The Fula or Peul, Peulh, Fulbe as
they are sometimes
better known by in other West African countries make up 18% of the
Gambia's total population & are the second
ethnic group. They are closely
related to the Tukulor and are traditionally
herdsmen but later some groups entered the occupations of
trading and in more
modern times are many are also heavily into shop-keeping.
Africa there are over 9 dialects which was caused by their nomadic
lifestyles as often there settlements would be near other
such as the Mandinka or
Serahule and they would soon pick up new
History & Origins:
Futa Toro in north eastern Senegal is
said to be the cradle and original cultural homeland of the Fulani in
Africa who began their migrations into the rest of the Senegambia
region in the 13th century.
A number of research versions exist as to the origins
of the Fula people. One hypothesis is that they were either Caucasians or Semites who had crossed the Sahara and entered the West African
region. The other hypothesis is that they originated in the lower
basins of Senegal and the Gambia as a result inter-marriage between
Saharan Berbers and the Serer and Wolofs. This resulted in two
distinct racial groups of Fulani.
The Berber group are marked by their
light brown skin, straighter hair and noses as compared to the more
typical features of their neighbours such as the Wolof or Mandinka.
This group kept with the nomadic cattle rearing lifestyle and are know
as the Bororoje. The other group had more typical Negroid features and
are known as the Fulani Gidda who
engaged in farming or lived in towns and cities and entered trading.
By the 7th century the Fulas became a distinct people and were among
the first to embrace Islam and later became very active proponents of
the religion in a determination to spread the religion through Jihad
(holy war) particularly by (Ousman) Othman
Dan Fodio (born 1754) of Hausaland in northern Nigeria.
The fact that they were nomadic cattle herders meant that over
time over population and over grazing led to migrations out of their
Futa Toro in search of better pastures. Their dwellings
tended to be simple round mud huts with thatched roofs or made of cane
covered in cow dung. As they migrated they formed settlements
some of which evolved into states such as
Futa Jalon and Macina in
There are four general Fula groups in West Africa namely Peul
Futa from Futa Toro, those from the state of Bundu, those from Futa
Jalon in Guinea and those who came from the state of Firdu which was
part of the Kaabu Empire. The people that migrated to The Gambia came
Futa Toro and Futa Bundu in Senegal and were non-Muslim
pastoralists who asked permission from the Mandinka Mansas and Wolofs
to graze their cattle on whose states they entered usually with an
agreement to pay taxes and / or look after the cattle of their
new landlords in return for protection from hostile natives. Other
groups from Guinea Conakry, Kaja in Senegal and Mali also migrated
into Gambia. They lived in communities in the main Mandinka towns and
sometimes a Mandinka village would over time turn into a Fula one.
In the 19th century their main settlements in Gambia were in Jimara, Wuli, Tomana, Kantora and Niani located in the Upper River area. As
the migrations continued some decided to settle in towns and villages.
Some did inter-marry between the local indigenous groups yet they
firmly held onto their cultural heritage and traditions.
At the bottom of the social scale in their
society were the slaves who however, were very often brought into the family circle and adopted the surnames of their owners.
various Fulani states and empires that had emerged in the 19th century
were eventually destroyed by the Europeans so much so that by 1917
only the Fulladu Empire, under
had maintained their independence but even this empire was soon broken