ethnic group (or Jollof, Jolof as
they are sometimes known) in Gambia make up 16% of the
are the third largest ethnic group.
They are to be found in fairly large numbers in the areas of Jokadu,
Baddibu, Saloum and Niumi but the vast majority are to be found in Senegal.
The Wolof are primarily engaged in the occupations of business people,
traders or farmers. Most people in the urban areas of Greater
and the Kombos have adopted the Wolof language as the Lingua Franca.
The men and in particular the women tend to
dress flamboyantly with plenty of gold
jewellery (budget allowing)
especially at special occasions. They are renowned drummers (sabarr)
and dancers such as the Zimba dance and modern
such as that played by their most famous son
Youssou N'Dur of
Traditional Social Structure
tribe has traditionally had a rigid social
caste structure though it
has become slightly less so in the modern age as
education and wealth
have become increasingly important as a status symbol. Your status did
not change throughout your life irrespective of any change in occupation.
There are 4 basic
classes: Royal, Noblemen,
Free-born and 'Slaves' with
further sub-divisions in each caste and marriage is strictly within
each group. The common or freemen are known as Gorr or Jambur and the peasantry were termed Badola. The lower social
group were divided into occupations i.e. Black Smiths, Gold Smiths
known as Tega, those who worked with
leather are know as Ude,
praise singers known as Gewel and
finally the 'slaves' known as Jam.
The Gewel held a valued position in society as an oral historian and
entertainer. There job was to praise their master in public while
reciting his family lineage, advise his master on his family
traditions and generally provide entertainment for visitors.
Though the metal workers were of low status they had traditionally
been held in high regard a they made weapons of war such as spears and
knives as well as agricultural tools. They were often used as
go-betweens between quarrelsome Wolof states.
The slaves were
of 2 types. Household slaves who often stayed with the same
many generations and were seen as nominal members of the family and
those caught in war who were less well treated and were treated as
personal property to be bought or sold.
Each state of
the old Jolof Empire was almost free from central government control
but they did cooperate with Burba Jollof
(ultimate ruler of the empire)
on issues of mutual interest such as trade, state defences and payment
of royal taxes. The line of succession for such local leaders was
through the male descendants of the original state founders after a
casting of ballots from members of the nobility.