They cannot (mis)represent themselves, they must be (mis)represented?
Fulani world is a great mystery. I read about them in Auá, by Fausto Duarte, 1st prize in the competition for the best colonial novel held in Lisbon in 1934. The Fulani man makes in it a self-standing, independent figure, in spite of his subaltern inscription as a colonial servant. But internally, as Fausto Duarte depicts him, he is not. He is just "walking with the White" for a while. Be that as it may, I would gladly put this novel on my shelf with colonial erotica, together with Mrs' Hull's The Sheikh and similar; (Fausto Duarte is extremely hard to find; I've read it from a copy belonging to the first edition in the National Library in Lisbon). Enough to say that it opens with an introduction mentioning a certain colonial exposition organised in Parque Eduardo VII in Lisbon, where the elegant ladies could blush (did they?) at the "priapism" of the Fulani brought for this purpose from the tiny and otherwise troublesome Portuguese colony in West Africa. The event forms a sort of less studied, yet not less interesting pendant to much more famous case of Sara Baartman, known as the Hottentot Venus. It is not of common knowledge that also male bodies were exposed in somehow similar contexts, and more than a century later. Overall, Duarte's book is about passions, strong and savage passions, put in the black soul to make them burn brighter. And fill the white reader with a forbidden thrill.
* Gayatri Spivak would like to say something about the Fulani in her Death of the Discipline (2003: 16-18); this comes to the fore as she comments on Maryse Condé Heremakhonon, where a West African subaltern gives a list of identities that a French-speaking upper class woman from Guadeloupe knows not: Mandingo, Fulani, Toucouleur, Serer, Woloff, Toma, Guerze, Fang, Fon, Bété, Ewe, Dagbani, Yoruba, Mina, Ibo; one is surprised there is no such variety in other places; the other does not understand what she means. Neither does the majority of Spivak's American readers. So she goes to Richard Philcox for a piece of information. This is how we learn that these people should in fact be called Fulbe, and they might have originated somewhere between Mauritania and Mali, but over the centuries they migrated through the savannah of West Africa as far as the Lake Chad area. In Senegal they call themselves Haalpulaar'en, and the French ethnographers divided them into Peuls (non-Muslim pastoralists) and Toucouleurs (Muslim agriculturalists). The English travellers to Sokoto Palisades (Nigeria), as Philcox attests, caught the Hausa word for them: this is how they became Fulani in the global tongue. I try to know what those Palisades in Nigeria might be. I discover an entity called The Fulani Empire of Sokoto, of which existence I have absolutely no data on my hard drive. But there is an entire book, by H.A.S. Johnston, dedicated to this topic, ready to be downloaded. Only ignores who does not wish to know. But I return to my Spivak, who smooths my little ego, shaken by freshly discovered ignorance of an entire Empire: in the names, there is the sedimentation of the history of the movement of peoples. [...] But the implied reader of the translation is not expected to have this information. The idea of shifting demographic frontiers caught in the virtuality of the Internet and telecommunication is generally assigned to postmodern globalization. The best among the globalizers know that there may be a history there. (Spivak, 2003: 18)
There may be a history there. The old country - an undifferentiated "Africa" - exists as a backdrop for the New World African. And for Comparative Literature it does not exist at all. (Spivak, 2003: 19). I would not agree with the statement. It does. I have read Auá in Portuguese, and a rendering of a sort of initiation song that Ruy Duarte de Carvalho translated from French and included in his poetic volume Ondula, savana branca. I've even used this material in an essay I wrote in Polish (EREGNAT EM ILLON). And I swear I will read any Fulani poem or narration as soon as I put my hands on it. For the moment, I enjoy my status of a good globalizer who knows that there may be a narration there.