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The Susu people (Susu: Soso; French: Soussou) are a major Mande ethnic group living primarily in Guinea. Smaller communities are also located in the neighboring country of Sierra Leone. The Susu are descendants of the thirteenth century Mali Empire. They moved to their present location after 1725, when the Fulani attempted to dominate them in the Fouta Jalon.
The Susu people are farmers, traders and fishermen. The Susu live mainly in the coastal areas of Guinea and Sierra Leone. Their houses are made with mud or cement blocks, and thatched or tin roofs depending on their means.
Customs and culture
Family is very important in Susu society. The Susu often live with their extended family. Polygyny is an accepted practice since Islamic law allows men to have as many as four wives. This is not always practiced because having multiple wives requires more means than most men have. The men provide for their families by working the rice fields, fishing, or engaging in commerce. The women cook the food and take care of the children. They often engage in a small commerce, usually of vegetables they have raised in their own garden. Often women will have their own room or hut next to their husband's lodging where they will stay with their children.
Although good social relationships are valued, there are many conflicts with neighbors, especially when dealing with money or property. Each village has natural leaders, usually with a recognized chief, who help resolve conflicts. For more serious matters, government officials like the police and the mayor are called upon.
The Susu are known to be open minded, not racial, offering his services to the more offering compared to their neighbors counterparts.
Their language, called Sosoxui by native speakers, serves as a major trade language along the Guinean coast, including the capital city of Conakry. Other large cities where Susu is spoken include Dubreka, Kindia, Forécariah, Boffa, Kamsar, and Boke. The Susu language is almost similar to the language of the Yalunka people who live near Faranah. The Susu and Yalunka believe they were originally one people group living in the Fouta Djallon region of Guinea.
Economy and life style
The Susu are primarily farmers, with rice and millet being their two principal crops. Mangoes, pineapples, and coconuts are also grown. The women make various kinds of palm oil from palm nuts. They also make peanut oil and soap. All of the family members, including the children, are expected to do their share of the manual labor necessary for sustaining an adequate lifestyle.
In addition to farming, fishing and salt production are important enterprises to the Susu economy. Salt is produced during the dry season, and it can take up to three months of intense work to produce anything substantial. The Susu are also well known as merchants and craftsmen of leather and metal.
Ancient Susu houses were typically made of either mud or cement blocks, depending on the resources available. They are generally quite large in order to accommodate extended families. In the cities, roofs are most often made of corrugated iron; whereas in the rural areas, they are usually made of thatch. Most cooking is done over open fires. Electricity is scarce throughout the region, even in the capital city, many go days without any power. Clean water is generally lacking in the capital, but in more rural areas is not considered a big problem. Humanitarian aid organizations are trying to help the Susu by digging wells throughout the area.
Although Western clothes can be obtained in the markets, most Susu women seem to prefer an African dress. They usually wear African-style skirts that reach to their ankles. Older men wear loose-fitting cotton robes, but the younger men prefer Western-style clothing.
Religion and traditional beliefs
Over 99% of Susu are Muslim, and Islam dominates their religious culture and practices. Most Islamic holidays are observed, the most important being the celebration that follows Ramadan (a month of prayer and fasting). The Susu also combine their Islamic faith with traditional beliefs, such as the existence of spirits who inhabit certain areas, and the belief in sorcerers who have the power to change into animals, cast evil spells on people, or heal people from certain ailments.
Regions with significant population
Over 75 percent of the total Susu population live in Guinea, particularly in and around the Guinean capital Conakry. The Susu predominate in the central region of Guinea and theirs is the most widely spoken language in the capital Conakry and other cities in central Guinea, including Kindia, Forekaria and Koya. The Sierra Leonean Susu live primarily in Kambia District where they form the second largest ethnic group after the Temne at about 28% of the population.
- Lansana Conté, former president of Guinea from 1984 to 2008
- Dala Modu Dumbuya was an important Sierra Leonean Susu trader during colonial era
- Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, former Finance minister of Guinea
- Ahmed Ramadan Dumbuya, Sierra Leonean politician
- Momodu Yillah, Sierra Leonean business mand the SLPP political party Trustee
- Pr. Sekou Mouke Yansane, Professor, Ambassador-Diplomat to the United Nations, Governor
- Eugène Camara, former prime minister of Guinea
- Arafan Camara, former Guinean defense minister
- Sheriff Suma, Sierra Leonean football star
- Souleymane Youla, Guinean football star
- Mohamed Sillah, Sierra Leonean football star
- Henri Camara, Senegalese football star
- Ismaël Bangoura, Guinean footballer
- Ibrahima Camara, Guinean football star
- Prince Modupe, Guinean actor, Hollywood technical advisor on Africa and author of the autobiography, A Royal African (Praeger: New York, 1969) (published in 1957 by Harcourt, Brace & World as I Was a Savage).