Serer history

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A 19th-century war and ceremonial drum called junjung from the Kingdom of Sine.

The medieval history of the Serer people of Senegambia is partly characterised by resisting Islamization from perhaps the 11th century during the Almoravid movement (which would later result in the Serers of Takrur migration to the south),[1] to the 19th century Marabout movement of Senegambia[2][3][4] and continuation of the old Serer paternal dynasties.

Resistance to Islam, 11th century[edit]

Further information: Muslim conquest of the Sudan

According to Galvan (2004), "The oral historical record, written accounts by early Arab and European explorers, and physical anthropological evidence suggest that the various Serer peoples migrated south from the Fuuta Tooro region (Senegal River valley) beginning around the eleventh century, when Islam first came across the Sahara."[5]:p.51 Over generations these people, possibly Pulaar speaking herders originally, migrated through Wolof areas and entered the Siin and Saluum river valleys. This lengthy period of Wolof-Serer contact has left us unsure of the origins of shared "terminology, institutions, political structures, and practices."[5]:p.52

Professor Étienne Van de Walle gave a slightly later date, writing that "The formation of the Sereer ethnicity goes back to the thirteenth century, when a group came from the Senegal River valley in the north fleeing Islam, and near Niakhar met another group of Mandinka origin, called the Gelwar, who were coming from the southeast (Gravrand 1983). The actual Sereer ethnic group is a mixture of the two groups, and this may explain their complex bilinear kinship system".[6]

After the Arab invasion of North Africa, the Berbers of the north advanced Islam via the Almoravid movement, penetrating parts of Africa, Europe and Asia.[7][8] After the fall of the Ghana empire, the Serers resisted conversion and engaged in the battlefield to defend not only the Serer religion, but also their own power and wealth especially the Serer "Lamanic class" whose wealth and power was achieved through the Lamanic lineage.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

The Serer earned their living from agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing, boat building (an ancient Serer tradition) and transporting people over the river.[16][17]

The jihads that had affected Tekrur in the 11th century which led to the Serers of Tekrur exodus only affected those Serers living in Tekrur at the time. It did not apply to all Serer people. The Serer people are very diverse and spread throughout the Senegambia founding towns and villages, the Serer names of these towns and villages still remain today.[18]

In Senegambia, southward migration[edit]

In the Senegambia region, the Serer people were ruled by Lamanes. The Serer who have migrated from Tekrur to join their distant Serer relatives created a southward migration for Mandinka migrants. Godfrey Mwakikagile proposed that the Mandinkas were either defeated in battle or incorporated into Serer society.[20] The Serers ruled over the Wolof kingdom of Jolof. They were ruling Jolof before the Jaw, Ngom, Mengue (or Mbengue) and Njie dynasties (who were all Serers with the exeception of the Mengue dynasty who were Lebou – Mengue or Mbengue is a Lebou surname).[21] However, these Serer and Lebou rulers of Jolof (predominantly a Wolof area) became assimilated into Wolof culture.

Migration from Kabuu to Sine[edit]

The actual foundation of the Kingdom of Sine is unclear, but in the late 14th century Mandinka migrants entered the area. They were led by a matrilineal clan known as the Gelwaar. Here they encountered the Serer, who had already established a system of lamanic authorities, and established a Gelwaar led state with its capital in or near a Serer lamanic estate centred at Mbissel.[5]:p.54[22][23]

Marriages between the Serer paternal clans such as Faye and Joof to the Guelwar women created the Serer paternal dynasties and a Guelowar maternal dynasty. According to Serer oral tradition a king named Maad a Sinig Maysa Wali Jaxateh Manneh (many variations in spelling: Maissa Wali, Maissa Wally also known as Maysa Wali Jon or Maysa Wali Dione) – (reigned 1350)[24] was the first Guelowar king of Sine. Having served for several years as legal advisor to The Great Council of Lamans and assimilated into Serer culture, he was elected and crowned the firstking of Sine in (1350).[25][26] His sisters and nieces were married off to the Serer nobility and the offspring of these unions where the kings of Sine and later Saloum (Maad a Sinig and Maad Saloum respectively).[25][26][27][28]

Henry Gravrand reported an oral tradition describing what he called the "Battle of Troubang", a dynastic war between the two maternal royal houses of Ñaanco and the Guelowar,an off-shot and relatives of the Ñaanco (Nyanthio or Nyanco) maternal dynasty of Kaabu, in modern day Guinea Bissau.[29][30] In reporting this tradition, Henry Gravrand did not notice that this is actually a description of the 1867 (or 1865) Battle of Kansala.[23]

