|c. 18 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Mandé peoples, especially the Bambara, Soninke people, Yalunka people, Dyula people and Khassonké people|
The Mandinka, or Malinke, million, they are the largest subgroup of the Mandé peoples and one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. They speak the Mandinka language, which is one of the Western Manding languages in the Mande language family and a lingua franca in much of West Africa. Over 99% of Mandinka adhere to Islam. They are predominantly subsistence farmers and live in rural villages. Their largest urban center is Bamako, the capital of Mali, which is also inhabited by the closely related Bambara.are a West African ethnic group primarily found in southern Mali, eastern Guinea and northern Ivory Coast. Numbering about 11
The Mandinka are the descendants of the Mali Empire, which rose to power in the 13th century under the rule of king Sundiata Keita, who founded an empire that would go on to span a large part of West Africa. They migrated west from the Niger River in search of better agricultural lands and more opportunities for conquest.Nowadays, the Mandinka inhabit the West sudanian savanna region extending from The Gambia and the Casamance region in Senegal to Ivory Coast. Although widespread, the Mandinka constitute the largest ethnic group only in the countries of Mali, Guinea and The Gambia. Most Mandinka live in family-related compounds in traditional rural villages. Their traditional society has featured socially stratified castes. Mandinka communities have been fairly autonomous and self-ruled, being led by a chief and group of elders. Mandinka has been an oral society, where mythologies, history and knowledge are verbally transmitted from one generation to the next. Their music and literary traditions are preserved by a caste of griots, known locally as jelis, as well as guilds and brotherhoods like the donso (hunters).
Between the 16th and 19th centuries, many Muslim and non-Muslim Mandinka people, along with numerous other African ethnic groups, were captured, enslaved and shipped to the Americas. They intermixed with slaves and workers of other ethnicities, creating a Creole culture. The Mandinka people significantly influenced the African heritage of descended peoples now found in Brazil, the Southern United States and, to a lesser extent, the Caribbean.
The Mandés were initially a part of many fragmented kingdoms that formed after the collapse of Ghana empire in the 11th century.During the rule of Sundiata Keita, these kingdoms were consolidated, and the Mandinka expanded west from the Niger River basin under Sundiata's general Tiramakhan Traore. This expansion was a part of creating a region of conquest, according to the oral tradition of the Mandinka people. This migration began in the later part of the 13th century.
Another group of Mandinka people, under Faran Kamara – the son of the king of Tabou – expanded southeast of Mali, while a third group expanded with Fakoli Kourouma.
With the migration, many gold artisans and metal working Mandinka smiths settled along the coast and in the hilly Fouta Djallon and plateau areas of West Africa. Their presence and products attracted Mandika merchants and brought trading caravans from north Africa and the eastern Sahel, states Toby Green – a professor of African History and Culture. It also brought conflicts with other ethnic groups, such as the Wolof people, particularly the Jolof Empire.
The caravan trade to North Africa and Middle East brought Islamic people into Mandinka people's original and expanded home region.The Muslim traders sought presence in the host Mandinka community, and this likely initiated proselytizing efforts to convert the Mandinka from their traditional religious beliefs into Islam. In Ghana, for example, the Almoravids had divided its capital into two parts by 1077, one part was Muslim and the other non-Muslim. The Muslim influence from North Africa had arrived in the Mandinka region before this, via Islamic trading diasporas.
In 1324, Mansa Musa who ruled Mali, went on Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca with a caravan carrying gold. Shihab al-Umari, the Arabic historian, described his visit and stated that Musa built mosques in his kingdom, established Islamic prayers and took back Maliki school of Sunni jurists with him.According to Richard Turner – a professor of African American Religious History, Musa was highly influential in attracting North African and Middle Eastern Muslims to West Africa.
The Mandinka people of Mali converted early, but those who migrated to the west did not convert and retained their traditional religious rites. One of the legends among the Mandingo of western Africa is that the general Tiramakhan Traore led the migration, because people in Mali had converted to Islam and he did not want to.Another legend gives a contrasting account, and states that Traore himself had converted and married Muhammad's granddaughter. The Traore's marriage with a Muhammad's granddaughter, states Toby Green, is fanciful, but these conflicting oral histories suggest that Islam had arrived well before the 13th century and had a complex interaction with the Mandinka people.
Through a series of conflicts, primarily with the Fula-led jihads under Imamate of Futa Jallon, many Mandinka converted to Islam.In contemporary West Africa, the Mandinka are predominantly Muslim, with a few regions where significant portions of the population are not Muslim, such as Guinea Bissau, where 35 percent of the Mandinka practice Islam, more than 20 percent are Christian, and 15 percent follow traditional beliefs.
