Penda Diakité

Mansa Musso

(She Is King)

Currently exhibiting at UTA Artist Space, Beverly Hills, CA

Mansa Musow (She is King) is a celebration of the women who played integral roles in the creation of the Mali Empire, now modern day West Africa. Rarely mentioned in history, many of these women have been lost in history’s shadows of kings, yet behind the scenes were the true wealth, backbone and driving force that transformed West Africa— from founding cities, winning and ending wars, to building empires. This body of work pays homage to strong women of Mali, without whose contribution there would be no West Africa as we know it today. 

From a lifelong journey of consulting griots and storytellers in Mali, West Africa, Diakite has created from the words of her people to bring this deep-rooted history to life.

Nana Trouba

60” x 60” x 2”

Collage and Rubber engraving on Wood Panel

As the griots tell, in 12th century pre-imperial Mali (now present day West Africa, which was at the time, 12 separate kingdoms), Mansa (King) Sumanguru Kanté, the king of Sosso, was known to terrorize the surrounding kingdoms. He was thought to be magical-- somewhat of a sorcerer. Though he battled in over 100 wars, it was Nana Trouba who would finally put an end to his reign of terror throughout West Africa in the battle of Kirina. Nana Trouba, half-sister of Sundiata Keita, future King of the Mandé Empire of Mali, essentially used her beauty to help ensure her brother’s victory over Mansa Sumanguru Kanté.

“He is my brother and I will help him in any fight that he needs me,” she is known to have said.

When Nana was of age, as one of the kingdom’s most beautiful women, she was sent to Sosso and eventually arranged into marriage with Sumanguru Kanté. During her time with Sumanguru, well aware that her brother Sundiata was planning to wage war against her husband, she seduced Sumanguru into disclosing the magical weakness of the man who had fought and won over 100 battles. In his pride, Sumanguru boasted to her and revealed that his tana (weakness) is the spur of a white rooster. Upon getting this information she escaped into the night and relayed the message to her brother Sundiata, who in turn used this secret in his first ever battle, to defeat the cruel Sumanguru, and absolve the Mali Empire of the torment that he subjected upon them. Sundiata fastened a white rooster spur to his arrowhead which pierced Sumanguru and drained him of his extraordinary powers. After his defeat at Kirina, it is said Sumanguru fled into the mountains of Koulikoro where he “disappeared.”

Nana Trouba became known as the princess of all Mali.

More works to come...