon Funeral Dance

“A Dogon Funeral Dance”



 French is the official language of Mali, but several indigenous languages are just as prominent. 

  • Bambara
  • Senoufo
  • Sarakole
  • Dogon
  • Songhai
  • Tuareg
  • Arab

Bambara Text

“Bambara Text”



Mali has a rich, dense musical history.  Much of it’s modern music is based off traditional songs of the jalis or griots who are singers and oral historians.  It’s common to see a legend or story turned into a song.  The tale of Sunjata Keita can only be sung by trained griots. 

One of the most common instruments that the griots use to tell their tales is the kora.  The kora is a 12 stringed instrument composed of a long neck of rosewood.  They use their thumb and index finger to pluck the 12 strings.  Other Malian instruments are 6 stringed guitars and drums made from deer hide. 

Sports are also well-liked in Mali, though the most popular sport is soccer. 

Mali Music 



  • Muslim – 80%
  • Ethnic Beliefs – 18%
  • Christian – 2%

People over the age of 15 had a literacy rate of 32% in the early 1990s.  Some only go to Koranic school, where they only study the text of the Koran.  Others go to a type of modernized Muslim school, where they teach from the Koran and integrate other subjects in French.  Most students drop out after Kindergarten. 

Malian Women Praying

“Malian Women Praying”



The current system of government in Mali is ADEMA or Alliance pour la Democratic au Mali.  It was founded by Alpha Oumar Konare.  General Amadou Tourmani Touré was elected as president in June 2002.

Malian Government Officials

“Malian Government Officials”



Cotton is Mali’s main export, and any change in the cotton industry could drastically affect the economics of Mali.  The current currency exchange rate is 742.79 West African CFA Francs to 1 US dollar. 

Mali Currency

“Mali Currency”

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