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People in Mali face recurrent droughts and food shortages. The situation in Mali has been exacerbated by political violence which has forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. SOS Children's Villages works in three locations across the country, and has recently launched emergency relief in Mali to protect families affected by the fighting. … more about our charity work in Mali

A magical month in Mali

The girls are eager to show off their moves on camera
The girls are eager to show off their moves on camera

Throughout June and July, we’re exploring what Ramadan means to Muslim children in our Villages across the world. This week, we journey to Mali to visit SOS Children’s Village Sanankoroba. We meet the families there and see what celebrations they have planned.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time for Muslims worldwide to observe fasting and abstinence. About 90 percent of the population of Mali are Muslim.

During the month, the children of the Sanankoroba Children's Village organise and participate in traditional exhibitions to help distract those fasting from their hunger. These unique events are an important part of Ramadan in Mali, and are believed to be an additional source of blessing for fasters. The children begin their evening performances on the tenth night of Ramadan.

Malian boys from SOS Sanankoroba doing handstands
Boys from SOS Sanankoroba practice their yokoro dance

Celebrating with “yokoro”

“Yokoro”, loosely translated as “childish buffoonery”, is a cultural dance practised in many regions in Mali. SOS boys between the ages of seven and 14 form groups to perform this dance. Disguised with beautiful hand-made, traditional African masks, they dance from house to house in the Village. The lead dancer dances like a puppet suspended by imaginary strings; the ‘strings’ are controlled by another of the boys whilst the others sing, dance and beat drums they made themselves. 

Each song has a special significance. Some encourage the giving of gifts (particularly to the children!), others call for Allah’s Ramadan blessings.

At the end of the performance, the lead dancer receives coins, food and sweets from the adults. The children repeat the dancing and singing at every house in the Village and use the money they collect to buy sweets, which they share among themselves.

“Ramadan means fasting for the adults. But us children, we love this month because my friends and I get lots of small gifts,” smiles 14-year-old Ali. “We get grains, money, cookies, candy and other things!”

Dancing the “djidounoun”

 The girls dance from door to door in groups of five or six, also collecting offerings.While the boys dance the yokoro, the girls participate in a dance known as “djidounoun”. This is similar to the yokoro of boys, but the girls don’t wear masks. The girls produce a wonderful traditional African dancing rhythm with home-made instruments – calabashes filled with water, which they strike with two small sticks. Another calabash, also filled with water, is placed on the head of one girl who carries it around as a traditional symbol of the dance.

“Some families donate money which we put in water; other families give us cereals. We use the money raised to buy items and prepare a feast with the cereals that we have,” explains 16-year-old Isatou.

“I particularly love the songs we sing. It is always an exciting atmosphere in the village,” says Kadida, Isatou’s SOS sister.

The girls sing songs that have come down the generations. The tradition of reminding children about their cultural history is very important in Mali. “Even when we sing, we say ‘good evening ancestral mothers’,” says Isatou.

Both girls look forward to Ramadan excitedly every year; “Ramadan is a big Muslim festival during which I get new clothes and make myself beautiful,” Kadida says excitedly. But she also recognises the other important aspects of Ramadan, particularly the asking of forgiveness from others as well as forgiving those who have done wrong.

This special way of celebrating Ramadan is unique to Malian Muslim culture and has passed from generation to generation.

Giving Zakat this Ramadan

We've been working in Mali, providing love and care to orphan and vulnerable children, for nearly 30 years. Help us continue or work there by donating your Zakat to SOS Children. 

You can donate your Zakat to any of the 125 countries we work in. If you choose to donate in this way, your money will be held in a non-interest earning account.

You can also sponsor a child from any of our Children’s Villages. Your sponsorship will be subject to our normal banking procedures.

Please visit our dedicated page on Zakat giving for more information.

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