The Soninke (also called Sarakole, Seraculeh, or Serahuli) are influential-agriculturalists, well-known traveling and celebrated traders as well as Mandé-speaking people of West Africa that founded the famous  pre-colonial empire of Ghana c. 750-1240 CE. The Soninke who descend from the Bafour and are closely related to the Imraguen of Mauritania are historical celebrities in  Africa in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular. They have an interesting, proud and rich history. The modern day state of Ghana in south of West Africa are different from them. However, modern-day Ghana took the Soninke empire of Ghana`s name after independence.

Soninke people of Senega dancing at the declaration of Bakel festivities.

After contact with Muslim Almoravid traders from the north around 1066, Soninke nobles of neighboring Takrur were among the first ethnic groups from Sub-Saharan West Africa to embrace Islam. When the Ghana empire dispersed, the resulting diaspora brought Soninkes to Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. This diaspora included Wangara, famous traders who spread far from traditionally Mande areas. Hence the term Wangara is used today in Ghana and Burkina Faso to describe the Soninke populations in cities and towns

                            Soninke men playing traditional drum

Today Soninke people live in the West African countries of Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania. There are some Soninke communities in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Ghana.

Fatoumata Diawara, a Soninke woman and one of Mali’s biggest musical treasures

The Soninke belonged to the pre-colonial indigenous Muslim merchants (jula), who travelled across the whole region, from the Guinean forest to the Sahel, and from Eastern Mali to the Atlantic coast. They traded in slaves, textiles, gold, salt, cattle, kola and other items back and forth the Senegambia and the Mande Plateau (Curtin 1975; Bathily 1989).

              Paris based rapper Booba is a Soninke man

Since the end of the 18th century, British and French travellers have spilled a lot of ink celebrating the merchant and mobile spirit of the Soninke, which they took as a sign of greater civilisation. “The Serawoollies [Soninke] are habitually a trading people” wrote Mungo Park (1816:62) about his journey through the kingdom of Gajaaga (Upper Senegal River Valley) at the end of the 18th century. The Soninke were subsequently defined as a ‘nation commerçante’, ‘les colporteurs de l’Afrique Occidentale’(trading nation’, ‘the peddlers of West Africa’) and even as ‘the Jews of West Africa’ (see Pollet and Winter 1971:111-3). The label ‘the Jews of West Africa’ has certainly endured over time and is occasionally used by contemporary Gambian Soninke as well. In the face of the fact that the Soninke were also agriculturalists, European observers, especially the colonial ones, tended to draw attention to mobility, and even reified it as an ethnic specificity—in ‘ethnie migratrice’ (cf. Amselle 1976:19; Jónsson 2007:9).

A migrant Lekwar woman of Soninke extraction in Algeria wearing traditional outfit and taking shot with the Algerian Presiden

Although anthropologists have contested essentialist representations of Soninke migration, mobility has remained at the centre of scholarly attention. This has largely to do with the fact that the Soninke have been one of the first groups in sub-Saharan Africa to migrate to Europe. The Soninke living on the borderland between Mauritania, Senegal and Mali are known to be one of the first and largest immigrant communities in France (see among others: Quiminal 1991; Timera 1996). The historical work of François Manchuelle (1997), who has brilliantly shown that Soninke labour migrations had a century long history prior to reaching France (from the 1950s), has also contributed to making the Soninke a well known case in migration literature.

Malian and Soninke singing legend Oumou Sangare performing in Essaouira, Morocco in June 2012

The ancient Soninke people who are one of the most beautiful people in West Africa have a total population of approximately 1,360,000 with over 850,000 people living in Mali. Senegal has 200,000, Côte d'Ivoire with 100,000, The Gambia with 70,000, Mauritania with  30,000 and Guinea-Bissau with 6,500 (ASHER, R.E. and C. MOSELEY (eds.) (2007) Atlas of the World's Languages. London / New York: Routledge)
The essence of Soninke society (Soninkaaxu) was a combination of three elements: farming, trading and studying Islam (soxeye, julaaxu, xarane).

                             Soninke people of Mali
Soninke people today live throughout West Africa, but remain centered around the former homelands of the Ghana Empire and the valley of the upper Senegal river and along the Mali - Senegal border between Nara and Nioro du Sahel. In Mali there are concentrated mainly in the Nioro, Nara, Banamba, Yélémané and Kayes areas.

