Kpelle people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Kpelle girl from Liberia, May 1968.
Total population
c. 2 million
Regions with significant populations
 Liberia1,058,448 (20.3%) [1]
 Guinea1,004,475 (7.8%) [2]
 Ivory Coast30,000[citation needed]
Kpelle, French, English
Christianity, Traditional, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Mende people, Kissi people, Loma people, Mano people, Vai people, Kono people, Gbandi people

The Kpelle people (also known as the Guerze, Kpwesi, Kpessi, Sprd, Mpessi, Berlu, Gbelle, Bere, Gizima, or Buni)[3] are the largest ethnic group in Liberia. They are located primarily in an area of central Liberia, extending into Guinea. They speak the Kpelle language,[4] which belongs to the Mande language family.

Despite their yearly heavy rainfalls and rough land, Kpelle survive mostly on their staple crop of rice. Traditionally organized under several paramount chiefs who serve as mediators for the public, preserve order and settle disputes, the Kpelle are arguably the most rural and conservative of the major ethnic groups in Liberia.[5]

The Kpelle people are also referred to as Gberese, Gbese, Gbeze, Gerse, Gerze, Kpelli, Kpese, Kpwele, Ngere, and Nguere.[6]


The Kpelle or Guerze lived in North Sudan during the sixteenth-century, before fleeing to other parts of Northwest Africa into what is now Mali. Their flight was due to internal conflicts between the tribes from the crumbling Sudanic empire. Some migrated to Liberia, Mauritania, and Chad. They still maintained their traditional and cultural heritage despite their migration. A handful are still of Kpelle origin in North Sudan.[7]

Kpelle are also located in Mali and maintain their heritage.

The Kpelle also used to trade with the Muslim Vai and Mandingo who live in small numbers in the country and reside nearby. The Kpelle trade with Lebanese merchants, U.S. missionaries and Peace Corps volunteers.[5]

There were 3 days of ethno-religious fighting in Nzerekore in July 2013.[8][9] Fighting between ethnic Kpelle, who are Christian or animist, and ethnic Konianke, who are Muslims and close to the larger Mandinka ethnic group, left at least 54 dead.[9] The dead included people who were killed with machetes and others who were burned alive.[9] The violence ended after the Guinea military imposed a curfew, and President Conde made a televised appeal for calm.[9]


The Kpelle are the largest ethnic group of the West African nation of Liberia and are also an important ethnic group also in southern Guinea (where they are also known as Guerze) and north western Ivory Coast. Most Kpelle inhabit Bong County, Bomi County, Gbarpolu County, and Lofa County.[5] They are major food suppliers of the capital cities.

The terrain in the area includes swamps, hills and, in lowland areas, rivers. May through October brings their rainy season with an annual rainfall from 180 to 300 centimeters. The Kpelle territory sees the lowest temperatures dropping to 19 °C with the average temp around 36-degree C.[4]

It is supplemented by cassava, vegetables, and fruits; cash crops include rice, peanuts, sugarcane, and nuts they also enjoy fufu and soup, sometimes the soup is spicy but it depends on the way they want it. Soup may be eaten as an appetizer or in conjunction to the main dish.[10]


Traditionally, the Kpelle have been farmers with rice as the main crop.[11] The word Kpelle is often used as an adjective to refer to someone as hard working and very humble people in Liberia and Guinea.

Traditionally, a Kpelle family consists of a man, his wives and his children. The household has been the usual farming unit, and all the family members participate in daily farming work. Young children learn how to farm and help the older family members with farm activities.[citation needed]

In their social structure, leadership was very crucial. Every Kpelle tribe used to have a chief who oversaw their own interests as well as the interests of the society. These chiefs were recognized by the national government. They used to act as mediators between the government and their own tribes. Each town also had its own chief. The chiefs act as liaisons for different groups in the society. Anthropologists such as Caroline Bledsoe have characterized Kpelle social organization as one premised on wealth in people.

Their flight was due to internal conflicts between the tribes from the crumbling Sudanic empire.

