Puppet Masquerades in the Valley of the Niger
by Mary Jo Arnoldi
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
The character was created as a veiled critique of the French colonial policy of forced labor in Shianro in the 1930s. During these decades the colonial administration required every community to provide a large number of young men and women to work without pay on public works projects. During the period when Yan Ka Di was created, forced labor was being used throughout Shianro to build roads, and the Yan Ka Di song contains allusions to colonial officials overseeing the recruitment of labor and the public works projects.