What does the word kasàlà literally mean?
Kasàlà is Cilubà (DRC) word, perhaps derived from the verb "kusàla" (to make an incision, to tattoo, to vaccinate, to scarify).
Related words are : "nsàlu" (scarifications) ; "lusàlà" (feather, used as a mark of distinction) ; "kasàlà" (diminutive form of "lusàlà"). The phrase "kwela kasàlà" means : to recite or chant a kasàlà.
Prov. "Lufù nkasàlà katòòke. Katwèna bamanyè mukùlù wâkààsa" Death is like a white feather. No-one knows who will bear it first.
Other verbs expressing the idea of celebrating, praising, honouring are :
kusènga, kusanzula, kutwà mêna or kutwà mênà àà bukolè (lit. to give strong or praise names)
In other Bantu languages, the idea of celebrating is often associated with (strong) names :
izibongo (names in Zulu), amazina (names in Kinyarwanda).
Does kasàlà exist outside Africa?
The concept kasàlà as we know it through our research, is purely a Subsaharan Africa phenomenon, as to :
- the form
- the content
- the use
- the function
The concept as such is not known in non-African languages. Therefore, it is more accurate to use an African word to name it, such as kasàlà, izibongo, thandumuna, etc., than any word from Western languages. When I started leading workshops in 1995, I tended to translate it for an European audience, but this revealed to be reducing the real meaning of the African concept. Using words from Western languages would be the same as attempting use such words for "yoga" or "zen".
How old is the kasàlà?
Since it is originally an oral practice, there is so far no method to know how old it is. However, a popular form of kasàlà is the self-praise and there are numerous examples of what are called "inscriptions" and "aretalogies" in Ancient Egypt. Perhaps those are the oldest forms of the kasàlà in Africa.
What are the differences between traditional and modern kasàlàs?
The traditional kasàlà is purely oral and often created in performance
The advantages of the modern kasàlà include :
- the use all kinds of media : orality, writing, dance, drawing. Most often it is first created in writing and then performed orally ;
- writing makes it easier to create, to keep, to translate, to circulate the poems, namely through the Internet.
- the computer makes it possible to write texts instantly ;
- it is accessible to people from all cultures ;
- the audience can be real or virtual, thanks to the Internet.
Where is kasàlà practised?
In Subsaharan Africa, especially in South Africa, in Congo, in Nigeria, in Senegal.
What is "kasàlà" called in other African languages?
izibongo in Zulu, Xhosa, Swati, Ndebele...
oriki in Yoruba
kirari in Hausa
amazina in Kinyarwanda ; ibyivugo = kasàlà of Self
vivugo in Kiswahili ; majigambo = kasàlà of Self
There are of course many more words, according to the languages. I suggested to use "kasàlà" as a general term.
What do you think of the saying Self-praise stinks?
This saying is true, as the poem "Make that wall !" (Kasàlibrary >Texts) illustrates. Fortunately, what is f.i. termed in Cilubà (a Bantu language from the DRC) kudìsènga (to celebrate the Self), as in the saying Wâdìsènga, wâsèngangana (lit. You celebrate yourself, you celebrate other people), has nothing to do with braggadocio. Indeed, people in Africa do boast and brag. They then do what is called kudìtàmbisha. Kudìsènga is rather a sacred activity, which consists of celebrating the Self in human beings, in its beauty, strength and promises. When "senging" yourself, you recollect and assert the nobility or divinity of the human being. In order to avoid any confusion, it would be helpful to supply the verb "seng" and the phrase "seng oneself" to the English lexicon. By the way, in the Bantu words, the prefix ku- is the equivalent of the English infinitive particle "to", while the infix -dì- means "oneself". Here's just the beginning of "Make that Wall" :
Promise Kept !
They had thought : He’s rich hence he’s fit for the highest office
He’s been able to manage businesses he’ll be able to manage people
Still why will the American people bitterly regret long after he’s gone
Having given him the presidency of the United States ? Here is a glimpse
In the story of Don-The-Truth-Twister a self-centered real estate mogul
A narcissistic showbiz actor who mixed governing with reality tv shows
I am Don Juan The-Greatest I have many other names
Which I will reveal to you soon I was born in a wealthy family
Just after World War II Today I have fantastic friends worldwide
All strong men from Moscow Riyadh Rome Rio etcetera