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The Epic of Sundiata is a West African tale that tells the story of the rise to power of Malis greatest king Sundiata Son-Jara In this epic the griot Djeli Mamoudou Kouyate begins the story from the humiliating childhood of Son Jara Sundiata to the jealousy between his stepmother Sassouma and his half brother Dankaran Tuma to the continue conflicts with the great sorcerer Soumaoro and the later achievements of Sundiata for his fatherland and his people The Empire of Mali rose out of what was once the empire of Ghana Mali had been a state inside of the Ghana Empire Goucher 232 Ghana was the first empire to emerge in West Africa around the 6th century CE Goucher231 Ghana used the strategic position taxing the desert nomad traders of the north and the gold producing people of the south Goucher 131 After the fall of Ghana the Mali Empire took its place and rose to power under the leadership of Sundiata the lion King Under Sundiata Mali expanded rapidly west to the Atlantic Ocean south into the forest and east beyond the Niger River and north as the Sahara desert The Mali Empire dominated the vast interior of West Africa a mostly region of mountains savanna desert and forests Here it was the home of a rich diversity of people including nomads traders farmers and cattle herders Depended much on the trans-Sahara trade the Empire of Mali soon prospered The Mali Empire was organized as staging posts in the long distance caravan trade and trading centers for the various West African products Goucher 234 The Mali Empire lasted from 1235 until about 1468 West African was the center of trading in this period Merchants from different locations would come to West Africa to trade goods and exchange their beliefs In the book when Sundiata and his family went to exile they would travel with a caravan of merchants to Ghana using the trans-Sahara trade
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