                                     Soninke men

Migrations seeking labor, encouraged under French colonial rule have led many Soninke to build communities in Dakar and other large cities in Africa and beyond. In Senegal they live mainly around Bakel, along the Senegal River, in an area including the cities of Bakel, Ouaoundé, Moudéri and Yaféra.
Soninke woman from Senegal pouring traditional tea

Soninke people live in the southeastern corner of The Gambia and Mauritania they are in the southern region of Sélibaby, alongside the Senegal River. There are also Soninke communities in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea.

                       Soninke girl from Mauritania with her sisters

There is a large and growing Soninke community in Paris, France. Trade networks, famously led by the Wangara mercantile confederations, spread Soninke people and culture throughout most of Mali and Senegal, southern Mauritania, northern Burkina Faso, as well as parts of the Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.

Soninke woman from The Gambia

The Maraka - Soninke merchant communities and plantations (centered just north of the city of Segou, Mali) were an economic mainspring under the Bambara Empire, and built trade routes throughout the region.
Mali: mainly in the Nioro, Nara, Banamba, Yélémané and Kayes areas.

                                 Soninke people at a family meeting, Nara, Mali
The Soninke speak a  Mande language which belongs to the larger Niger-Congo language phylum. The Mande languages are spoken in several countries in West Africa by the Mandé people and include Mandinka, Soninke, Bambara, Dioula, Bozo, Mende, Susu, and Vai. There are millions of speakers, chiefly in Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ivory Coast.
Mande language is of 3 kinds,  the northern group called mandé-tan, a southern group known as mandé-fu and a  third subgroup (Western) called mandé-bu.
Soninke is part of the Western Mande group, which has three main subgroups, namely:
1. The Northwestern subgroup, which includes Soninke, Boso, Samogo and Bobo.
2. The Southwestern subgroup, which includes Loko.
3. The Central subgroup, which includes Manding and Susu.
Medina Kone, Soninke and Senegalese TV personality of French TV. She is a rapper and a journalist

Some Soninke words: iyo (yes), ayi (no), nawari (thank you), ko (who), maane (what), kan moxo (how), mannime ni? (how many?), sigi, xa sigi (stop, stop that), xa yeli yere (come here), Xa wuyi Jam? (Good Morning), An ña kan moxo? (How are you?), An haqqen toxo in da (Excuse me), Selli a ga nta an toorono (Please), Xa bisimilah! (Welcome), Ke ni manne ya? (What is that?), An gole moxo? (How is your work?), N sanganaya (I’m just kidding)
Soninke girl from The Gambia

Around the 3rd century B.C.E., nomadic groups herding animals in West Africa on the fringes of the Sahara became a threat to the Soninke people who lived south of the desert as farmers. The Soninke formed a confederation and defended themselves against the nomads and eventually formed the kingdom of Ghana.
Sketch of a young girl from Soninke tribe. Circa 1890

 During the 3rd century C.E., the Mande-speaking Soninke people were united by a great king who led them to conquer the city of Kumbi Saleh in what is now western Mali. Kumbi Saleh was an important city along an important north-south trade route. The king of the Soninke was known as the Kaya maghan , “king of the gold,” and as Ghana , “war chief.” He belonged to the royal clan of Ouagadou, and the Soninke first named their kingdom after this royal family.

Soninke Moorish man and two wives.He holds an instrument known as an ngoni 

Ancient Ghana Empire:
The three main sources of knowledge about the ancient Sudan - archaeology, oral history, and the books written by Africans or Arabs-tell us a good deal about the famous empire of Ghana.
The Soninke certainly built their state before AD 773, the date of the first North African reference to it. They were nomads and traders in this region in very distant times. A tradition recorded in the Tarikh as-Sudan, an important history book that was written in Timbuktu about AD 1650, says that there were twenty-two kings of Ghana before the beginning of the Muslim Era (622) and twenty-two kings after that. If this were true, it could place the origins of the Ghana kingdom in about AD 300 (1965 Longma1s published textbook of Basil Davidson, F.K Buah and J. F Ade Ajaye, The Growth of African Civilizations: A HISTORY OF WEST AFRICA 1000-1800).
By 800, in any case, Ghana had become a powerful trading state called Wagadu (Ouagadou) by its rulers, the name of Ghana came into general use because of one of the king's titles, ghana which means "war chief.' Each succeeding was known by his own name, and also by the title of ghana. Another of his titles was kaya maghan. This means 'lord of the gold', because the king controlled the export of that precious metal.
Nothing is known about the political methods or history of Ghana under its early kings. What probably happened was that heads of large families or descent-lines among the Soninke, encouraged by the needs and opportunities of the trade in gold and other goods with Berber merchants of the Sahara, saw an advantage in having a single ruler. So they elected a king from among themselves. This king's duty was to organise the trade and keep good relations with the Saharan traders, as well as acting as senior religious leader and as representative on earth of the 'founding ancestors' of the Soninke people.
In this way the king gathered power. He controlled the trade within Soninke territory. He made gifts and gave rewards to all who served him.
Soninke soldiers

