Document Detail

Beliefs and practices concerning twins, hermaphrodites, and albinos among the Bamana and Maninka of Mali.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  16830507     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
The Bamana and Maninka of Mali greatly value twins, and have elaborated a range of cultural beliefs and practices to assure their survival. Rates of twinning among these two ethnic groups average from 15.2/1000 to 17.9/1000 births compared to 10.5/1000 births (without assisted reproduction) in the United States and Great Britain. Twins (flaniw) are regarded as extraordinary beings with unusual powers, and as a gift from the supreme deity. A small altar (sinzin) is maintained in the home of twins, and periodic sacrifices of chicken blood, kola nuts, millet paste and millet beer regularly made to assure their protection. Albinos (yéfeguéw) and true and pseudo-hermaphrodites (tyéténousotéw) are also considered twin beings. However, they are believed to be the result of aberrant parental social behavior. The Bamana and Maninka believe that all four groups (twins, albinos, hermaphrodites, and pseudo-harmaphrodites) are closely linked to Faro, an androgynous supernatural being who provides equilibrium in the world. Faro is the original albino and hermaphrodite who gave birth to the first pair of twins after self-impregnation. Whenever a twin dies, a small wooden statue is sculpted called a flanitokélé (twin that remains). This commemorative figure is kept close to the surviving twin, reflecting a belief in the inseparability of twins. Eventually, the surviving twin takes responsibility for the figure. When a surviving twin marries, another figure is often sculpted in the opposite sex from the deceased twin, and placed with the original sculpture. Such commemorative sculptures are not created upon the death of those who are albinos, hermaphrodites, or pseudo-hermaphrodites. In recent years, transformational belief patterns have evolved as increasing numbers of Bamana and Maninka embrace Islam. Traditional beliefs are often given Islamic myths of origin. However, even in this Islamic context, many practices that assure twin survival are maintained.
Gavin H Imperato; Pascal James Imperato
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Journal of community health     Volume:  31     ISSN:  0094-5145     ISO Abbreviation:  J Community Health     Publication Date:  2006 Jun 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2006-07-11     Completed Date:  2006-11-03     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  7600747     Medline TA:  J Community Health     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  198-224     Citation Subset:  IM    
Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY 11203, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Albinism* / ethnology,  genetics,  psychology
Attitude to Health / ethnology*
Ethnic Groups / education*
Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
Hermaphroditism* / ethnology,  genetics,  psychology
Infant, Newborn
Pseudohermaphroditism / ethnology,  genetics,  psychology
Social Change
Social Values / ethnology
Twins* / ethnology,  genetics,  psychology

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