Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali

Surname (Keita or Konaté?)

Some Mandinkas have proposed that the name Keita actually means inheritor (heir-apparent) in the Mandinka language, and that Sundiata's real surname is Konaté (French spelling in Mali) or Konateh, variations: Konate, Conateh (English spelling in the Gambia where the Mandinkas make up the largest ethnic group). It is proposed that Sundiata Keita's father, Naré Maghann Konaté, took the real family name Konaté while his successors were "Keitas in waiting" (heirs to the throne).[17] According to others, the name Keita is a clan name rather than a surname.[19] Although in some West African societies a clan can be similar to the family name (see Joof family), such similarities do not exist between the names Keita and Konaté. Both points of contention agree that Keita is not a real surname, in spite of the fact that Sundiata is referred to as Sundiata Keita in many scholarly works. At present, there is no consensus among the scholars regarding the name Sundiata Konaté.

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