Next came an expansion of Soninke power over neighbouring peoples who were also busy with trade: the wider the territory the Soninke could control, the more prosperous they would be. By 800, the
king of Ghana was able to make lesser kings or chiefs obey his laws and pay him taxes. And so the king's wealth increased. Withmore wealth, he also had more power. He could command the services of many descentlines. He could raise big armies. He could employ large numbers of messengers and other servants. He could pay for the needs of a growing empire.
Some account of how this was done for the later kings of Ghana is glven in books written by North African and Spanish Arab authors during the eleventh and twelfth centuries AD.
One of these books offers a brilliantly clear picture of the court of the emperor of Ghana in about AD 1065, and of the way in which that emperor, whose name was Tunka Manin, organised his power and wealth. This book was the work of a Spanish Arab called Al-Bakri. He finished it in 1067.

The Achievement of Ghana
From this account of Al-Bakri's we can know a little more about what had happened during earlier times. It appears that many of the North African and Berber traders of the Sahara accepted Islam after the Arab conquest of the eighth century. They abandoned their old religions and became Muslims. They were made welcome at the capital of the emperor of Ghana. He was not a Muslim; he believed in Ghana's own religion, but he allowed the Muslims to build a town of their own.
The 'town of the Muslim traders' was ten kilometres away from the emperor's own town with its surrounding settlements. While the latter were built in the traditional materials of West Africa - hardened clay, thatch, and wooden beams - the most successful Muslim traders he preferred to build their houses in stone, according to their own customs in North Africa. It is not known exactly where the capital was when Al-Bakri wrote his book. In the course of Ghana's long history, the king`s capital was undoubtedly moved from one place to another. But we can add a good deal to Al-Bakri's picture by studying the remains of Ghana`s last capital, which lay at Kumbi Saleh about 320 kilometres north of modern Bamako. Here too there was a town where the king of Ghana lived, and another nearby town where the Muslim traders had their houses and stables. At the height of its prosperity, before AD 1240, this city of Kumbi was evidently the biggest West African city of its day, and had as many as 15,000 inhabitants or even more.
So long as they obeyed the laws of Ghana and paid their taxes, the traders from the north were sure of safety and hospitality. This was a partnership in long-distance trade that went on for a very long time. Its safely depended on the strength of the emperor and his government. Al-Bakri has left us a description of all that. King Tunka Manin, he wrote "is the master of a large empire and of a formidable power'. So powerful was this king, that he could put out '200,000 warriors in the field more than 40,000 of them being armed with bow and arrow'. But the real strength of the Ghana armies, as we know from other North African sources, came from their power in iron-pointed spears. Their wagons like their government, were stronger than those of their neighbouring peoples; and it was this strength which helped to build their empire.
Working from eyewitness accounts which he had received from Muslim travellers, Al-Bakri described the pomp and majesty of King Tunka Manin"
"When the king gives audience to his people, to listen to their
complaints and to set them to rights, he sits in a pavilion around
which stand ten pages holding shields and gold-mounted swords.
On his right hand are the sons of the princes of his empire,
splendidly clad and with gold plaited in their hair.
The governor of the city is seated on the ground in front of the
king, and all around him are his counsellors in the same position.
The gate of the chamber is guarded by dogs of an excellent breed.
These dogs never leave their place of duty. They wear collars of
gold and silver, ornamented with metals.
The beginning of a royal meeting is announced by the beating
of a kind of drum they call deba. This drum is made of a long piece
of hollowed wood. The people gather when they hear its sound.. ."
The memory of these old glories were long remembered among the peoples of the Western Sudan. Five hundred years later, for example, a writer of Timbuktu called Mahmud Kati entertained his readers with the stories of those ancient days. In his valuable history book, the Tarikh al-Fattush, he tells how a certain king of Ghana of the seventh century, called Kanissa'ai, possessed one thousand horses, and how each of these horses 'slept only on a carpet, with a silken rope for halter', and had three personal attendants, and was looked after as though it were itself a king.
These old stories, magnified and embroidered with the passing of the years, also tell how the kings of Ghana used to give great banquets to their subjects, feeding ten thousand people at a time, and dispensing gifts and justice to all who came. Such stories give an idea of the greatness of Ghana's reputation in the years of its power.
Soninke Women of Mauritania Painting Their Hut

