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THE ETHNIC GROUPS IN MALI

THE ETHNIC GROUPS IN MALI
 The Touareg ethnic group 
Touareg (or targui in singular) are Zenzga nomadic berber. They are divided up into crowded dispersed splinter groups in the Sahara until Timbuktu. In the whole, to the Touareg, the black blood dominates because of the important number of the black slaves on the one side with which they are continuously in contact and which, even free, make their count with their owners whose language, religion, way of life are adopted by them; on the other side the business relations they got for a long time with sedentary people in general, and particularly the Sonraï that had as outcome a considerable number of Touareg half-breeds. This constitutes the essential demographic element of Ksour (Saharan villages).
So the number of Malian Touareg that escape to the half-breeding is reduced enough; and it is precisely their small number that condemns them to the absorption by the black populations; all the more that by penetrating more and more into the bucle of the Niger river, they undergo widely the black influence. This is just a new contemporary edition of the past; according to the legend when Ghana and Songhoï Empires, founded by white emigrants, were handed by black princes and that through half-breeding, the white pigmentation gave up completely to the black colour

 The Fulani ethnic group 
With the term Fulani, we are used to point out so much on semantic as on the ethnic level. It is exact that the Fulani corresponds to the pure man having a clear complexion or even tanned as Foulbe (Fulani in singular) ancestors.
There are some isolated groups in certain regions such as the “Rangabe” for example, in the Sahel area; but the greater majority of Fulani are more or less half-breaded. Some of them are besides darker than the other blacks.
In fact we account among Fulani their “Rimaïbe” that means descendants of their ancient slaves and their servants who are involved and unified to their ancient owners in spite of their belonging to various black races. They have adopted all the customs of Fulani although they remain socially in a lower class in front of these lasts. There is any term so confused than that of the world “Fulani”.
However, Fulani or everyone pointed out by this word are so dispersed that we can meet them as well on the shores of the Senegal River as those of the Tchad Lake and by the Nile.

 The Sarakollé ethnic group 
The Sarakollé ethnic group
Sarakollé or Soninké, also known by the term “Marka”, are extraordinary travellers. Not long ago, they constituted this corporation of traditional peddlers, which criss-crossed the whole West Africa with the corporation of Dioula.
Fearless traders and brave warriors, they went from countries to countries, from villages to villages, and even in the regions of insecurity in search of profit. Nowadays, with the modern means of transport, they have just to continue by following their peregrination across the world. In their majority they end up always rich and come back to the country where in the night, they relate with pleasure, under the village palabre tree, their different unexpected events of their travels across the universe where their adventures, in the past from cola affairs to Ivory sylve, and today in the diamond countries, they compete with (bordees) in America, in Europe, and in Asia when they were on boards of transatlantics.
As adventurers by nature, they acquired for several decades a vocation of maritime inscribed so as many young Sarakollé work more and more as conductors on boards of Paquebots, cabotors, oil boats, etc…
Besides, fervent Muslims, so daring adventurers and clever negotiators, they have created everywhere Muslim communities even in the heart of the forest regions, where the word Sonike is become synonymous with Marabout. It is in this way that a Sarakollé maraboutic colony founded, in Touba in the West Fouta-Djallon a half-century ago, a “Medersa” that is still well renowned in the Muslim area of West Africa. The dispersing of Sarakollé people is that some of its members are hardly identifiable due to their absorption by the natives of their residence countries. Therefore it has to be noticed that even in such a case, these assimilated colonies do not preserve the minimum characteristic features and customs of their original ethnic group; and don’t claim to be out of this groups in some circumstances.
In this respect, we can quote the example of the Soninké who reached the South countries during the dislocation of the “Wagadou”.
One of the regions where they settled is called Kissidougou (country of the saved). The family names established there firstly were Cisse and Sylla.
They have lost little by little the use of their mother tongue and use that of the natives; and it is difficult today to consider them to be Soninké.
It has been the same for another branch that established in San and Timbuktu, and was assimilated by the Sonraï.
To sum up, we can say that, after having created one of the strongest and flourishing empires “Ghana Empire” at the beginning of the Christian era, the Sarakollé were one of the most active people of West Africa after the decay of this empire.

 The Khassonke ethnic group 
The Khassonke ethnic group
Khasso (the Khassonke country) is enclosed in the countries of the Sarakolle people in the North West, Bambara in the North East and Malinke in the South.
These people, though their numerical superiority and their strength vis-à-vis the Khassonke people, they were not able to absorb or to rule over them so long.
Indeed, the Khassonke have undoubtedly borrowed some customs from their strong neighbours, but they did have manners that are characteristics of them, and that permitted them to create a certain particular originality namely in the social and cultural domains.

