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Guinea Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Michael Gott

Mike is a veteran of the New Hampshire public school system and has worked in grades 1-12. His role has varied from primary instructor to special needs support.

The Country of Guinea is located on the western coast of Africa. This country is home to over 24 different and distinct ethnic groups. Three ethnic groups, however, make up 90% of the population. This lesson will cover these groups, the Fulani, Malinké, and Soussou, along with the role ethnic groups play in Guinea.

What Role do Ethnic Groups Play in Guinea?

Guinea is located on the North West coast of Africa. This country has vast natural mineral wealth, yet the population is impoverished. This can be attributed to instability between the various ethnic groups that inhabit the country. Ethnic tensions between these groups have kept Guinea in a state of near-constant instability. With the Fulani at 40%, Malinké at 30%, and Soussou at 20%, ethnic groups make up approximately 90% of the population. Guinea is home to another 21 distinct ethnicities comprising 10% of the overall population. Despite great similarities in culture and belief, the ethnic groups within Guinea, due to a weak and corrupt government, often work to address grievances between one another using traditional ethnic reprisals.

The Fulani

Predominantly Muslim in faith, the Fulani are also known as the Peul or Fulbe. The Fulani people adopted Islam in the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite the adoption of Islam, many Fulani still believe their traditional origin, that their people and cattle first emerged from a river and began to move across Africa. This group is not distinct to Guinea and is scattered throughout Western Africa. The common language of the Fulani is Fula, which is based in the Niger-Congo language family. Fulani heritage is rooted in a herding and shepherding culture. Those Fulani who still practice this lifestyle are held in an elevated position within the Fulani, though they are generally not as ardent in their faith as urban Fulani. The family structure of the Fulani is based around cousins marrying. Male Fulani are polygynous and tend to have more than wife.

The Fulani follow a code of conduct known as Pulaaku. Pulaaku has rules regarding patience, modesty, and logical thought. These practices are expected to be followed at all times. The Islamic faith has worked to strengthen Pulaaku, especially in the area of modesty.

The Malinké

Comprised of various independently functioning groups, the Malinké are separated from other ethnic groups in Guinea by hereditary nobility. The Kangaba branch of the Malinké can be traced back to the 7th century. The Malinké are also known as the Mandinka, Maninka, Manding, Mandingo, Mandin, and Mande. The Malinké speak Mandekan, which is based on the Niger-Congo language family. Today, the Malinké are a predominantly agriculture group, growing crops and tending cattle. The cattle are used predominately as status symbols and for dowries.

In the 1400s, the The Malinké were often enslaved by European slavers, a practice that would last for 350 years. In the 1800s, the Malinké still living in Africa were subjected to colonization by British, French, and Portuguese. Colonization is a process where a foreign power takes control of an area and continually dominates the native population from a separate social stratification. Today, most Malinké practice Islam and most Malinké villages contain a Mosque. During religious services, the Malinké men and women sit separately. With Malinké culture stretching back to the 7th century, the epic poem from this time, Sonjara, is still widely repeated as part of oral tradition.

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