Government of the empire
If we look carefully behind the travellers' information collected and written down by Al-Bakri and other Arab writers, and behind the stories that were afterwards told in countless homes for many years, we can trace several developments in ways of life.
With the growth of Ghana, and of other states like Ghana, the peoples of West Africa were inventing new methods of living together, of governing themselves, of raising money to pay for government, and of producing wealth. These ways needed a single strong authority or government. which could rule over many lesser authorities or governments. This central authority or government could only, in the thought and customs of the times, be a king.....

                                      Soninke girl

Revenue and wealth of Ghana
The ruler of Ghana, Al-Bakri tells us, had two main sources of revenue,' of wealth with which to pay for government. These were taxes of two kinds. The first of these was what we should today call an import and export tax. This tax consisted of sums of money (or more probably their equal in goods) which traders had to pay for the right to bring good into Ghana, or to take other goods out of the empire. 'The king of Ghana', wrote Al-Bakri, 'places a tax of one dinar of gold on each donkey-load of salt that comes into his country'. But he also 'places a tax of two dinars of gold on each load of salt that goes out'. Similar taxes higher or lower in value as the case may be, were applied to the loads of copper and other goods."
The second type of tax is what we call the production tax. It was applied to gold, the most valuable of all the products in the kingdom. "All pieces of gold that are found in the empire" says Al-Bakri on this point 'belong to the emperor'. But this regulation was more than a means of collecting royal wealth. It was also a way of keeping up the of gold. For the emperor had not insisted on taking possession all pieces of gold, Al-Bakri explains then "gold would become so abundant as practically to lose its value."
Ancient Ghana, in short adopted the monopoly system that is employed this day for another precious commodity, diamond.
Salt was mined to the northeast of Ghana in the Sahara Desert, and Arab traders from the north loaded their camels and donkeys with salt to trade for gold. Traders had to go through Ghana, and so Ghana became like a middleman in the world of the salt-gold trade. Other goods were brought from the north as well, like dried fruit, leather, cotton cloth, and copper.
The salt-gold trade allowed Ghana to become a rich empire. Gold dust was used in trade, but the king kept the gold “nuggets” for himself, allowing the people to trade using only gold dust.
Soninke man, 1893

The fall of Ghana: the Almoravids
But a long period of confusion came between the fall of Ghana and the triumph of Mali. After about 1050, Ghana began to be invaded by Berber warriors from the north-west, from the Mauritanian Sahara. These Berbers were driven by troubles of their own, mainly poverty, into striving for a share in the wealth of more prosperous neighbours. Soon after AD 1000 they began to look for a new means of livelihood.
The solution they found, as so often in history, took a religious form. There arose among them a devout and very strict Muslim leader called Abdullah ibn Yasin. He established a centre of religious teaching, called a hermitage. He and those who followed him became known as the people of the hermitage, Al-Murabethin, or the Almoravids. Gradually, ibn Yasin brought the Berber communities of the far western lands under his influence. At the same time his missionaries set about the task of converting the rulers of those states in far western Africa whom they could reach, especially in Takrur (or Futa Toro), and in this they had some success. In 1056, moving northwards into Morocco, the Almoravids captured the great city of Sijilmasa, the main northern trading centre for West African gold. From there they went further to the north, conquering the rest of Morocco. Then they crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, and took over Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain.
A southern section of the Almoravid movement meanwhile moved against Ghana. Its leader, Abu Bakr, put himself at the head of a Berber confederation, made an alliance with the people of Takrur, who later waged a long war against Ghana. In 1054 he took the city of Audoghast. In 1076. after many battles. the Almoravids seized the capital of the empire.
But these invaders, like others after them, could not hold the West African lands they had taken. There was much resistance. There were many revolts. Abu Bakr was killed while attempting to suppress one of these in 1087. By this time, however, the Ghana empire had fallen apart. Its last kings had authority over only a few of its former provinces, and we know almost nothing about them. Great changes were on the way.
painting of Soninke woman

