Sundiata Keita was the founder of the Mali Empire and is popularly referred to as the Lion King. Prior to this, Sundiata was the king / chief of a small, obscure Mandinka tribe within the Ghana Empire. With the decline of the Ghana Empire during the 13th century AD, Sundiata seized the opportunity to increase his power, and eventually subdued the Ghana Empire, turning it into one of his vassals.
Much of what we know about Sundiata’s life is derived from oral tradition, in particular one that is known as the Epic of Sundiata. Additionally, written evidence about this ruler can be found in the writings of several Muslim travelers who visited Mali.
Sundiata’s Mother – The Buffalo Woman
According to the Epic of Sundiata , the founder of the Mali Empire was the son of a king / chief by the name of Maghan Kon Fatta (known also as Frako Mahgan Keigu, meaning ‘Maghan the Handsome’), and his second wife, Sogolon Kedjou. Maghan’s territory is said to have been located in the upper reaches of the Niger River, in the north-western corner of the country known today as Guinea. In the epic, a prophecy was made which foretold the greatness that would be achieved by Maghan’s descendants and the Mali Empire.