Za Dynasty

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The Za Dynasty or Zuwa Dynasty were rulers of a medieval kingdom based in the towns of Kukiya and Gao on the Niger River in what is today modern Mali.

Oral history and the Tarikh al-Sudan[edit]

Al-Sadi's seventeenth century chronicle, the Tarikh al-Sudan, provides an early history of the Songhay as handed down by oral tradition. The chronicle reports that the legendary founder of the dynasty, Za Alayaman, originally came from the Yemen and settled in the town of Kukiya.[1] The town is believed to have been near the modern village of Bentiya on the eastern bank of the Niger River, north of the Fafa rapids, 134 km south east of Gao.[2] Tombstones with Arabic inscriptions dating from the 14th and 15th centuries have been found in the area.[3] Kukiya is also mentioned in the other important chronicle, the Tarikh al-fattash.[4] The Tarikh al-Sudan relates that the 15th ruler, Za Kusoy, converted to Islam in the year 1009-1010 A.D. At some stage the kingdom or at least its political focus moved north to Gao. The kingdom of Gao capitalized on the growing trans-Saharan trade and grew into a small regional power before being conquered by the Mali Empire in the early 13th century.

Rulers of the Za dynasty as given in the Tarikh al-Sudan[edit]

These names with their diacritics are as given in the translation by John Hunwick.[5] The surviving Arabic manuscripts differ both in the spelling and the vocalization of the names.

  1. Alayaman[6]
  2. Zakoi
  3. Takoi
  4. Ikoi
  5. ʿAlī Fay
  6. Biya Kumay
  7. Bī/Bay
  8. Karay
  9. Yama Karaway
  10. Yuma Dunku
  11. Yuma Kībuʿu
  12. Kūkura
  13. Kinkin
  14. Kusoy
  15. Kusur Dāri
  16. Hin Kun Wunka Dum
  17. Biyay Koi Kīma
  18. Koy Kīmi
  19. Nuntā Sanay
  20. Biyay Kayna Kinba
  21. Kayna Shinyunbu
  22. Tib
  23. Yama Dao
  24. Fadazaw
  25. ʿAlī Kur
  26. Bēr Falaku
  27. Yāsiboy
  28. Dūru
  29. Zunku Bāru
  30. Bisi Bāru
  31. Badā

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hunwick 2003, pp. xxxv, 5.
  2. ^ Bentiya is at 15°20′56″N 0°45′36″E / 15.349°N 0.760°E / 15.349; 0.760
  3. ^ Moraes Farias 1990, p. 105.
  4. ^ Kukiya is written as Koûkiya in the French translation.
  5. ^ Hunwick 2003, pp. 3-4.
  6. ^ Hunwick 2003 on page 3 writes this name as Alayman. This appears to be a typographical error as on pages 5 and 6 and elsewhere the name is spelled Alayaman.


  • Hunwick, John O. (2003). Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Sadi's Tarikh al-Sudan down to 1613 and other contemporary documents. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-9004128224.
  • Moraes Farias, Paulo F. de (1990). "The oldest extant writing of West Africa: medieval epigraphs from Essuk, Saney, and Egef-n-Tawaqqast (Mali)". Journal des Africanistes. 60: 65–113. doi:10.3406/jafr.1990.2452. Link is to a scan on Gallica that omits some photographs of the epigraphs.

Further reading[edit]