The successor state of Ghana
In the time of confusion, set in motion by the Almoravid Berbers but soon bringing other peoples into action, the Ghana empire broke up and some smaller states tried to build small empires of their own. One was the state of Takrur. Another was Diara. A third was Kaniaga. Some of these, a new name now enters on the scene, that of the Peul (or Fuble/Fulani).
When Ghana empire suffered a blow from Abu Bakr and his armies, the Fulani of Takrur in Senegal became independent. They in turn set out upon the road of conquest. After about AD 1200, they took control of the kingdom of Diara once a province of Ghana.
Their most successful leader, whose name was Sumanguru, seized Kumbi Saleh, then the capital of Ghana, in about 1203. Meanwhile other Fulani and allied peoples became powerful another old Ghana province, the kingdom of Kaniaga.
But this new attempt at building an empire out of the ruins of Ghana met with no better fortune than the Berber efforts led by Abu Bakri. Two developments brought Sumanguru's enterprise to defeat. The first was that the Muslim traders of Kumbi Saleh, Ghana's last capital, reject Sumanguru's overlordship. For reasons that were no doubt partly religious and partly commercial, they left Kumbi Saleh and travel
northward, to form a new trading centre at Walata,' far beyond the reach of Sumanguru's soldiers. Secondly, in about 1240 or maybe a few years earlier, Sumanguru was challenged by the Mandinka
people of the littlle state of Kangaba, near the headwaters of the River Niger. The two armies fought each other at a famous battle. Sumanguru was defeated and killed. His chiefs and generals retreated to Takrur, where they and their successors continued to rule for many years.
Sumanguru's defeat opened a new chapter in history. For the little state of Kangaba was the heart and core of the future empire of Mali. It was to be the Mandinka people who would now bring peace and order to  wide regions of the Western Sudan.
The Soninke traditionally engage in both trade and agriculture. During the rainy season, men and women both cultivate. However women usually stay at home to cook and take care of their children. They also do others work, such as dyeing cotton material. A typical Soninke color is Indigo. The Soninke attained a high standard of living. Emigration took a huge place in their life. Most of the time women, children and old stay at home alone when the young men go to neighbor cities to find money. Since the 1960s, the majority of West African immigrants in France came from this ethnic group. The Soninke are still now the backbone of countries like the Gambia, Senegal and Mali. Through all history they have been traders in gold, salt and even diamonds.

The Soninke have a variety of foods. As an example, breakfast foods include “fonde”, porridge made of millet, sugar, milk, and salt, and “Sombi” porridge made of rice, millet or corn. For lunch “demba tere” and “takhaya” are very common, both containing rice and peanuts, frequent Soninke ingredients. "Dere”, a stew, is a mixture of millet and beans

