We have never talked so much about marabouts since the outbreak of the Pogba affair. Some of them also practice with us. But behind these controversial men hides a special story between Martinique and Africa.
Who has never received in their mailbox in Fort-de-France, Le Prêcheur, Sainte-Anne or Grand-Rivière, a small white card, with the word “Sir” Where “Master” Where “Teacher“written in large letters in front of the name of a “famous” marabou stork “invested with a hereditary gift” and who promises mountains and marvels?
The rest of the text spread across the card is usually short and catchy, like:
This great marabout knows how to solve all your problems: love, luck, work, family. Occult works and effective rituals to make yourself loved and bring your ex back. Quick result.
In Martinique, as in mainland France, some people strongly believe in “powers” marabouts. How many ? Impossible to know. Those concerned do not shout it from the rooftops but sometimes the news catches up with them, as in September 2017, during the triple homicide committed in Fort-de-France by Kerry Ferdinand.
Kerry Ferdinand (between the two gendarmes) had entrusted his heavy secret to a marabout.
After killing teacher Leïla Laviolette and her two boys aged 3 and 6, Kerry Ferdinand contacted a marabout and asked him to use magic to cover up his crimes. But the marabout preferred to go the next day to the police station to denounce the facts.
If in Martinique some people use the services of marabouts, many on the other hand say they are wary of them, while nevertheless using a vocabulary which refers to these occult practices. This is the case of a resident of Trois-Ilets, employed as an executive in a large administration.
I don’t believe in marabouts. On the other hand, sometimes I think that I have been marabouted. Looking back, I don’t understand some of the choices I made. “He opened a book on my head”, as they say in Martinique. It is not possible that I could have made such and such a choice. It is not possible. So sometimes, I tell myself that someone may have cast a kind of quimbois on me, that someone may have cast a spell on me.Resident of Trois-Ilets
The quimbois? The word is out. If in Martinique some people believe in “genius” marabouts, it is because here the The ground is fertile with the perpetuation of occult and mystical practices specific to our island. Clearly, there is a natural filiation between the “mediums“ Africans and local quimboiseurs.
Moreover, according to certain specialists, the word “quimbois“ could be of Guinean origin. It would come from “xikuembo” which means “an indefinable thing, source of the most diverse misfortunes”. In his book Kenbwa an Gwadathe cantor of Creole Hector Poullet emphasizes that the quimbois can kill, as it can save from death.
Licensed marabouts practice in broad daylight, on the internet, by sms, by telephone or in consultation. They give themselves an African, Arabic or other name. The true quimboiseur is more discreet, he proceeds in the shadows and is known only by wood-potato radio.
In Martinique as in France, marabouts are often perceived by the general public as “charlatans“ who falsely claim to relieve the ailments of their clients for cold hard cash. It is not the same in Africa where the character plays an important role in society.
In Senegal, the marabout is a Muslim spiritual guide. He is part of great family lines or religious brotherhoods. The faithful who come to see him for a project, a problem or to solicit his prayers, often give him the “hadia“. It is a simple alms which is not an obligation.
In the Mali Empire, founded in the 13the century by Soundiata Keita, lare “great marabouts“ sat in government. They thus participated in their capacity as guardians of the Muslim faith, to the administration of this vast territory which encompassed large parts of present-day Mali, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea.
Timbuktu in the Mali Empire.
It’s from Senegal and Guinea precisely, but also coasts of Angola and Cape Verde that arrived
from 1640 in Martinique Ihe first African slaves. Thirty-three years later, the Senegal River region is shaken by an unprecedented conflict that combines religion and human rights. It is “the war of the Marabouts”.
In 1673, the Wolofs who had not converted to Islam continued to supply European merchants with the slaves subsequently sent to the West Indies. The marabouts oppose it and launch jihads (holy wars) against local kingdoms involved in triangular trade. The movement is led by the Moor Nasir Al Din.
It is in the name of the fight against the tyranny of kings and the condemnation of the slave trade, that Nasir Al Din succeeded very quickly in raising the popular masses and eliminating the aristocracies in power in Futa Toro, Djolof, Kajor and Waalo, to appoint in their place Buur Dyullit or masters of prayer. The triumph of the movement from 1673 immediately aroused the reaction of the French trade of Saint-Louis, which allied itself with the fallen aristocracies to eliminate it at the end of 1677.Boubacar Barry, Senegalese historian
Be that as it may, “the war of the Marabouts” enabled the slave trade between the Senegal River region and the French West Indies to be interrupted for four years. Like what, behind the words that make national news also hide the evils of the great history that has made Martinique.