 The Maure ethnic group 
The Maure ethnic group
Before the joining of the greatest part of the North (areas of Nema, Aïoul El Atrouss and Timbedra subdivision) to Mauritania, Mali accounted several important Maure tribes among its population: Lakhal, Oulad nacer, Oulad M’barké, mechdouf, ladoum, etc.
In spite of this important amputation of the Malian territory, it exists still some Maure tribes in Mali, namely in Timbuktu in the North where is living two important groups: the one on 16 and 18 degree of the North latitude, and the other on 4 and 6 degree of the West longitude.
Besides, the Sahel part of Mali, that is on 15th degree of the north latitude, remains still one of the important immigration areas of the Mauritanian Maure until it had the intervention of an agreement between the both governments so that some paunch fractions of Maure couldn’t be censed in Mali without the assent of Nouackchott authorities in order to avoid the depopulation of certain Mauritanian regions for the benefit of Mali such as the Bassikounou.
It is especially about drovers, used to live more with black natives of the South than their camel congeners of the North, which earn the essential of their resources from the harvest of the “gum Arabic” and transports by “cow carriers” instead of date-palm as these last ones.
They can be considered Saharans, for after a certain month journey in the Sahel, during the warm season; they go back to the North as soon as the raining season approaches that is to say the beginnings of June and return after the harvests namely the beginnings of January, during the cold season.
This fact brings me to speak about Mauritanian Maure or at least about what belongs to them in the description I am going to do with the origin, history, and the way of life and of all the Maure.
All the same, out of those among them, which are established or half-sedentarized; and have adopted the way of living of the people with which they are mixed. Anybody can distinguish clearly the behaviours and the customs of a Maure to those of another Maure.
This is so well established that it becomes a popular cliché that refrain is: “Sourakhé Soumbané”, this means exactly in Sarakollé language “people with which they are living in the Sahel”. Therefore it is better to know that “Maure are the same”.
Because of the mobility of these nomads, it is very difficult to make their census, hence it is quite possible that numerous among them had escaped to the census particularly if this took place during the move to summer pastures. Only a new census campaign made with sufficient means of materials allowing locating their camps and to join them there quickly could give us indications close to the reality.

 The Bambara ethnic group 
The word Bambara comes from Ban-mana; Ban= refuse, and mana=Master (god). That is to say those who refused to be dominated, known under the term Bambara given by the European colonizer, occupied an important place within the other ethnic groups in Mali thanks to their dialect derived from the mandingue language. Indeed the popularity of this dialect is so that a non-informed observer can think up that the Bambara ethnic group predominates in Mali.
Besides, the illusion given by this absolute predominance is due to the fact that Muslims in general and particularly Toucouleur point out all the non-mahometans of Mali by the name Bambara-kobe (Bambara).it is true that the actual Bamanan are very numerous and it’s possible to meet them everywhere, even in Senegal, in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mauritania and in Ivory Cost. In Mali, they constitute the most important ethnic group.
The majority of Bambara, settled in the central East an West of Mali, is divided between the areas of Segou and Niono (the central delta of Niger), Beledougou (Kolokani and the north Bamako) adjacent of the Sahel zone, Kaarta, sits astride Kita in the south an Niono in the north; and the areas of Koulikoro, Dioïla, Banamba, Bougouni, Yanfolila, Kolondieba and Sikasso.
We have to notice that in these areas, Bambara are mixed with members of different ethnic groups, but they predominate there sometimes as they’ve entirely dominated them. The Bambara people has never composed a political unity. It is composed of a certain number of clans that are descendants of the same real and mythic ancestors.
The areas they occupy served to distinguish their members. That is why the people from Segou are pointed out by “Segou-kaou”, “Beledougou-kaou” for those from Beledougou, “Kaarta-kaou” for those from Kaarta also called “Massassi” that means descendants from the race Massa, etc.

 The Dogon ethnic group 
The Dogon ethnic group
Dogon or Hambe (Kaddo in singular) constitute the kind of people, which in Mali, has well conserved its originality, homogeneity, particular manners and customs, and its centuries old believes.
Knowing their origins and their way of life; and studying the causes that have permitted their traditions to hold out against the assaults of foreign traditions is an important interest to all good mind looking for knowledge about the most civilisation trends of people through the ages.
Distinguished ethnologists, namely the lieutenant Louis Desplagnes, Tauxier, professor Griaule and G. Dierterlem, have already made investigations and furnished a very detailed and enthralling documentation about the metaphysics of an unsuspected wealth of this people too difficult to be known and penetrated; and that the old civilisation remained relatively pure thanks to the strongest defensive site composed of primary sandstone cliffs in which acrobatic villages are built, and which, snuggled up on vertical rocks, are impregnable fortresses.
This study will be satisfied with giving a brief summary but instructive enough on political organization, economic and social life; and so on the religious and cultural activities of this mountain people, whose members are considered to be the dearest children of ethnologists.
They divided themselves into “Houmbebe”, people of Gondo plain in the East; and “Tombo”, people of the Plateau.