Socio-political structures
The ancient Soninke empire was governed by a powerful emperor who controlled the Trans-Saharan Trade. His power was limited by nobles in charge of the bureaucracy, taxes, army, justice and other duties. The central government of the empire was composed of the emperor and those nobles who can be considered as important advisors. The peripheral courts had some freedom deciding on their interior problems however they were supervised by the imperial court concerning imperial problems as well as the army. In the time of Wagadu there was an emperor at the head of the empire followed by the noble’s families. Even after the decline of the empire the majority of the Soninke families still maintained this hierarchy in their villages. In the Soninke social organization everyone occupies a place. Being king or a smith was not by choice, it was an inherited position. This hierarchy is very important in Soninke culture and it is respected by the Soninke. This structural social organization is divided in three levels.
Like other groups in the region, Soninke society is hierarchically divided into endogamous status groups. The first class are the ″Hooro″, the free men. They have the highest social rank. The Hooro (sing. hoore) are the rulers, they have the right to punish and dispense justice. The first class in the “Hooro” are the “tunkalemmu”, the princes. They are the noblemen that exercise authority. Only a tunkalemmu” can become king. It's an inherited position. The next class after the princes, “tunnkalemmu”, are the “mangu”. The “mangu” are the advisors of the princes. They are their confidants. They act as mediators in conflicts between different classes of “Hooro” or free man. The “mangu” originate from the “kuralemme”, warrior class. In times of war the Mangu become heads of the army. The last class of the “hooro”, free man is the “modinu”, the priest or people who historically have been very active in scholarly education and religious careers.. Their origin is from the influence of Islam in Soninke society. They dispense justice, and educate the population. They teach them Islam and protect them with prayers. They are very respected for their religious knowledge.
The second level of the Soninke organization is the “naxamala” which is also divided in many other classes. The “naxamala” are the dependent men and client groups of ‘casted’ artisans for the Hooro. The “tago” or blacksmiths occupy the highest position. They make weapons and work tools. They also make jewelry. They are respected for their knowledge with iron. The next class after blacksmith is the carpenter, “sakko”. They are the friends of the inhabitants of the forest. They are the confidants and the masters of devils. They are important because of their skills and knowledge with wood. The next class is the praise-singer, “Jaroo”. During ceremonies they are in charge of animation, speaking, and singing. They are the most famous in the “naxamala” dependent class . They are the only ones authorized to say anything they want. They are the orators of the society. They tell the history of most important Soninke families. The last class in the “naxamala” class is the cobbler, “Garanko”. They are in charge of making leather shoes, saddles and saber sheaths.
The lowest level of the Soninke social hierarchy are the slaves known as ‘komo’. The “komo”, slaves work for the masters. Their masters had to take care of them but this was not always the case. The slaves have always been the major labor force in Soninke society. The prosperity of Soninke society was due to their dominance in farming. In the past there were more slaves than free-men.

In Senegal, as elsewhere, marriage is seen as a major family event. It is celebrated joyously. In countries Soninke , customs relating to its celebration may vary from one locality to another, but all in common that they are available murundé (research), the Tamma (symbolic franc) and futtu (the definitive agreement wedding) above the festivities. If some young people today wish to respect the traditions, heritage they try to keep jealously, modernity is gaining ground and is a serious threat.

Marriage is an act of love where everything is in the union of two people in love with each other. For many couples and their families, this event is undoubtedly one of the happiest days, if not the most beautiful of their lives. Senegal, each ethnic group has its way of conceiving marriage. In Soninke , it is sacred. Soninke countries, marriage is primarily an alliance between two clans or lineages.

The different stages of marriage are, in the case of a boy and a girl who marry for the first time, rigorously treated by parents. There is, first, murunde (research) that marks the official start of the wedding process. When the young man of marriageable age is the girl who suits him, he opens his father and he expressed his desire to take a wife. According Tapa Bathily village Tuabou , former capital of the kingdom Gadiaga the particularity Soninke environment is, first, the choice of caste. " Marriage in Soninkés is traditionally between members of the same clan. If you marry anyone, you might have problems. A bad woman is worse. Soninke environment, to get married, it is not enough to know the caste, we must also know the family. It also requires that the woman is a good family , "he says. This is not the father of the pretender to fetch the bride. He sends to the family of the girl with an emissary who is traditionally linked. This can be a noble, a griot or a slave.


" When a young man is old enough to marry, he can see a girl and talk to her. Previously, parents who felt their child is old enough to marry met with other members to find a so-called good family, able to complete their family , "said Mr. Bathily.
After murunde one day is taken for symbolic or Tamma franc is now mounted to 500 francs in Bakel. " This is an agreement in principle not binding on the beautiful family. Sometimes if there is a highest bidder, the family can change your mind, which is not normal , "said Idrissa Diarra. In other countries, the date of the seizure of Tamma is considered a strong symbol guarantee the young man's determination to marry the girl. According to Mara Danthira Traoré area Modinkané , husband, after Tamma must maintain his future wife. According to him, he shall, during each lunar month, contribute to the nourishment of his fiancée. " Formerly, when the principle is stopped, the girl was in her and her parents took her to not cause a problem. For this reason we expect the day before the wedding to give dowry and celebrate the wedding the next day. Today, the situation has changed. Soon as there is engagement, it is said that the husband must maintain his future wife and take care of her. On the occasion of the celebrations Korité Tabaski and also, it must make a move , "said the lady.

