The Fali people (called the Bana in Nigeria) are a small ethnic group of west and central Africa. The Fali are concentrated in mountainous areas of northern Cameroon, but some also live in northeastern Nigeria. The Fali are composed of four major groups, each corresponding to a geographic region: The Bossoum Fali, the Kangou Fali, the Peske–Bori Fali, and the Tingelin Fali. The Fali in Cameroon have been described as being centered around Garoua as well as the rocky plateaus and peaks of the Adamawa mountains in the country's north. The Fali are sometimes referred to as the Kirdi, meaning "pagan," a term given by the neighboring Muslim Fulani; the term Kirdi also describes up to 25 other cultures and was originally a pejorative, although some writers have reappropriated it.
The term Fali is from a Fula word meaning "perched," a reference to how Fali compounds appear on the sides of mountains. The Fali in Nigeria primarily live in the Mubi District, Mubi Division of the former Gongola State.
The Fali primarily engage in farming and hunting. Major crops include millet, chickpeas, peanuts (groundnuts), squash, tobacco, okra, and cotton. The Fali are exogamous, patrilineal, and hierarchical, with society being made up of clans with distinct territories and chiefs, and tracing their origin to a common ancestor. They observe virilocal residence.
The Fali people trace their ancestry to the Ngomma, who founded the ancient capital of Timpil. Other accounts trace the Fali's origins to the Sao civilization on Lake Chad, which flourished from the tenth to the 16th centuries.
The Fali religion is traditional African. It has been identified as monotheistic, involving belief in a creator god, Faw, and a mother goddess, Ona, the Earth. Followers of the Fali religion make prayers and offerings to ancestors to intercede with Faw on behalf of the living. The Fali "conceive of Faw not only as creator and organizer, but also as a just God who is undepictable by human intelligence." The religion also includes belief in supernatural beings, including genies, sacred crocodiles, and the black snake, the master of darkness. By 2009, increasing numbers of Fali were converting to Islam, although many converts maintain syncretic beliefs. A 1996 work estimated the total population of Fali at 95,000 people, with 80 percent being Muslim and the remainder being Roman Catholic, Protestant, animist, or syncretic.
Cissus quadrangularis is significant to Fali in Cameroon, and the Fali are reported to wash their dead in a decoction of the plant. The Fali believe that the development of the plants is important to fertility; a C. quadrangularis is planted on proposed construction sites, and if the plant does not flourish, a new site is chosen.
- "Fali," The Peoples of Africa: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary (1996) (James Stuart Olson, editor). Greenwood : p. 174-175.
- "Fali," Almanac of African Peoples and Nations (1999) (Muḥammad Zuhdī Yakan, editor). Transaction: p. 309.
- "Fali," Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East, Volume 1 (2009) (Jamie Stokes, editor). Infobase: p. 225.
- "Fali," Encyclopædia Britannica (2011).
- Steven Nelson, From Cameroon to Paris: Mousgoum Architecture In and Out of Africa (2007). University of Chicago Press: p. 155.
- Hans Dieter Neuwinger, African Ethnobotany, Poisons and Drugs: Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology (1996). CRC Press: p. 33.