King Njaajan Njie[edit]

Njaajan Njie (English spelling in Gambia, Ndiandiane Ndiaye or N'Diadian N'Diaye – French spelling in Senegal, or Njaajaan Njaay - in the Serer language, also known as Amudu Bubakar b. 'Umar,[31] is the traditional founder of the Jolof Empire by the Wolof people. Traditional stories of the ancestry of this leader vary. One suggests that he was "the first and only son of a noble and saintly Arab father Abdu Darday and a "Tukuler" woman, Fatamatu Sail." This gives him an Almoravid lineage, ie a Berber and Islamic background, on his father's side, and a link on his mother's side to Takrur.[32][33] James Searing adds that "In all versions of the myth, Njaajaan Njaay speaks his first words in Pulaar rather than Wolof, emphasizing once again his character as a stranger of noble origins." Njaajan Njie was the founder of the first Wolof kingdom and claimed by the Wolof as their ancestor.[34]

John Donnelly Fage suggests although dates in the early 13th century (and others say 12th century) are usually ascribed to this king and the founding of the empire, a more likely scenario is "that the rise of the empire was associated with the growth of Wolof power at the expense of the ancient Sudanese state of Takrur, and that this was essentially a fourteenth-century development."[35]

Defeat of Portuguese slave raiders[edit]

In 1446, a Portuguese caravel carrying the Portuguese slave trader - Nuno Tristão and his party attempted to enter Serer territory in order to carry out slave raiding. None of the adult passengers of that caravel survived. They all succumbed to Serer poisoned arrows except five young Portuguese (or less). One of them was left with the task to charter the caravel back to Portugal. Nuno was amongst those killed.[36][37]

19th century Marabout Movement[edit]

The Battle of Fandane-Thiouthioune also known as The Battle of Somb was a religious war (but also partly motivated by conquest – empire building) between the Muslim Marabout movement of Senegambia and the Serer people of Sine.[38][39] On 18 July 1867, the leader of the Marabouts Maba Diakhou Bâ launched a jihad in the Serer Kingdom of Sine but was defeated and killed by the forces of Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Famak Joof, King of Sine.[40][41][42] Maba Diakhou, a rather charismatic leader in the Marabout sect saw the propagation of Islam in Senegambia and an Islamic empire as his divine mission.[43] Although he did not achieve an Islamic empire, he had managed to conquer several villages in Senegal and Gambia and his movement was responsible for the Islamization of many Senegambians.[43]

The effects of Islam[edit]

"...it is not false to conclude that besides theoritical, constitutional arguments based on modern law, there was an historical dimension to the crisis of December 1962, which helps explain that some members of this first government of modern Senegal could not get used to the idea of being surbordinates to a Serer head of state, L.S. Senghor (Léopold Sédar Senghor). Indeed, this president's ethnic community remains the object of scorn, of prejudices of Senegal's dominant communities. For the latter, conversion to Islam is still seen, somehow as a sign of progress and open-mindness, compared to these Serer peasants who long held on to their "pagan" beliefs and who became Muslims or converted to Christianity only recently..."

M T Rosalie Akouele Abbey,[44]

Although there are some Serer converts to Islam, Serer people's medieval to 19th century history in resisting Islamization has created a division between "believers" of Islam and "non-believers" such as the orthodox Serers who adhere to Serer religion.[45][46][47] Klein notes that :

"The most important factor dividing the peoples of Senegambia was the differential impact of Islam. In this, the Serer stood out as the one group that had undergone no conversion."(Martin A. Klein)[47]

This division is not just religious but also has an ethnic dimension. As recent converts to Islam, the Serers irrespective of their religious affiliation are the object of prejudice especially in Senegal where they make up the third largest ethnic group.[44] As opponents of Islam for nearly a millennia, anti-Serer sentiments are not uncommon.[44][48] However, the Serer countries, especially the Sine area of Senegal, is reported to be a true bastion of the anti-Islamic.[46][49]

Present[edit]