Circumcision among the Soninke

Circumcision is one of the most important in the life of a boy Soninké times. Like many other communities in the world, is a practice circoncion originally unknown. As long as we go back, the Soninko have always practiced circoncison regarding young boys. Such as marriage or baptism, circumcision is a very important step in the life of young Soninke. It is simply held for life a whole age group. It gives meaning to Fedde which brings all the boys in the same age group. This age group are together birou ie the case of men. There is a life before circumcision and life after this episode. In Soninkara the word murunté means a boy who is not yet circumcised. Thus we differentiate a circumcised and uncircumcised and person. In Soninkés the word murunté part of pejorative vocabulary when it is launched in the face of someone. This step is allowing the murunté to become a man. This is the passage from adolescence to adulthood.

Soninke men often talk about their circumcision by the fact that they took the pants. Circumcision is not limited only to this surgical act tradionnele beyond its simple procedure, the ritual of circumcision highlights, physical endurance, pain, courage. This ritual reveals the intrinsic character of the child. Formerly connoisseurs repèraient future strongmen strong character. Each boy has a duty to remain stoic and enduring in pain. And he honors his family, his name and he shall be praised and sung by griots related to his family.

Ceremonies related to circumcision differ among regions and localities Soninkés. Often these ceremonies are based on one age group. Preparations and ceremonies of pre-circumcision are diverse and variés.Les boys from circumcision, accompanied by BAWO, the master of initiation, go round the family and receive gifts. The eve of the circumcision, the head of blacksmiths , the xirise withon appoints people who will be responsible for performing the operation. Men nominated should refrain from any sexual relationship overnight. The night before the operation, the boys dancing in the company of BAWO, reciting incantations protecting. The BAWO is not anyone, it belongs to a family who has the power to tell the souxouña (bloodsuckers and dotted terrible powers) and other mouno (genius who has scoured the land, retires the bottom of the water). Initiated with members of his family, they go to the bush and gather medicinal plants that are supposed to protect future circumcised bad witches and spellcasters.

The eve of the ceremony, we organize dances and future circumcised dance all night. Thursday evening we organize dance gayinde that will mobilize all young people and village elders in particular fedde concerned. Dancers (men, women, youth, combined) fall into circular line around the drummers drumming. They lead the dance late into the night. After a night of dancing and singing, future circumcised go into houses and eat everything they find. They were previously prepared the most delicious dishes.

In the morning, the boys go to the river to wash. In return, their heads are shaved and made to wear clothes circumcised. All children are gathered in one place, always led by BAWO. Adult men of the place were also present.

Once the foreskin cut, it is given to the father who gave it to turn to mom. The latter will be buried in a corner of the forest. The children then take the traditional white tunic and cap circumcised.

Maxims and Poverbes Soninké: DIGAN JUPPU WALLA DIGAN XOORO
1 - Suwanne i roxoye moxo moxo, year na ga ra yi nexeyi year goxundini
Whatever the smallness of a fly, if you underestimate it, it can make you sick (dont underestimate anyone)

2 - Maran lenme i defoye doore lefi fe
The small attic does not mean a lack of clay

3 - Sokke be bakka ga jin naxaanen na ta ke battaran yinbe lagana
The grass growing in the middle of the water, cannot be reached by fire

4 - Maxa nkitte lo yitte i korome naxa
Do not put your hands between the tree and its bark

5 - Maaren gajanŋe has tiidini ago nta x kumini
A familly argument can only make a "smoke" but not "fire". (A family argument is always circumscribed before degenerating)

6 -. Yaali wo sere be ga nti tappe mulla manna xa na nwalla kaccingolli TinEye is
one who does not like rope knots must not carry a bag of nodes

7 - Finkinten ga da janba lege gede EQIA has geesundaanan do Naani doome
If the blind dance "Janba" at the well, there is no doubt he is with his guide

8 - Soron ñan Xawa tini year nwujamu da, xa nñinme my Xawa tini da nwujamu
It is others who should say hello, not yourself.

                    NBA star Mamodou Datt is half Soninke

9 - Manna da xan soro filli gajanŋundi do tanpille bat, gelli baanen gan ta do tanmu do Karago
When two people vies for the sharing of  hundred francs, except that one would have seventy-five.