Slave raiding, capture and trading in the Mandinka regions may have existed in significant numbers before the European colonial era,as is evidenced in the memoirs of the 14th century Moroccan traveller and Islamic historian Ibn Battuta. Slaves were part of the socially stratified Mandinka people, and several Mandinka language words, such as Jong or Jongo refer to slaves. There were fourteen Mandinke kingdoms along the Gambia River in the Senegambia region during the early 19th century, for example, where slaves were a part of the social strata in all these kingdoms.
|Region||Total embarked||Total disembarked|
|Kongo people region||5.69 million|
|Bight of Benin||2.00 million|
|Bight of Biafra||1.6 million|
|Gold Coast||1.21 million|
|Windward Coast||0.34 million|
|Sierra Leone||0.39 million|
|Brazil (South America)||4.7 million|
|Rest of South America||0.9 million|
|North America||0.4 million|
According to Toby Green, selling slaves along with gold was already a significant part of the trans-Saharan caravan trade across the Sahel between West Africa and the Middle East after the 13th century.With the arrival of Portuguese explorers in Africa as they looked for a sea route to India, the European purchase of slaves had begun. The shipment of slaves by the Portuguese, primarily from the Jolof people, along with some Mandinka, started in the 15th century, states Green, but the earliest evidence of a trade involving Mandinka slaves is from and after 1497 CE. In parallel with the start of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the institution of slavery and slave-trading of West Africans into the Mediterranean region and inside Africa continued as a historic normal practice.
Slavery grew significantly between the 16th and 19th century.The Portuguese considered slave sources in Guinea and Senegambia parts of Mandinka territory as belonging to them, with their 16th to 18th century slave trade-related documents referring to "our Guinea" and complaining about French and British slave trading ships overrunning them. Their slave exports from this region nearly doubled in the second half of the 18th century compared to the first, but most of these slaves disembarked in Brazil.
Scholars have offered several theories on the source of the transatlantic slave trade of Mandinka people. According to Boubacar Barry, a professor of History and African Studies, chronic violence between ethnic groups such as Mandinka people and their neighbours, combined with weapons sold by slave traders and lucrative income from slave ships to the slave sellers, fed the practice of captives, raiding, manhunts, and slaves.The victimised ethnic group felt justified in retaliating. Slavery was already an accepted practice before the 15th century. As the demand grew, states Barry, Futa Jallon led by an Islamic military theocracy became one of the centers of this slavery-perpetuating violence, while Farim of Kaabu (the commander of Mandinka people in Kaabu) energetically hunted slaves on a large scale. Martin Klein (a professor of African Studies) states that Kaabu was one of the early suppliers of African slaves to European merchants.
The historian Walter Rodney states that Mandinka and other ethnic groups already had slaves who inherited slavery by birth, and who could be sold.The Islamic armies from Sudan had long established the practice of slave raids and trade. Fula jihad from Futa Jallon plateau perpetuated and expanded this practice. These jihads were the largest producer of slaves for the Portuguese traders at the ports controlled by Mandinka people. The insecure ethnic groups, states Rodney, stopped working productively and became withdrawn, which made social and economic conditions desperate, and they also joined the retaliatory cycle of slave raids and violence.
Walter Hawthorne (a professor of African History) states that the Barry and Rodney explanation was not universally true for all of Senegambia and Guinea where high concentrations of Mandinka people have traditionally lived.Hawthorne states that large numbers of Mandinka people started arriving as slaves in Portuguese, French and British colonies in the Caribbean and South America, only between mid 18th through to the 19th century. During these years, slave trade records show that nearly 33% of the slaves from Senegambia and Guinea-Bissau coasts were Mandinka people. Hawthorne suggests three causes of Mandinka people appearing as slaves during this era: small scale jihads by Muslims against non-Muslim Mandinka, non-religious reasons such as economic greed of Islamic elites who wanted imports from the coast, and attacks by the Fula people on Mandinka's Kaabu with consequent cycle of violence.
Mandinka are rural subsistence farmers in the Sahel who rely on peanuts, rice, millet, maize, and small-scale husbandry for their livelihood. During the wet season, men plant peanuts as their main cash crop. Men also grow millet and women grow rice (traditionally, African rice), tending the plants by hand.This is extremely labour-intensive and physically demanding work. Only about 50% of the rice consumption needs are met by local planting; the rest is imported from Asia and the United States.
The oldest male is the head of the family and marriages are commonly arranged. Small mud houses with conical thatch or tin roofs make up their villages, which are organised on the basis of the clan groups. While farming is the predominant profession among the Mandinka, men also work as tailors, butchers, taxi drivers, woodworkers, metalworkers, soldiers, nurses, and extension workers for aid agencies. However, most women, probably 95%, tend to the home, children, and animals as well as work alongside the men in the fields.