Main article: Serer people

At present, the Serer population is estimated to be over 1.8 million based on population figures for Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania (2011) – excluding the Serers living in the West and elsewhere. They are more numerous in Senegal than in Gambia and Mauritania. Though traditionally mixed-farmers, boat builders and land owners, the Serers are found in all major professions including politics, medicine, literature, commerce, law, agriculture, etc.[50] Polyculture and boat building is still practiced by some Serers. Due to their Lamanic land inheritance system, they tend to have valuable land. Recently however, President Abdoulaye Wade's land reform law has affected many Serer farming communities in Senegal and they've lost their properties.[51]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ See Mwakikagile, Ethnic Diversity and Integration in the Gambia:, p224 & The Gambia and Its People:, p 138; Klein, Islam and Imperialism in Senegal Sine-Saloum, 1847–1914, pp 7 & 63, Gravrand, vol. 1. La Civilisation sereer, Cossan pp 115–18; & La civilisation Sereer, Pangool p 13
  2. ^ Klein, Martin, Islam and Imperialism in Senegal, Sine-Saloum, 1847–914 pp 62–93
  3. ^ Sarr, Histoire du Sine Saloum, pp 37–39
  4. ^ Diouf, Niokhobaye. pp 727–729 (pp 16–18)
  5. ^ a b c Galvan, Dennis Charles, The State Must Be Our Master of Fire: How Peasants Craft Culturally Sustainable Development in Senegal Berkeley, University of California Press, 2004 p.51
  6. ^ Van de Walle, Étienne (2006). African Households: Censuses And Surveys. M.E. Sharpe. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-7656-1619-7. 
  7. ^ David Robinson. "Muslim Societies in African History". Muslim Societies in African History (New Approaches to African History). 
  8. ^ Lombard, Maurice, The golden age of Islam p 84. Markus Wiener (2003), ISBN 1-55876-322-8
  9. ^ Diouf, Mamadou, & Leichtman, Mara, "New perspectives on Islam in Senegal: conversion, migration, wealth, power, and femininity", Palgrave Macmillan (2009), the University of Michigan, ISBN 0-230-60648-2
  10. ^ Diouf, Mamadou, "History of Senegal: Islamo-Wolof model and its outskirts", Maisonneuve & Larose (2001), ISBN 2-7068-1503-5
  11. ^ Oliver, Roland Anthony, & Fage, J. D., "Journal of African History", Volume 10, Cambridge University Press (1969)
  12. ^ "The African archaeological review", Volumes 17–18, Plenum Press (2000)
  13. ^ Hopkins, J. F. P., & Levtzion, Nehemia, "Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History", pp 77–79, Cambridge University Press (1981) (Scholar)
  14. ^ Trimingham, John Spencer, "A history of Islam in West Africa", pp 174, 176 & 234, Oxford University Press, USA (1970)
  15. ^ For more information about Serer Lamanic lineage and class, see : Galvan, Dennis Charles, "The State Must Be Our Master of Fire:"
  16. ^ Gregg, Emma, Trillo, Richard Rough guide to the Gambia, p 247, Rough Guides, 2003, ISBN 1-84353-083-X
  17. ^ Mwakikagile, Godfrey, The Gambia and its people, p 11; & Ethnic diversity p 97
  18. ^ See : Gamble, David P. & Salmon, Linda K. (with Alhaji Hassan Njie); (French) Becker, Charles, "Vestiges historiques, trémoins matériels du passé clans les pays sereer"', Dakar, 1993., CNRS – ORS TO M
  19. ^ Mwakikagile, Godfrey, "The Gambia and Its People: Ethnic Identities and Cultural Integration in Africa", p 136. (2010), ISBN 9987-16-023-9
  20. ^ Mwakikagile, Godfrey, "Ethnic Diversity and Integration in the Gambia", p225
  21. ^ Mwakikagile, Godfrey, "Ethnic Diversity and Integration in the Gambia", p 224
  22. ^ Klein, Martin A. Islam and Imperialism in Senegal. Sine-Saloum, 1847-1914, Stanford: Stanford University Press.[1] ISBN 978-0-8047-0621-6 p.8
  23. ^ a b Sarr, Alioune, Histoire du Sine-Saloum (Sénégal) Introduction, bibliographie et notes par Charles Becker. 1986-87, p 19
  24. ^ For Maysa Wali's reign, see : Sarr, Alioune, "Histoire du Sine-Saloum" (Sénégal), (introduction, bibliographie et notes par Charles Becker), in Bulletin de l'IFAN, tome 46, série B, nos 3–4, 1986–1987. p 19. See also : (French) Éthiopiques, Volume 2, pp 100–101, Grande imprimerie africaine (1984)
