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Clowns are entertainers use using jokes, pranks, and similar antics throughout their presentation for amusement, social commentary and the diffusion of tensions within a given community. Clowns in black cultures can range from providing comical performances to providing more significant functions for everyday living depending on the society of reference.

Jean-Louis Bourgeois

Jean-Louis Bourgeois (center) and friends. Bourgeois is one of the few Woloso clowns that are not Native to West Africa.

History of clownsEdit

The oldest of clowns can be traced to the Fifth dynasty of Egypt about 4,500 years ago. The Danga, a pygmy that served Pharoah Dadkeri-Assi, was believed to have come from The Land of Ghosts, South of the Sahara. His capering had became very entertaining to the early Egyptian nobility. From this point in time until the 17th century, the tradition of tolerating a fool's honesty had came from the belief that they and madmen wielded divine inspiration. Therefore, clowns were believed to contain unwitting wisdom in their words. [1]

Types of clownsEdit

Bambuti ClownsEdit

The Bambuti pygmies of the Congo, are a tribe with few official roles. One of the closest things to an official function within the tribe is that of the tribe's clown. The Bambuti clown's role is to end disputes among villagers in a non violent fashion. Techniques can include miming and clowning to divert from the source of tension. It is also common for clowns who wish to behave as scapegoats or patsies if they choose to directly address the dispute.[2]

Woloso Clowns Edit

In Djenne, clowns also are designed to have an everyday function within the community to relieve stress.Typically, clowns residing in Djenne are part of the Waloso caste. The caste provides low social status and is usually composed of former slaves from other West African tribes such as Fulani and Songhai. However some Woloso clowns have been adopted by those of high social status and have even attained quassi-royal status. [3]

Regardless of a clown's official status in Djenne, they are allowed to use their profession to speak frankly and can do or say almost anything they wish. The clown's unofficial role is to resolve disputes and conflicts in a very formal, stratified society. Some methods recorded have been similar to what has been found of the Bambuti (to tease both parties), while others seem quite different such as stripping and dancing naked to defuse a hostile situation. The profession has no formal education. It is an occupation generally passed down through lineage and observing elders. Clowns are also expected to have a great sense of humor. This usually makes it very difficult for those not native to West Africa to become clowns of this nature. [4]



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