The Dosso (Hunters) of West Africa have always been known as a community of the most disciplined men. They are the men who lived the most principled lives, respecting the laws of nature and living strictly by the customs of their Ancestors. They exemplify strength, courage and endurance and have chosen to live a life that represents suffering and challenge. It is this high level of quality that unifies these fearless hunters in a powerful brotherhood that for a long time has ignored the boundaries and new national identities imposed by the coloniser.
The hunters are honoured and appreciated for their bravery, courage and knowledge. The community relies on them to provide sustenance. But, like most human traditions, the modern world has lost the origins and underestimated the depth of their customs, values and discipline. When we have become so infatuated with our own ambitions that we have forsaken the natural phenomena that we have come to life to find, it becomes crucial to investigate the origins of things.
The Dosso (also Dozo, Doso, Donso) society of Western Meritah is a society of hunters belonging to many different ethnic groups. This particular society of hunters is just one of the communities that span the continent. The Dosso can be found in Burkina Faso, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo. Other hunter communities found around the continent are the Kamajor and Poro of West Africa, The Mayi Mayi of Central Africa and the Karamojong of the Nile region.
The Dosso’s origins are associated with a master hunter named Kontron who lived in a more pure time when Dosso were forced to hunt by their intelligence only; a time before technologies which made the hunt easier or more convenient and cars that made travel much faster; a time when a hunter would leave his home and its preoccupations and put his mind on the bush; when a hunter would find himself stalking the bush, carrying just a little food in order to hunt for days, sustaining himself from what he could find or acquire. After the master hunter Kontron had led many hunts, after he had returned to his community with many animal tails, one day Kontron never returned home to his wife named Sane. This is when Sane turned to her son and spoke these words,
“If you are truly the son of your father -- the inheritor of his blood and legacy, I want you to leave the house and do not return unless you have found him.”
Dosso culture, like all Ancestral cultures, are based on this principle. Everything that arrives to Earth arrives with a history and that history dictates the possibilities of its destiny. The legacy of the father is passed down to the son, this leads to the eternal life of the father. Each Dosso is initiated into the culture of hunting and if he is lucky and serious about the Dosso way of life, he will choose a Master Dosso as a teacher that he can follow and learn from. Each Dosso is trying to meet the quality and discipline of the legacy of the hunters who came before them and it is the elder Dossos or Karamoghos (teachers) who hold that legacy. All Dosso Honor Kontron and Sane for this reason and call upon them when faced with challenges. In doing so, they ensure that the spirits of the Great Kontron and his wife Sane live on.
“I was born into the Dosso way as my father was. There is no such thing as fear. We don’t fear any creature of the bush.”
Adama Traore, Dosso of Burkina Faso
Movie: Kalanda - The Knowledge of the Bush
Though the children of Kontron and Sane represent a unification of tribes, the society is centred around the Mande empire which descends from the famous hunter societies of the Mali empire (i.e. Sundiata Keita). The Mende houses a branch of the Dogon bloodlines which was entrusted by the World of the Gods with the highest knowledge of blacksmiths. Dosso society is categorised into three different branches: Blacksmiths, Griots/Musicians and ?. The Dosso secure the foundation of every Mande village that has been established.
In Kemet, the blacksmith is not only a metal worker but his profession is highly spiritual. He works with the power of iron and fire which are ruled by very powerful Deities and jinns (spirits or genies) and is therefore seen in the society as one who can solve any issue or problem. Dosso blacksmiths also provide the community with the guns and metal weapons that are used during hunts in addition to the hoes and tools used to farm and survive. A Dosso’s rifle is very important and is charged with spiritual powers and protections to not only find its target but protect its owner from the retaliations of animals. The blacksmith traditions of Meritah brought the knowledge of gun making to the world, though it has been mistakenly credited to China (See Volume 69: Earth Talk: Transatlantic Slavery). This depth of knowledge is why the different tribes meet in the house of the Mende for the Dosso society. It represents the cooperation and solidarity of the Kemetic/Dogon society.
The griot also represents an important position among the Dosso. He is the spokesman for the Chief or local authority but also he is the praise singer and historian in the society. His music is very sacred and with his instrument, (usually the hunter’s n’goni) he not only sings praise for his esteemed listener but also may bring correction or exposure through a type of musical divination. For this reason, the griot must keep himself very pure to be able to achieve a high level of perception for his musical divining. His rough, strong voice chants wisdom, history and truth over the sounds of his n’goni, iron chimes, and the community’s whistles, and gunshots. The Dosso Griot’s outfit is usually adorned with more protective charms and amulets than any other member of the society. When he exposes or sings truth about an individual he must ensure that the reaction or retaliation of his listener does not bring him harm.
