Welcoming the Stranger, Mali Style

By Francois Cissoko, Teacher Project Coordinator


“Djatiguiya" is a means of social understanding and the valuing of all human beings in Mali.

How is Mali in terms of cultural diversity? What is “Djatiguiya”? Is the "Djatiguiya" an indispensable social value among many in Mali? The "Djatiguiya" is a means of social understanding and the valuing of all human beings in Mali.

Mali is very rich in cultural diversity. With thirty-three ethic groups nurtured each by its own food and language, we can notice in Mali that there are people of various ethnic backgrounds all living together thanks to the concept of "Djatiguiya".

Djatiguiya means hospitality. It occupies a great place in Malian society. In Mali, the stranger is king. The principle of “Djatiguiya” rests on the fact of welcoming and treating an unknown person as well as a member of the family, if not even better. Since in the past, our ancestors have always welcomed strangers and this without reservations.

In the past, to respect the concept “Djatiguiya”, our ancestors made our moms stay along the guests the whole night at home. The women and guests slept in the same room without anything going on between them. The seriousness of this guest was demonstrated through his behavior towards these women.

Last month was an opportunity for me to taste this indispensable value of mycountry. Being in Mamarasso, where we have a partner school, I was received as a king. On arrival, old, youth and children were there to greet me with the music and first class dancers. At lunch, they made me eat three different dishes. Returning home they gave me a pair of hens that symbolizes an eternal friendship. Thanks to their "Djatiguiya", my mission was a success and I had even forgotten my fatigue after having traveled 90 km on a non-paved road.

In Mali, we have several ways to manifest the hospitality "Djatiguiya". It can be shown through food, gifts, or even smiles. This same hospitality has allowed and continues to allow protection to young students who come and learn in the city where they have no biological parents.

In short, Malian hospitality, especially in the villages, is good for the locals. It facilitates humanitarian efforts to reach the end of their intentions. Without this "Djatiguiya", Mali Rising’s partnerships would be much harder to create and maintain, meaning fewer children would receive an education.

Only the “Djatiguiya” can make someone from abroad feel at home in Mali.