 The Sonraï ethnic group 
Among all the Malian ethnic groups, we can say that the Sonraï ethnic group is one of those that occupied an important place, because of its geographical situation.
Indeed, established at the frontier of white and black Africa, the Sonraï people benefited from the contributions of Mediterranean countries before the others and those from the South countries that entertained business relations with the first ones through its territory.
The Songaï history has been one of those that were the most commented by the Arab language reporters.

 The DIAWARA 
Contrary to what we are used to say, the Diawara do not belong to the Soninke or Sarakollé ethnic group.
Their generic name “Diamou” (patronymic) had been originally given to their ancestor in particular circumstances.
Indeed, the Diawara speak the Sarakollé language, but they are not so a branch of the Soninke largest family.
Besides, when we call them Soninke, the Diawara always retorted with a certain irritation by saying they are “Diawaraw” (Diawara family) but not Soninke.
In reality, the Diawara constitute another people, a kind of slave within a most important numerous group that was not able to absorb them, because of the particularities they never let down so that they could preserve their intact originality.
Indeed in spite of the reduction of their number at some ten or thousand people, they have been able to regroup and isolate themselves in the Kingui (Nioro) and the Bakhounou (in Nara), respective domains of the Diawara Sagoné and the Diawara Dabora.
So they have been able to preserve their homogeinity and against every assimilation attempts from the other ethnic groups, especially from the Sarakollé.
The Diawara are characterized by the fact that their people are one of those, which have well preserved their unity and customs though their internal discords. Without any doubt, the Diawara are not known enough because of their feeble expansion. But in the historical point of view, they have a past that splendours and glory can be compared to those of the west African biggest empires.
In fact, winners of their Sarakollé guests of the strongest agglomeration of Diara and hordes of Silatigui (the king) of the Tekrour (Senegalese Fouta) empire, desperate opponents of the Bambara Massassi of Kaarta (in Nioro), fierce enemies of El-Hadj-Oumar the Toucouleur conqueror who has been able since the XIXth century, after having conquered their kourougoume Birante Karounga Diawara to submit its loyal and courageous allies, the Diawara were masters of a strong kingdom that spread during its apogee from the Ouagadou (Ghana) on the edge of the Senegal river to the hodh (Mauritania) on the edge of the Baoule (in Kolokani).
But centuries of internal struggles and fights reduced little by little the extent of their territory presently limited in the north by the Hodh (Malian and Mauritanian), in the south by the Kaarta foothills, at East by Beledougou and West by the Diafounou.
So confined in this reduced territorial domain, the Diawara have been able to preserve their ancestral customs that nothing did not breach neither the purity nor the vitality. Only their colonies that went to settle in the Sarakollé areas of Guidimakha and Gadiaga, the Bambara in Kayes areas, the Khassoké in Bafoulabe, more numerous than them, adopted their customs without losing their ethnic originality.
To sum up, if the Diawara people are proved to be undeniable reality, the Diawara “race” in the contrary does not exist. Their original people are composed of political and historical members, but not anthropological nor linguistic.

 The Bozo and Somono ethnic groups 
Unlike the Sorko (fishermen of the Niger river) considered as an integral part of the Sonraï society, for they were in a way at the root of the creation of this society. The Bozo in the contrary constitutes a specific group having with the surrounding populations just some affinities sufficient enough to assimilate them completely to the last.
Wrongly some people qualified the Bozo to be caste men, because from noble origin they became emigrants after the decline of the Ghana empire to what they were part, and chose to be fishermen after having found themselves on the edges of the Niger river during their wandering. So they undertook to exploit the resources of this river so that they could subsist.
Then by improving little by little their techniques, they ended up by making the fishing their practical activity in that they added the whole monopoly of the inland water transport. That is how they became “masters of water”.
By borrowing some customs from the aborigines of the places where they settled, they mixed them with their own customs brought from their original country; and so they created to large extent distinct traditions from those of the largest ethnic groups.
We have to notice that the Bozo people are not the only exploiters of the western Niger.
We can meet too another fishermen group called Somono. But strictly speaking, it does not exist an ethnic group called Somono, nor does exist a Somono custom.
Indeed, in the ethnic point of view, this group is composed of the mixing of several ethnics: Bambara, Soninke, and Bobo etc. Also most of the Somono people had firstly preserved their original groups’ customs before adopting by the end koranic rules after the conquest of their residence areas by the Toucouleur El Hadj Oumar.
The consequence is that the Somono traditions do not have any clear character and don’t deserve to be treated apart, for these traditions are confused with those of the other ethnic groups.

