Kassi (1241–?)

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Kassi (1241–?)

Empress of Mali. Born in 1241; chief wife and paternal cousin of Emperor Suleyman who governed Mali; children: son Kassa.

Born in 1241, Empress Kassi was very popular with the Malian royal court, which included some of her relatives. When her husband Emperor Suleyman divorced her to marry a commoner, Bendjou , a feud developed. Kassi assembled the aid of the noblewomen of the court who were unwilling to pay reverence to Empress Bendjou. The noblewomen, still regarding Kassi as the empress of Mali, continued to pay homage to her by tossing soil on their heads and revealed their contempt for Bendjou by casting earth on their hands. The defiant behavior of the royal court's women vexed the emperor and empress, and compelled Kassi to seek refuge in the mosque.

From her sanctuary, Kassi influenced the nobles, particularly her cousins, to rebel against Emperor Suleyman; however, the revolt was just one part of a much larger fight for control of the Malian empire. One sect supported Emperor Suleyman, while the other party backed the sons of former ruler, Mansa Maghan I, who was Suleyman's nephew. The group who identified with the sons of Mansa Maghan I also encouraged Kassi. In order to discredit Kassi, the emperor proved that she was plotting with her cousin Djathal, who had been banished for treason. Kassi's son, Kassa, governed Mali after Suleyman for only nine months before being deposed by his cousin, Mari Diata.

Kim L. Messeri , freelance writer, Austin, Texas