Today, over 99% of Mandinka are Muslim.Mandinkas recite chapters of the Qur'an in Arabic. Some Mandinka syncretise Islam and traditional African religions. Among these syncretists spirits can be controlled mainly through the power of a marabout, who knows the protective formulas. In most cases, no important decision is made without first consulting a marabout. Marabouts, who have Islamic training, write Qur'anic verses on slips of paper and sew them into leather pouches (talisman); these are worn as protective amulets.
The conversion to Islam took place over many centuries. According to Robert Wyndham Nicholls, Mandinka in Senegambia started converting to Islam as early as the 17th century, and most of Mandinka leatherworkers there converted to Islam before the 19th century. The Mandinka musicians, however were last, converting to Islam mostly in the first half of the 20th century. Like elsewhere, these Muslims have continued their pre-Islamic religious practices such as their annual rain ceremony and "sacrifice of the black bull" to their past deities.
Most Mandinkas live in family-related compounds in traditional rural villages. Mandinka villages are fairly autonomous and self-ruled, being led by a council of upper class elders and a chief who functions as a first among equals.
The Mandinka people have traditionally been a socially stratified society, like many West African ethnic groups with castes.The Mandinka society, states Arnold Hughes – a professor of West African Studies and African Politics, has been "divided into three endogamous castes – the freeborn (foro), slaves (jongo), and artisans and praise singers (nyamolo). The freeborn castes are primarily farmers, while the slave strata included labor providers to the farmers, as well as leather workers, pottery makers, metal smiths, griots, and others. The Mandinka Muslim clerics and scribes have traditionally been considered as a separate occupational caste called Jakhanke, with their Islamic roots traceable to about the 13th century.
The Mandinka castes are hereditary, and marriages outside the caste was forbidden.Their caste system is similar to those of other ethnic groups of the African Sahel region, and found across the Mandinka communities such as those in Gambia, Mali, Guinea and other countries.
The Mandinka practice a rite of passage, kuyangwoo, which marks the beginning of adulthood for their children. At an age between four and fourteen, the youngsters have their genitalia ritually cut (see articles on male and female genital cutting), in separate groups according to their sex. In years past, the children spent up to a year in the bush, but that has been reduced now to coincide with their physical healing time, between three and four weeks.
During this time, they learn about their adult social responsibilities and rules of behaviour. Preparation is made in the village or compound for the return of the children. A celebration marks the return of these new adults to their families. As a result of these traditional teachings, in marriage a woman's loyalty remains to her parents and her family; a man's to his.
The women among the Mandinka people, like other ethnic groups near them, have traditionally practiced female genital mutilation (FGM), traditionally referred to as "female circumcision." According to UNICEF, the female genital mutilation prevalence rates among the Mandinkas of the Gambia is the highest at over 96%, followed by FGM among the women of the Jola people's at 91% and Fula people at 88%.Among the Mandinka women of some other countries of West Africa, the FGM prevalence rates are lower, but range between 40% to 90%. This cultural practice, locally called Niaka or Kuyungo or Musolula Karoola or Bondo, involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris, or alternatively, the partial or total removal of the labia minora with the clitoris.
Some surveys, such as those by the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP), estimate FGM is prevalent among 100% of the Mandinkas in Gambia.In 2010, after community efforts of UNICEF and the local government bodies, several Mandinka women's organization pledged to abandon the female genital mutilation practices.
Marriages are traditionally arranged by family members rather than either the bride or groom. This practice is particularly prevalent in the rural areas. Kola nuts, a bitter nut from a tree, are formally sent by the suitor's family to the male elders of the bride-to-be, and if accepted, the courtship begins.
Polygamy has been practiced among the Mandinka since pre-Islamic days. A Mandinka man is legally allowed to have up to four wives, as long as he is able to care for each of them equally. Mandinka believe the crowning glory of any woman is the ability to produce children, especially sons. The first wife has authority over any subsequent wives. The husband has complete control over his wives and is responsible for feeding and clothing them. He also helps the wives' parents when necessary. Wives are expected to live together in harmony, at least superficially. They share work responsibilities of the compound, such as cooking, laundry, and other tasks.
Mandinka culture is rich in tradition, music, and spiritual ritual. Mandinkas continue a long oral history tradition through stories, songs, and proverbs. In rural areas, western education's impact is minimal; the literacy rate in Latin script among these Mandinka is quite low. However, more than half the adult population can read the local Arabic script (including Mandinka Ajami); small Qur'anic schools for children where this is taught are quite common. Mandinka children are given their name on the eighth day after their birth, and their children are almost always named after a very important person in their family.
