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Tierno Bokar
Peter Brook
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Background: Tierno Bokar

Tierno Bokar (1875–1939) was a Sufi sage, a member of a distinguished clan, and a spiritual leader in his village in Mali. His clan, exponents of repeating a Sufi prayer 12 times, was embroiled in a debate with a rival clan that advocated repeating it 11 times, a debate that devolved into a conflict over power and leadership in the Tidjani Sufi Order. When Tierno eventually became a follower of Hamallah, a member of the rival clan, he was cast out by family, relatives and clan, branded a traitor, and forbidden to teach or pray publicly. His enemies further ostracized him by collaborating with the colonial powers, portraying him as a fomenter of rebellion against French rule. Tierno died impoverished and isolated.

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Gregory Mosher

Columbia Arts Initiative director Gregory Mosher comments on Tierno Bokar’s story, on Tierno’s student and biographer Amadou Hampaté Bâ, and the play’s message of tolerance.

On the play

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On the author

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A message of tolerance

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Voza Rivers

Harlem Arts Alliance chairman Voza Rivers explains the doctrinal debate that is central to the story of Tierno Bokar.

A question of faith

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The play Tierno Bokar is based on Malian writer Amadou Hampaté Bâ’s book about his studies with Tierno. This photo of Hampaté Bâ and another student of Tierno's appears in The Life and Teaching of Tierno Bokar: The Sage of Bandiagara (Paris: Editions Présence Africaine, 1957).

Readings

Read Peter Brook’s commentary About Tierno Bokar. (PDF)

Read Marie-Hélène Estienne's article About Tierno Bokar. (PDF)

Read excerpts from Louis Brenner’s book West African Sufi: The Religious Heritage and Spiritual Search of Cerno Bokar Saalif Taal. (PDF)