Charms, talismans and amulets are one of the most well recognised aspects of the Dosso. They are constructed utilising the knowledge of the bush’s plants and energies. A Dosso who spends more time in the bush, interacts with the jinns ruling over the plants of the bush. Throughout Dosso history, this interaction provided hunters the knowledge of the energies and influence of the plants and animals in his environment. The Dosso traditions help each hunter utilise this knowledge for the benefit and protection of his community. This is what has led to the Dosso being seen as the guardians of the village. They provide protection not only from the wild animals of the bush but also any unseen spirits that can have a negative influence on the community. For this, they must gain the education to be able to tell the difference. They have also, throughout history, protected their village from human invaders, criminals and bandits. In doing so, one can see that their discipline, with its strength and rigidity is really one that was the predecessor to the modern military branches. Even the Dosso uniform and its adorning powerful charms are the true origin of the military uniform. When observed side by side one can easily see the similarities however the difference is in the spiritual power that is contained in the amulets and charms of the Dosso, while the decorated military uniforms of today present pendants and trophies representing accomplishments of the soldier.
In addition to the herbs and natural materials used in the charms, their power is also in large part due to the power of the words of the maker of each charm through the recitation of powerful spells. There are charms to protect the hunter from the spirit of the animals that he hunts, charms to make a hunter’s skin bulletproof or impenetrable to iron. There are charms to disable the aggressive or “evil” eye of an onlooker and charms to protect the hunter from snake or poisonous insect bites, among many more. Today, due to widespread religious conversion many of the spells utilised in “modern” Dosso amulets come from Arabic spells of the Qu’ran, but originally spells were in the Medu language, humanity’s original language. This language is still the bearer of the most powerful spells.
In the Kemetic language (Medu) the word for “Divine Hunter” and the word for the healer or physician is the same: Sounou. This shows the importance that the Hunter had beyond the well-known function of entering the bush and returning with animals for consumption. The medicines of the Dosso are well known and sought for their power and effectiveness. Hunters are known for their mastery of the knowledge found in nature and the harmony they have achieved with the natural world. The Dosso represent a long tradition of courageous men who have taken responsibility for being the bridge between nature and their community. Perhaps this is why the word for hunter, “Kapu” is the same word used for the 9th day of the dekan, the day that is reserved for honouring the World of the Neteru (Gods). Neter is the original word for God or Divinity but also is the source of the English word “nature”. It is the perfect principles of our natural existence that ensure our survival and livelihood and it is from them that we learn and improve ourselves.
Today, the Dosso make up a very big population of West Africa. Many of the political leaders and presidents have been through the Dosso initiation and utilise the power of the Dosso to maintain their position and responsibilities. Ironically, it is because of that power that the Dosso face many difficulties with the political regimes of their respective countries. The Dosso as a unified front of men possessing unimaginable power and knowledge of nature pose a threat to the political power of their country. As seen in the recent example of Cote D’Ivoire civil war where the Dosso community was accused of backing Alassane Ouattara, the presidential candidate of the North and serving as his militia. Though the Dosso community denied all accusations affirming that the Dosso code of conduct would not allow them to get involved or carry out political assassinations, warfare, etc., the government of Cote D’Ivoire still passed resolutions to legislation taking away the right for Dosso to bear arms within the country.
Recently, this powerful potential has contributed to the recovery and reclamation of culture for Kemet’s lost descendants. The late Dossoba (Chief Dosso) Andre Sanou of the Dosso community of Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso has opened the doors of initiation to the Kemetic descendants from the West who are returning to their homeland on The Earth Center’s Annual Pilgrimage with the goal of reclaiming their Ancestral culture. Since 2012, individuals have been initiated into Dosso society and given the rigid values of the Dosso to attain a quality life, living in harmony with nature and being responsible for themselves and their surroundings.
Dossoba Sanou chose Naba Iritah Shenmira, the merr (president) of the Ouagadougou Earth Center and son of Prophet Neb Naba Lamoussa Morodenibig to be the Dossoba (Chief hunter) for the Dosso of the West (diaspora). It is only by living in the legacy of our fathers that we truly live. To ignore it, is to ignore life.