Kpelle wood made structure

Kpelle Surnames[edit]

  1. Balamou
  2. Balomou
  3. Bamamou
  4. Bénémou
  5. Bimou
  6. Blélamou
  7. Blémou
  8. Boamou
  9. Bohamou
  10. Bolamou
  11. Boolamou
  12. Bolomou
  13. Bonamou
  14. Bréhémou
  15. Decamou
  16. Delamou
  17. Diémou
  18. Doualamou
  19. Dounamou
  20. Douolamou
  21. Douonamou
  22. Dramou
  23. Faghamou
  24. Fanghamou
  25. Fanhamou
  26. Félémou
  27. Gamamou
  28. Gbalémou
  29. Gbamou
  30. Gbanamou
  31. Gbanmou
  32. Gbémou
  33. Gbilémou
  34. Gbilimou
  35. Gegbelémou
  36. Gnabalamou
  37. Gnanawéamou
  38. Gnékoyamou
  39. Gamou
  40. Gomou
  41. Gonomou
  42. Goromou
  43. Gouamou
  44. Goumou
  45. Gromou
  46. Guémou
  47. Habalamou
  48. Hagbalamou
  49. Hamoutéamou
  50. Haomou
  51. Haoulomou
  52. Hébélamou
  53. Hébélemou
  54. Hélémou
  55. Honomou
  56. Iromou
  57. Kanimou
  58. Kanmou
  59. Kolamou 
  60. Kolomou
  61. Konomou
  62. Korémou
  63. Koulémou
  64. Kpamou
  65. Kpanamou
  66. Kpoghomou
  67. Kpoghonamou
  68. Kpogmou
  69. Kpohomou
  70. Kpokomou
  71. Kponhonamou
  72. Kpoulémou
  73. Kpoulomou
  74. Kpowolamou
  75. Kpowolomou
  76. Kpowomou
  77. Lamou
  78. Loholamou
  79. Lolamou
  80. Loramou
  81. Louamou
  82. Loulémou
  83. Lowolamou
  84. Mahomou
  85. Malamou
  86. Malémou
  87. Malomou
  88. Manamou
  89. Manémou
  90. Manimou 
  91. Maomou
  92. Maouomou
  93. Minamou
  94. Malmou
  95. Molmou
  96. Molomou
  97. Moloumou
  98. Monémou
  99. Nanamou
  100. Ninamou
  101. Nonamou
  102. Nonémou
  103. Noramou
  104. Nyambalamou (Niambalamou)
  105. Ognémou
  106. Olamou
  107. Olémou
  108. Onikoyamou
  109. Oualamou
  110. Ouamounou
  111. Ouélamou
  112. Ouémou
  113. Ouiémou
  114. Pilicemou
  115. Pkogomou
  116. Plégnémou
  117. Pricémou
  118. Sangbalamou
  119. Sangbaramou
  120. Saoromou
  121. Saoulomou
  122. Saouromou
  123. Saromou
  124. Sonomou
  125. Soomou
  126. Soromou
  127. Souomou
  128. Tohonamou
  129. Tonamou
  130. Wolamou
  131. Yarawéyamou
  132. Yeamou
  133. Zagaimou
  134. Zébélamou
  135. Zégbélemou
  136. Zogbélémou
  137. Zomou
  138. Zotamou
  139. Zouémou
  140. Zoutomou
  141. Zowotamou

Notable Kpelle people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Africa: Liberia The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency". 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  2. ^ "Africa: Guinea The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency". 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  3. ^ Fulton, Richard M. (1972). "The Political Structures and Functions of Poro in Kpelle Society". American Anthropologist. n.s. 74 (5): 1218–1233. doi:10.1525/aa.1972.74.5.02a00140.
  4. ^ a b "Off Campus Access". Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "Kpelle". Archived from the original on 19 October 2002. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  6. ^ RAMEAU, BnF [1]
  7. ^ Fiske, Alan. "Kpelle". Archived from the original on 19 October 2002. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Guinea's Conde appeals for calm after 11 killed in ethnic clashes". Reuters. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2020 – via
  9. ^ a b c d "Guinea troops deployed after clashes". BBC News. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  10. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition". Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  11. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1982 edition, p. 907