Mauritania: Video - Haratine women of 'slave caste' perform traditional song
The bemdjé is a traditional musical/dancing practice amongst Haratine women of slave descent in Mauritania. This video of a bemdjé was filmed by MRG staff members on a visit in September 2012, as part of our ongoing work in the country.
The singer, who is accompanied by a chorus of drummers, sings about relations between women and men, social relationships, and issues that affect their daily lives. In earlier times, the bemdjé acted as a conduit for Haratine women to exchange often sensitive and personal information on important topics. These were important spaces that allowed Haratine women to freely express themselves.
In the last ten years there has been a growing interest in the bemdjé from white Moor women (the dominant ethnic group in Mauritania), particularly in urban areas. Given the interest and demand, Haratine women are now able to charge for their singing and dancing. The bemdjé has become a professional activity from which they can make a living.
Although Muslim law in Mauritania grants the bemdjé leisure status as it does not consider drums prohibited instruments, it is important to note that in villages where the majority adhere to strict Islamist ideologies, the bemdjé is considered vulgar and is banned.