Puppet Masquerades in the Valley of the Niger

by Mary Jo Arnoldi
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Baninkònò, the Stork. Kirango, 1979. Photo by Mary Jo Arnoldi.


Some characters, such as the farmer's lion or the fishermen's crocodile, have been played for generations and have come to define a troupe's ethnicity against the background of multiple ethnic groups living in the Segou region. Among the Sòmòno fishermen in Kirango, the character Baninkònò, which represents a Stork, a fishing bird par excellence, is this troupe's quintessential statement of its ethnic identity. The troupe has invested heavily in its costume, which consists of yards of imported gold brocade and bright red fabric.