"Owing to the extraordinary richness and profound historical significance of Mande culture, several decades of scholars have explored endlessly intriguing avenues of inquiry and rummaged in many a dusty corner of the subject's more esoteric aspects. Over the years many distinguished studies have emerged, and now Stephen Wooten's The Art of Livelihood can be added to a list of works essential not only to research specialists, but also to any serious student of West African culture. Exhibiting superb scholarship, impeccable methodology and refreshingly clear analysis, the author illuminates the blend of art, spirituality and social dynamics that form the basis of strategies for grassroots economic survival, escorting his readers on a sensitive, colorful journey into the endlessly challenging world of Mande village farmers."
-- David C. Conrad, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at Oswego, and former President of the Mande Studies Association
"Taking his cue from his Bamana interlocutors, Stephen Wooten embraces an aesthetic framework that understands both farming and masquerade as performance. As a result, this book demonstrates not just that these two seemingly separate domains are interconnected, but also that both farming and masquerade are sites for creative agency in the lives of post-colonial, rural Mande people. It offers artful, detailed, narrative descriptions of Bamana daily life and ritual activities, as well as incisive analysis that synthesizes ethnographic research findings with the abundant literature on Mande social structure and aesthetics. Essential reading for scholars and students interested in performance studies, practice theory, aesthetic anthropology, African art history, and African studies."
-- Daniel B. Reed, Associate Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University and author of Dan Ge Performance