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Ara dreams: one Malian woman’s reflection on fertility, Islam, and dream interpretation
The perception that fertility problems are entirely a women’s issue abounds throughout contemporary southern Mali. While the increased accessibility of biomedical clinics in rural areas has slowly started to challenge this perception, many women continue to take special measures to protect and boost their fertility in order to safeguard their marriages. Drawing from stories and the dreams of a young mother, Ara Bagayoko, this paper explores the widely understood relationship between dreams and female fertility in the town of Ouélessébougou. Here I highlight the manner in which Ara has consulted a local, literate, male dream-interpreter who uses Islamic dream manuals in order to promote conception, prevent miscarriages, and avoid infant mortality. This holy man (mori) dispenses ritual prescriptions while candidly predicting the fate of women’s wombs. By considering the content of dreams as well as their analysis, this paper reviews the role of Muslim dream interpretation in ensuring female reproductive health.