Knowledge Systems

Songhay Cowhide Patterns (2)

The terminology for cowhide patterns remedies this imprecision. One can say that it is a photographic – chromatic thumbnail – index to the expanded spectrum of combinations.  The best way to gauge its efficiency is to compare standard patterns. Our main informant, an experienced herdsman, estimates that he can recognize up to 120 patterns, but the full count may come close to 150. For the most part, these names are originally borrowed from Fulfulde, the language of the traditionally herding Fulbe (Fula).

Songhay Cowhide Patterns (1)

In Gao and vicinity, it is common to hear announcements of lost cattle on local radio. To be useful, the message must contain fairly precise descriptions. For example, let’s take a red cow – in Songhay, haw (cow), ciray (red). To be sure, the phrase haw ciray is correct, as it literally means “red cow”. Then, why does such a description amuse some villagers just a few kilometres away from town?

Subscribe to RSS - Knowledge Systems