  25. ^ a b Ngom, Biram,(Babacar Sédikh Diouf). "La question Gelwaar et l’histoire du Siin", Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1987, 69 p.
  26. ^ a b Sarr, Alioune, "Histoire du Sine-Saloum" (Sénégal), (introduction, bibliographie et notes par Charles Becker), in Bulletin de l'IFAN, tome 46, série B, nos 3-4, 1986–1987. p 19
  27. ^ Gravrand, Henry, "Le Gabou dans les traditions orales du Ngabou", Éthiopiques 28 special issue No, socialist journal of Black African culture (1981)
  28. ^ Sarr, Alioune, p 19
  29. ^ Innes, Gordon, Suso, Bamba, Kanute, Banna , Kanute, Dembo, ""Sunjata: three Mandinka versions", p128, Psychology Press, 1974. ISBN 0-7286-0003-X
  30. ^ Fage, J. D., Oliver, Roland Anthony, "The Cambridge history of Africa", p282, Cambridge University Press, 1975. ISBN 0-521-20413-5
  31. ^ A.A. Bartran (1979). John Ralph Willis, ed. Studies in West African Islamic History: Volume 1: The Cultivators of Islam. Routledge. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-7146-1737-4. 
  32. ^ Searing, JAMES (2003). West African Slavery and Atlantic Commerce: The Senegal River Valley, 1700-1860. Cambridge University Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-521-53452-9. 
  33. ^ Fiona Mc Laughlin; Salikoko S. Mufwene (2008). "The Ascent of Wolof as an Urban Vernacular and National Lingua Franca in Senegal". In Cécile B. Vigouroux, Salikoko S. Mufwene. Globalization and Language Vitality: Perspectives from Africa. Continuum. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-8264-9515-0. Archived from the original on 9 July 2009. 
  34. ^ Anyidoho, Kofi, "Cross rhythms", Volume 1, "Occasional papers in African folklore", p 118, Trickster Press (1983)
  35. ^ Fage, John Donnelly (1997). "Upper and Lower Guinea". In Roland Oliver. The Cambridge History of Africa, Volume 3. Cambridge University Press. p. 484. ISBN 978-0-521-20981-6. 
  36. ^ Hair, Paul Edward Hedley, "The Use of African Languages in Afro-European contacts in Guinea : 1440-1560", [in] "Sierra Leone Language Review", no. 5, 1966, p. 13 [2]
  37. ^ Hair, Paul Edward Hedley, "Africa encountered: European contacts and evidence, 1450-1700", Variorum, 1997, pp 213–15 & 248, ISBN 0-86078-626-9
  38. ^ Sarr, Alioune, "Histoire du Sine-Saloum", Introduction, bibliographie et Notes par Charles Becker, BIFAN, Tome 46, Serie B, n° 3-4, 1986–1987. pp 37-39
  39. ^ Diouf, Niokhobaye. "Chronique du royaume du Sine" Suivie de notes sur les traditions orales et les sources écrites concernant le royaume du Sine par Charles Becker et Victor Martin. (1972). Bulletin de l'Ifan, Tome 34, Série B, n° 4, (1972). (pp 727–729, pp 16–18)
  40. ^ Sarr, Alioune, "Histoire du Sine-Saloum " (Sénégal) Introduction, bibliographie et notes par Charles Becker. 1986-87, pp 37-39
  41. ^ Klein, pp 90-91 & 103
  42. ^ Diouf, Niokhobaye, pp 728–29
  43. ^ a b Lipschutz, Mark R., & Rasmussen, R. Kent, "Dictionary of African historical biography", p 128, 2nd Edition, University of California Press (1989), ISBN 0-520-06611-1
  44. ^ a b c Abbey, M T Rosalie Akouele, "Customary Law and Slavery in West Africa", Trafford Publishing (2011), pp 481–482, ISBN 1-4269-7117-6
  45. ^ Thiaw, Issa Laye, "La Religiosité des Sereer, Avant et Pendant Leur Islamisation", Éthiopiques, No: 54, Revue Semestrielle de Culture Négro-Africaine. Nouvelle Série, Volume 7, 2e Semestre 1991.
  46. ^ a b Thiam, Iba Der, "Maba Diakhou Ba Almamy du Rip" (Sénégal), Paris, ABC, Dakar-Abidjan, NEA, 1977, p44
  47. ^ a b Klein, p 7
  48. ^ Thiaw, Issa Laye, "La Religiosité des Sereer, Avant et Pendant Leur Islamisation", Éthiopiques, No: 54, Revue Semestrielle de Culture Négro-Africaine, Nouvelle Série, Volume 7, 2e Semestre 1991
  49. ^ Galvan, "The state must be our master of fire:", pp 41, 44, 65, 260 & 305
  50. ^ Blanchet, Gilles "Élites et changements en Afrique et au Sénégal", ORSTOM (1983) pp 182–185
  51. ^ Ubink, Janine M, Hoekema, André J, Assies, Willem J, "Legalising Land Rights: Local Practices, State Responses and Tenure Security in Africa, Asia and Latin America", pp 259–287, Amsterdam University Press, 2010. ISBN 90-8728-056-4

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