Information: See also
PHOTOS of people
are 8 main ethnic groups in Gambia living side by side
with a minimum of inter-tribal friction, each preserving
its own language, music, cultural traditions and even
systems though there is an increasing amount of
cultural interaction and fusion. Indeed, the average
Gambian will tell you he feels he has more in common
with his countrymen than he has with a Senegalese from
the same tribe! This by no means suggests that there
is a lack of individual identity. While there is growth
in multi-ethnic expressions, the search by groups to
reaffirm their identities remains.
of these communities speak their own language, all of
which are classified as part of the Niger-Congo language
group and as a whole represent a snap-shot of Senegambia
society. However, classifying people by blood or ethnic
traits is increasingly difficult as there has been extensive
migrations and inter-marriages over the centuries. There
were migrations of people into the Gambia before the
19th century but such movement of people greatly increased
after the establishment of Bathurst (Banjul) in 1816.
They came from Casamance, Futa Toro, Sierra Leone, Mali,
Guinea Bissau and other West African countries.
The single largest ethnic group in Gambia is the Mandinka,
(Mandingos) an agricultural people with a hereditary
nobility. Before they migrated to the Gambia valley
they lived in the northern slopes of Futa Jallon Plateau.
The country of the Manding is in the Niger Valley.
are very prominent in the capital city of Banjul and
are prominent in the Senegambia region. Their language
is the lingua franca for Gambia and can be heard being
spoken in trading centres and family compounds. In the
up-river area of Gambia they are called the Fanafa.
The people called the Creoles or Akus
are Christians who are descendants of freed slaves who
first came to The Gambia in 1787 from Sierra Leone.
and who rank among the bureaucratic elite as well a
being prominent in the private professional classes.
or Kujamat people are predominantly organized around
the cultivation of rice and are mainly based in the
Foni district of the Western Division. Theirs is a uniquely
segmentary society with no tradition of having a paramount
chief. Their traditional location in swamps and deep
forests meant that they were among the last people to
be converted to Islam.
or Pol Futa a they are sometimes known are mainly
engaged in herding of cattle and running their ubiquitous
small corner shops. They are generally of lighter skin
than most of the population and several theories, some
of which have proved controversial have been put forward
as to where they originally came from.
people are involved mainly in farming, trade and property
development. They can be found in their largest numbers
in the Basse region and speak in a number of dialects
including Azer and Kinbakka. They created the Ghana
Empire which encompassed Mauritania to present-day Ghana.
The other ethnic groups are the Serer
who are predominantly involved in fisheries have customs
and a language which bear considerable similarities
to the Wolof. Then there are the Tukulor
who share strong ties with the Fulani's culture, history
and traditions and are mainly engaged in agriculture
and animal husbandry.
There also exists a small community of other groups
such as the Lebanese, Europeans, Mansoanka, Bayot, Bambara,
Badibunka, Balanta, Hausa, Mankanya and the Mandjak