Explore the enigma of Djigui Keita in Monnè, outrages et defis by Ahmadou Kourouma. Who is he, a figure of anti-colonial resistance, a collaborator of colonialism, or a prankster?  

You could argue Djigui Keïta is an enigma due to his kingly status. He’s presented like a legend or a god, and his mythical aura makes it hard to tie him to a single concrete identity. However, it’s not impossible to argue that he’s anti-colonial. Remember, he has censorious words for the French. You could also argue that he’s subject to pranks and tricks from his griots. They deliberately mistranslated his condemnation of colonial France.

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As your question already points out, Djigui Keita is something of an enigma. It’s hard to place the Soba king into one firm category. You could say that part of Keita’s mystery comes from the mythical position granted to him by his subjects. At one point, the narrator says, “All the Malinke nation talked about him, and the sheer force of words made him ineffable, multifarious.” At first, it’s like Keita is a superstar or a god. As with most superstars or gods, it’s hard to affix them to a stable identity. They are too “multifarious” to reside in a single concrete identity.

Although, as Ahmadou Kourouma’s novel unfolds, it seems to become easier to argue that Keita is neither so legendary nor so powerful. He’s unable to protect his country from a debilitating drought or from colonial France. In this sense, Keita is something of a prankster, a trickster, or a con. You could argue that Keita leads his subjects into believing that he can protect them when, clearly, he cannot.

Although, you might argue that Keita is also fooled by the people who work for him. Remember, he is quite dependent on his griots. The West African storytellers, poets, and musicians serve as translators between Keita and the French. You might remember the scene in which Keita remonstrates a French officer. To prevent further destruction, the griot purposely mistranslates Keita’s anti-colonial sentiments.

Again, the above might lead you to argue that Keita does hold anti-colonial bona-fides. It’s the griots who might be the collaborators. It’s the griots who might be pranking or tricking Keita.

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