The Mandinka have a rich oral history that is passed down through griots. This passing down of oral history through music has made music one of the most distinctive traits of the Mandinka. They have long been known for their drumming and also for their unique musical instrument, the kora. The kora is a twenty-one-stringed West-African harp made out of a halved, dried, hollowed-out gourd covered with cow or goat skin. The strings are made of fishing line (these were traditionally made from a cow's tendons). It is played to accompany a griot's singing or simply on its own.
A Mandinka religious and cultural site under consideration for World Heritage status is located in Guinea at Gberedou/Hamana.
The kora has become the hallmark of traditional Mandinka musicians". The kora with its 21 strings is made from half a calabash, covered with cow's hide fastened on by decorative tacks. The kora has sound holes in the side which are used to store coins offered to the praise singers, in appreciation of their performance. The praise singers are called "jalibaas" or "jalis" in Mandinka.
One Mandinka outside Africa is Kunta Kinte, a main figure in Alex Haley's book Roots and a subsequent TV mini-series. Haley claimed he was descended from Kinte, though this familial link has been criticised by many professional historians and at least one genealogist as highly improbable (see D. Wright's The World And A Very Small Place ). Martin R. Delany, a 19th-century abolitionist, military leader, politician and physician in the United States, was of partial Mandinka descent.
Sinéad O'Connor's 1988 hit "Mandinka" was inspired by Alex Haley's book.
Mr. T, of American television fame, once claimed that his distinctive hairstyle was modelled after a Mandinka warrior that he saw in National Geographic magazine.In his motivational video Be Somebody... or Be Somebody's Fool! , he states: "My folks came from Africa. They were from the Mandinka tribe. They wore their hair like this. These gold chains I wear symbolize the fact that my ancestors were brought over here as slaves." In a 2006 interview, he reiterated that he modeled his hair style after photographs of Mandinka men he saw in National Geographic.
Many early works by Malian author Massa Makan Diabaté are retellings of Mandinka legends, including Janjon, which won the 1971 Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire. His novels The Lieutenant of Kouta , The Barber of Kouta and The Butcher of Kouta attempt to capture the proverbs and customs of the Mandinka people in novelistic form.
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations defines Western Africa as the 16 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, as well as the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. The population of West Africa is estimated at about 381 million people as of 2018, and at 381,981,000 as of 2017, of which 189,672,000 are female and 192,309,000 male.
The balafon is a gourd-resonated xylophone, a type of struck idiophone. It is closely associated with the neighbouring Mandé, Senoufo and Gur peoples of West Africa, particularly the Guinean branch of the Mandinka ethnic group, but is now found across West Africa from Guinea to Mali. Its common name, balafon, is likely a European coinage combining its Mandinka name bala with the word fôn 'to speak' or the Greek root phono.
The Music of Mali is, like that of most African nations, ethnically diverse, but one influence predominates; that of the ancient Mali Empire of the Mandinka. Mande people make up 50% of the country's population, other ethnic groups include the Fula (17%), Gur-speakers 12%, Songhai people (6%), Tuareg and Moors (10%) and another 5%, including Europeans. Mali is divided into eight regions; Gao, Kayes, Koulikoro, Mopti, Ségou, Sikasso, Tombouctou and Bamako.
A griot is a West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet, or musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition and is often seen as a leader due to their position as an advisor to royal personages. As a result of the former of these two functions, they are sometimes called a bard.
Sundiata Keita was a prince and founder of the Mali Empire. The Malian ruler Mansa Musa, who made a pilgrimage to Mecca, was his great-nephew.
Mandé is a family of ethnic groups in Western Africa who speak any of the many related Mande languages of the region. Various Mandé groups are found in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The Mandé languages are divided into two primary groups: East Mandé and West Mandé.
The Soninke are a West African Mande ethnic group found in eastern Senegal and its capital Dakar, northwestern Mali and Foute Djalon in Guinea, The Gambia and southern Mauritania. They speak the Soninke language, also called Maraka language, which is one of the Mande languages.
Wassoulou is a cultural area and historical region in the Wassoulou River Valley of West Africa. It is home to about 160,000 people, and is also the native land of the Wassoulou genre of music.
Soumaoro Kanté was a 13th-century king of the Sosso people. Seizing Koumbi Saleh, the capital of the recently defunct Ghana Empire, Soumaoro Kanté proceeded to conquer several neighboring states, including the Mandinka people in what is now Mali. However, the Mandinka prince Sundiata Keita built a coalition of smaller kingdoms to oppose him at the Battle of Kirina, defeating the Sosso and leaving Sundiata's new Mali Empire dominant in the region.