 The Toucouleur : 
There is no need to do a complete study about the Toucouleur as did for the other ethnic groups, for they are not concerned with this study that’s goal is to make discover Mali’s prehistoric civilizations.
We can just tell what can serve the reader to understand the social status of a group that, coming from abroad, imposed itself to the natives by the weapons force.
In fact the Toucouleur came later in Mali where their settlement is done during the second half of the 19th century
Their domination on the natives of the country will last a half-century, but it had the advantage to create separately a homogeneous empire composed of Sarakolle, Bambara, Malinke, Khassonke, Fulani, Dogon etc.
Though they were stranger in the country they submitted by weapons, they were therefore those, who opposed obstinately the western penetration.
Now, apart from the Fouta-Toro originals and other regions known under the generic name of Fouta, there were among the soldiers of their chief and spiritual guide El Hadj Oumar Tall the Bountou originals called “Boundounkobe” or “Boundounke” from the region located on the Faleme edge (in Sarakolle, “Fan”=diminutive form of “Fangue”=river; and leme= son of, or the small), this is an important tributary of the Senegal river, Foulah originals (Fulani) from Fouta Djalon (republic of Guinea) which became a branch of Toucouleur established about 1700s in the region occupied firstly by the “Diallonki” that they enslaved about 1750s; and the Diolfoube came from the Diollof-Diollof (Senegal) which followed their king Alboury N’Diaye,etc.
This may be enough for the reader to learn where did the ancestry of the Foutankobe, which are living presently in Mali, come from; and that religious fanaticism combined with their adventurous spirit and their expensive tastes, made them legendary conquerors that our griots and aedes sing and relate still the glory.
They went from the refions of Fouta bordering the Senegal River, the Boundou located along the Faleme, the Fouta Djallon (Guinea republic) and other regions of Senegal such as the Dioloff-Dioloff. While going upstream the Senegal, then spreading in West Mali, they made their way towards the North East to reach finally the cliffs of Bandiagara.
As regards the name “Toucouleur” we gave them, it seems that this word is derived from the deformation of the word “Tekrour”, the name of one of the contemporary empires with Ghana and cradle of the Foutankobe.

 THE OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS IN MALI 

It concerns on the one hand certain indigenous groups with badly defined origins, and on the other hand the non-natives came from other countries of Africa, but less numerous to be studied in details.
The firsts deserve some lines to be written about them because they had preserved either their originality or some of their particular characteristics, or their independence by carving their own areas.
As regards the seconds, they are composed of some stable small groups with a stronger density in the urban centres and made-up areas than in the hinterland; and composed of a crowds of people came from all the horizons, either further to invaders, or with the chance of consecutive peregrinations to their business activities.
In the first group, there are precisely the Ouoloff and the Mossi which try to be gathered wherever they feel a few numerous to found a distinct colony. They are more often rebellious but not hostile to the local traditions. Generally they try to adapt their way of life to the local living conditions so that they could not offend their guests; and refuse to become integrated into these until they feel that they will not be definitely absorbed. Sometimes it occurs that they take part in the usual popular ceremonies of their residence places, but they attend scarcely their non-Islamic religious manifestations when they are invited.
Most of these lasts are settled in the made-up areas of the pool of the Niger where they have been brought from Burkina Faso by the colonizer with the idea to constitute an embryo of the colony they wanted to establish; whereas the Ouoloff from Senegal, arrived at the same time as the French men, are established in the important towns as Kayes and Bamako.
The second group is composed of the representatives of different stranger ethnic groups: Haoussa, Samo, Toma, Guerzé, Maninka-mori, Soussou, Djerma, Mandingo, Yorouba etc… came from different African countries: Burkina Faso, Guinea, Senegal, Ivory Cost, Niger, Nigeria etc. they compose the essential of these fluctuating masses that is difficult to determine the exact number because of its continuous mobility. Certain among them end up by settling definitively within the local groups and adopt without reservation the tradition of these groups.
They end up to be assimilated to the natives at a level they can be distinguished just by their family names that they still preserve with jealousy.
In the demographics, they constitute the heading called “Diverse”.

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