10 - Tonu Maxa year kallu yaxaren ko da, ga year my Maano rondi year konpe
Do not tell your truth to your stepmother, your fiancée will desert you

11 - Maaren gajanŋe has tiidini ago nta x kumini
A familly argument smoke, but never catch fire

12 - Sokke be seren ga ta ken yaaxen karana walla
The blade of grass can pierce your eye, one doesnt see it developing.

13 - Seren maxa kattund'i sin yinme na ti siwanne taaxeyi
Do not pull the horse's head because a fly is placed there.

14 - An ga nexu janbayen NA, siiti year jon ña
dont  underestimate a plot hatched before you.

15 - Grab nes rege toro yi, a na you i jootan Naani
When the horn is equal to the ear, it doesnt make the two equal.

16 - Sere i Faaba taaxu bere baane Kanma, ken lanti year Faaba Naana njoota
If a child sit with his father in the same place, it doesnt make him his equal.

17 - An ga na yaxare kin'i teyinnen Na na thee gaaga yillen your kerene yi
If you tell a woman to sell her copèpouse it will sell before the next

18 - Maxa nkitte lo jiiba yi gan year doroke thee xanne
Do not put your hand in a pocket boubou doors if you do not own it.


19 - ga da Finkinten janba lege gede EQIA has geesundaanan do Naani doome
If the blind dance "Janba" beside the well, he is with his guide

20 - Soron ñan Xawa tini year nwujamu da, xa nñinme my Xawa tini da nwujamu It is for people to say hello to you, not yourself.

21 - Yenbe be kumiini ga jin naxaanen na maxa dagayi An Na ti fuutene
fire shining in the middle of the river, better blow to revive

22 - Manna da xan your Kattu yaaxe, sexu Maxan jin naaxu ga fe
What has one foot in one eye, but a restless sleep.

                   Soninke people

Oumou Sangare: Sonic And Political Muscle
With the death of Miriam Makeba, Mali's Oumou Sangare stands unchallenged as Africa's most important female singer. Sangare was singing for money at age 5 and supporting her family at 13. Now, after a 12-year absence during which she raised a son and ran a hotel, a farm and other businesses, she has released a new album called Seya.

No major African musician has been more outspoken about women's issues. Take the song "Wele Wele Wintou," which criticizes child marriage. The title phrase, which repeats many times during the frenetic five-minute track, means something like "ring the bells." In between "wele weles," Sangare warns fathers that girls shouldn't marry before they have breasts, which is when their life as women begins. For Malian women, Sangare is unquestionably an inspiration.

But in America, her political muscle is conveyed mostly through music. Notice the flute and drums on the lead track, "Sounsoumba." I'm glad "Sounsoumba" advocates "respect for women" and "solidarity in marriage." But I don't need to know exactly what Sangare is saying, because I'm so impressed by what she's saying it over: the turbo power of Paris-based, Guadeloupe-raised, Ivory Coast-born flutist Malik Mezzadri and trap drums by Will Calhoun of the American rock band Living Colour.

Ingrid Monson (left), Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music, dances with Oumou Sangare,

Sangare's will to marshal such forces is new. When she came up in the '90s, she was known for just slightly modernizing the rural music of the Malian south. Seya is far more varied and ambitious, utilizing more than 50 backup players. "Donso" is an allegorical song about hunting, but notice the violin intro; the hypnotic rhythm is traditional. But that violin part conjures the Cairo string sound that dominated North African pop for a half-century.

Clearly a woman of power, Oumou Sangare is claiming that sound, and this proud internationalism only makes her seem stronger. But ultimately, her strength proceeds from her commitment to Mali. Nowhere on the album is she more robust than in its finale. "Koroko" means entertainer, and on the song of the same name, some dozen Malian men and women help Sangare celebrate all the korokos who vitalized her impoverished nation before her.

Photos of Soninke people


  1. Great pictures you took there! They definitely bring out the many sides of the Soninke people!
    I'd to ask you if I might use the picture ( for a book I am writing and of course I would put your name and blog URL under it! Would be an honor for me to be able to use it.

    Looking forward to your answer and all the best,

  2. Great post! Thank you for your insight and information about the Soninke. I'm a writer researching the Soninke for a book. Do you happen to know where I can find a list of Soninke proper names for men and women?


Post a Comment