2007 Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
ISBN 13: 978-1-57766-435-2
As a social scientist working with, and on, indigenous people’s issues I read a lot of contemporary ethnographies. Most that I read are largely out of date by the time they reach publication. This is simply because of the nature of the discipline: taking time to do the fieldwork, writing up the manuscript, finding a willing publisher, and the overall book production process all take time. As a result, in a world that changes by the day, more often then not when an ethnography is finally published the material within it is often dated. Social scientists have tried to work around this disciplinary “time drag” by focusing on particular cultural phenomena rather then looking at the culture itself as a whole. Monique and the Mango Rains is an example of one of these modern ethnographies, where the central focus of the book is on midwifery and childbirth in Mali, and the Minianka indigenous people and culture are more part of the contextual background then the actual focus of the book.
Focusing on Fatumata – the author Kris Holloway’s Malian name – and her Peace Corps experience among the Minianka indigenous peoples in Mali’s southeastern region near the Burkina Faso border, the book is a deeply personal narrative about the rhythms of West African life and death. The Minianka (also known as the Mamara, Miniyanka, Minya, Mianka, Minyanka, or Tupiire) are an indigenous group speaking a northern Senufo language used by about 700,000 people in southeastern Mali and northwestern Burkina Faso. Mali is one of the economically poorest countries in the world – the average Malian earns roughly the equivalent of $210 US dollars per year. Compounding this extreme level of poverty is the fact that very few people in Mali have electricity, running water, telephones, or access to modern healthcare. Most women are married by the age of eighteen and have an average of seven children – the risk of death during childbirth and pregnancy is among the top ten in the world. It is here, in the remote southeastern corner of Mali that the author was stationed for two years, and where she met and befriended the local village midwife, Monique Dembele.
The relationship between Fatumata and Monique is what makes this book succeed as it offers a unique glimpse into the day-to-day lives of the Minianka indigenous people and their contemporary struggles. The rarity of this glimpse is that we are given access to a component of Minianka life not often shared with the outside world – the inner realm of womanhood, midwifery, and childbirth. “I couldn’t believe that here, in this dilapidated box, Monique, with a sixth-grade education and nine months of medical training, was birthing babies. Lots of babies” (Holloway 2007: 8). However, as we learn, not only was Monique the midwife – and thus responsible for the future of her village – but she was also a doctor and respected elder. The larger role that Monique played in her village is revealed in the deeply personal narratives presented throughout the book. For example, several times throughout the book Monique confides in Fatumata about her struggles and frustrations: Monique told Fatumata, “He has had many attacks of malaria over the past few months. It has caused severe anemia, and now diarrhea. He is also malnourished. The mother didn’t know what to do. She had not heard about malaria prevention and drugs. … I can do nothing. I don’t have IVs. I don’t have serum. These women must bring me their children before they get so sick, then I have ways of helping them” (Holloway 2007: 30-31).
Broken into thirteen chapters, the book chronicles Fatumata’s relationship with Monique during several important cultural events for the Minianka indigenous peoples: the building of a new birthing hut, governmental revolution in Mali, and the death and birth of several community members. Filling an important gap within the contemporary literature dealing with indigenous peoples in West Africa, Monique and the Mango Rains is the perfect book for undergraduate classes, applied researchers and activists, or simply the interested reader.
Buy Secure on Amazon or from the Publisher.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Contribute to Indigenous People's Issues Today
Please send it along and we will do a feature. Email it to the Editor, Peter N. Jones: pnj "at" bauuinstitute.com.
Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources
The privacy of our visitors to Indigenous Peoples Issues Today is important to us.
At Indigenous Peoples Issues Today, we recognize that privacy of your personal information is important. Here is information on what types of personal information we receive and collect when you use visit Indigenous Peoples Issues Today, and how we safeguard your information. We never sell your personal information to third parties.
As with most other websites, we collect and use the data contained in log files. The information in the log files include your IP (internet protocol) address, your ISP (internet service provider, such as AOL or Shaw Cable), the browser you used to visit our site (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox), the time you visited our site and which pages you visited throughout our site.
Cookies and Web Beacons
You can chose to disable or selectively turn off our cookies or third-party cookies in your browser settings, or by managing preferences in programs such as Norton Internet Security. However, this can affect how you are able to interact with our site as well as other websites. This could include the inability to login to services or programs, such as logging into forums or accounts.
Thank you for understanding and supporting Indigenous Peoples Issues Today. We understand that some viewers may be concerned that ads are sometimes served for companies that negatively depict indigenous peoples and their cultures. We understand this concern. However, there are many legitimate companies that utilize Google Adwords and other programs to attract visitors. Currently, we have no way of deciphering between the two - we leave it up to the viewer to decide whether the companies serving ads are honest or not.