The Kaabu Empire (1537–1867), also written Gabu, Ngabou, and N'Gabu, was a great empire in the Senegambia region centered within modern northeastern Guinea-Bissau, larger parts of today's Gambia; extending into Koussanar, Koumpentoum, regions of Southeastern Senegal, and Casamance in Senegal. The Kaabu Empire consisted of several languages namely: Balanta, Jola-Fonyi, Mandinka, Mandjak, Mankanya, Noon (Serer-Noon), Pulaar, Serer, Soninke, and Wolof. It rose to prominence in the region thanks to its origins as a former imperial military province of the Mali Empire. After the decline of the Mali Empire, Kaabu became an independent Empire. Kansala, the imperial capital of Kaabu Empire, was annexed by Futa Jallon during the 19th century Fula jihads. However, Kaabu's vast independent kingdoms across Senegambia continued to thrive even after the fall of Kansala; this lasted until total incorporation of the remaining Kingdoms into the British Gambia, Portuguese and French spheres of influence during the Scramble for Africa.
Daniel Laemouahuma Jatta is a Jola scholar and musician from Mandinary, Gambia, who pioneered the research and documentation of the akonting, a Jola folk lute, as well as the related Manjago folk lute, the buchundu, in the mid-1980s. Prior to Jatta's work, these instruments were largely unknown outside the rural villages of the Senegambia region of West Africa.
Caste systems in Africa are a form of social stratification found in numerous ethnic groups, found in over fifteen countries, particularly in the Sahel, West African and North African region. These caste systems feature endogamy, hierarchical status, inherited occupation, membership by birth, pollution concepts and restraints on commensality.
The Temne, also called Atemne, Témené, Temné, Téminè, Temeni, Thaimne, Themne, Thimni, Timené, Timné, Timmani, or Timni, are a West African ethnic group. They are predominantly found in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Some Temne are also found in Guinea. The Temne constitute the second largest ethnic group in Sierra Leone, at 31.6% of the total population, which is slightly less than the Mende people at 32.2%. They speak Temne, a Mel branch of the Niger–Congo languages.
The Susu people are a Mande ethnic group living primarily in Guinea and Northwestern Sierra Leone, particularly in Kambia District. Influential in Guinea, smaller communities of Susu people are also found in the neighboring Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.
The Serer people are a West African ethnoreligious group. They are the third-largest ethnic group in Senegal, making up 15% of the Senegalese population. They are also found in northern Gambia and southern Mauritania.
The culture of Mali derives from the shared experience, as a colonial and post-colonial polity, and the interaction of the numerous cultures which make up the Malian people. What is today the nation of Mali was united first in the medieval period as the Mali Empire. While the current state does not include areas in the southwest, and is expanded far to the east and northeast, the dominant roles of the Mandé peoples is shared by the modern Mali, and the empire from which its name originates from.
Mandinka people of Sierra Leone is a major ethnic group in Sierra Leone and a branch of the Mandinka people of West Africa. Most Sierra Leonean Mandingo are the direct descendants of Mandinka settlers from Guinea, who settled in the north and eastern part of Sierra Leone, beginning in the late 1870s to the 1890s under the rule of prominent Mandinka Muslim cleric Samori Ture. Also later a significantly large population of Mandinka from Guinea migrated and settled in Eastern Sierra Leone and Northern Sierra Leone in the early to mid 20th century. The Mandingo people of Sierra Leone have a very close friendly and allies relationship with their neighbors the Mandingo people of Guinea and Liberia, as they share pretty much identical dialect of the Mandingo language, tradition, culture and food.
Mamadou Sidiki Diabaté is a prominent Mandé kora player and jeli from Bamako, Mali. He is the 71st generation of kora players in his family and a son to Sidiki Diabaté.
Keita is a surname. The Malian family name is normally written Keïta, sometimes Kéita. Kéïta is a hypercorrection. In reference to non-modern figures, or in anglophone countries such as Gambia and Liberia the tréma or acute accent is not used. Notable people with the surname include:
The Nyamakala, or Nyamakalaw, are the historic occupational castes among Islamic societies of West Africa, particularly among the Mandinka people. The Nyamakala are known as Nyaxamalo among the Soninke people, and Nyenyo among the Wolof people. They are found throughout the Sahel region, from Mali and Senegal to Chad and Sudan.
Islam is the predominant religion in Guinea-Bissau practiced by 35.1 percent of the population, compared to 22.1 percent of the population who adhere to the faith of Christianity and 14.9 percent who follow traditional beliefs.