Culture and the arts in Mauritania

Culture and the arts in Mauritania

The music
Mauritania’s traditional music has almost no relation to arab music. In the Maure’s environment the music is mostly influenced by music from Sudan, West Africa, Baramba and Soniké.

In all Mauritania, in arab and negro african circles, the music is the affair of the griots, special castes and hereditary. Neither colonization, nor the exposure to the world really changed this fact. In arab, maure, or griots societies they sing mostly poems in the classic arabic language which sometimes originates from pre-Islamic sources and also poems written in Hassania.

Wether they are epic poems or poems about love and romance the songs are accompanied by a traditional instrument called tidinit (a type of lute with 4 strings) for the men and by the ardine for the women.
There has been a rapid evolution since the end of the seventies. The young artists use more modern instruments and rhythms are changing… In the midsts of the arab maures some innovative talents occupy the scene like Maalouma (one of the best known artist outside of Mauritania), Dimi, Ouleya, Seddoum, Loubaba.
In the african negro society, the griots use such instruments as the lute, the harp and tam-tam. The traditional music calls upon historical epics , by referring to the great kings, chiefs, and generals of the past. It is a music strongly influenced by the mandingue tradition.
The traditional music of the negro-mauritanian is the first to experience evolutionary changes. Outside influence rapidly influenced the young negro-african musicians. Groups and orchestras were formed as early as the 60’s and many of the youth were influenced by afro-cuban and even pop music.

The cinema
Two Mauritanians producers became renowned outside the borders of the country. There is Med Hondo, who first acted in films realized by Robert Enrico and Costa-Gavras, then he became a film producer himself to expose African heads of state, racism, the neocolonialism, the oppression of the people sahraoui, slavery in Americas, emigration and the misdeeds of colonization. Lets also mention Sydney Sokhona who dealt with problem of the emigration. Another talented producer is Abderrahmane Sikasso who received an Oscar from FESPACO in 2002 for his film, “En attendant le bonheur” (“While waiting for happiness”).

The various types of Mauritania’s traditional architecture are represented in the old cities of Chenguetti, Ouadane, Tîchît, and Oualata. These cities are set up, mostly on cliffsides in the desert.
The structures of these cities resembles those of the fortified villages of North Africa, known under the name of ksour. The super thickness of the walls of these houses are excellent for thermal insulation. These walls are generally made out of stones and “banco”. Constructions generally satisfy the requirements of safety with galleries and warehouses. The city of Oualata in particular offer splendid exteriors and interiors.

Rupestral paintings and engravings
The Sahara is rich in paintings and rupestral (cave) engravings. These go as far back as the beginning of the Neolithic era.
Mauritania which is a country in the Sahara abounds in these paintings, which represent the wild fauna of this time: giraffes, herds of elephants, rhinoceros, herds, as well as scenes of life such as hunting, ceremonies…
Engravings and cave paintings (rupestres) are found mainly in the Dhars, Adrar , Tagant and Hodh areas.