This article was compiled by Jodi Phillips May 2014, for the Institute of Black Academics
concerning Black Under achievement.

PUBLISHED 09 MAY 2014  04:26


The Mandingo people are said to be descendants of the inhabitants of the Mali Empire, believed to have thrived from 1230 A.D. to 1600 A.D. Before 1230 A.D., the history of the Mandingoes seems to be a little obscure, though some people consider them to be the original inhabitants of the legendary ancient city of Djenné-Djenno, the archaeological dates of which go back to the third century B.C. What we know for sure, however, is that they were not independent prior to 1230 A.D. because the Mali empire, which was essentially established by the Mandingo rulers, was their first ever independent empire that was set up after a long-lasting struggle for independence.

The Mandingoes migrated towards the west from the Niger River, straight into the heartland of West Africa in the Senegambia region, where the Mali empire was established. The main reasons for this migration, as cited in their oral and written traditions, were the search for better agricultural lands and the desire for territorial expansion. Their ancestors battled the semi-nomadic Fula forces of the Kingdom of Fouta Djallon. On arrival in West Africa, more than half of the tribe converted to Islam. They did not show much resistance while giving up their indigenous pantheist beliefs, and accepting the monotheistic Islamic belief structure.

In West Africa, which became their new home, the Mandingo people lived quite harmoniously along with the other settlers in the region till about the 15th century, when the Westerners arrived in search of cheap/free human labor. The need for additional farm lands, and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution were the root causes for the beginning of a period of slavery in the history of the Mandingoes.

Quite interestingly, this slave trade was carried out on long-distance trade routes that were established by the Mandingoes themselves, and there were numerous Mandingo merchants involved in the transatlantic slave trade. The irony was that the Mandingoes were sold as slaves to the Westerners by their own men. The hunt was for people who submitted easily and thus, from the 16th century to the 18th century, more than a third of the Mandingo population was shipped out of Africa to the Americas, the very reason why most of the African-American people in the United States today, are descendants of the Mandingo tribe.

Mandingo culture includes rich and varied musical and spiritual traditions. Though the impact of western education is
negligible on the tribe, more than half of them can read the Arabic script. Their rural traditions include:

Versatile 'praise' singers, also called griots

Exquisite display of drumming and the kora, a 21 string instrument

Naming a child seven days after his/her birth

Arranged marriages and polygamy

Genitalia-modifying rituals at the onset of adulthood

The belief that God's power is in the word, not in the understanding of language

A vast array of oral traditions

Qur'anic schools that encourage the Arabic script

Today, the tribe thrives primarily in West Africa. They inhabit large areas of Gambia, Mali, Guinea, Leone, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Guinea Bissau and Mauritania.

The settlements are characteristic of:

Family-centric compounds in rural settings.

Preference for an autonomous and self-ruled polity.

Leadership offered by a chief and a group of village elders.

Oral tradition of learning and the use of stories, proverbs and songs to hand down history.

Recent development of Qur'anic schools that encourage the Arabic script.

Dwellings along trade routes.

Dyoula or merchant-built trading centers.

Merchant networks within highland production areas.

Supervision of overland trade in conjunction with that along the coast and interior.

The Mandingo tribe mainly trade in rice, groundnuts and millet. The society is patriarchal and of the 'clan' culture. After their migration to
West Africa, the Mandingos enriched the region with surplus agricultural produce and a labor-intensive economy. Using all their human resources, they contribute towards an agrarian culture. Men are also employed as butchers, tailors, drivers, carpenters, blacksmiths
and soldiers. Most Mandingo women are house-wives.
[Source :].

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