Mandinkas – Cultural Anthropology

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Projeto Luz da noite

Mandinkas – Cultural Anthropology

This Thesis was written at
Columbia Biblical Seminary, External Studycenter Korntal,
in Cultural Anthropology, Prof. Dr. Lothar Käser,
by Wolfgang Pfau, Autumn 1995,
translated by Babett Freier.


1.Introduction 3
2.The surroundings: Sibanor 4
3.The Mandinkas 5
4.The importance of socialisation 6
5.Culture, the aim of socialisation 6
5.1 The Gambian culture 6
5.2 The Mandinkas` culture 7
5.3 Practical life in the Mandinkas` culture 10
6.A Mandinka`s development 12
6.1 Description of the phases 12
6.2 Description of the rites of transition 15
1.The giving of the name 15
2.The circumcision 15
3.The wedding 16
4. The death 17
6.3 Persons who influence the children`s development 17
6.4 The way of learning 18
6.5 Methods and factors of education 19
7.Conclusion 21 Appendix A: Map of Sibanor 22
Appendix B: The Mandinkas` history 24
Appendix D: Development of the conscience 29
Appendix E: The culture of Senegambia in Maranz` view 30
Appendix F: Reports about ghosts 34
Appendix G: Ethno-educational discoveries 37
Appendix G1: Ideas of procreation and birth 38
Appendix G2: Ethno-educational discoveries in the early childhood 38
Appendix G3: Initiation for the transition into adulthood 39

Bibliography 46
Footnotes 48

From October1994 till August1995 I stayed together with my wife and our about two-year-old daughter Jennifer in Gambia/ West Africa. As a preparation for later educational work in the “Evangelical church of Gambia” we learned the native language Mandinka at first. For this purpose we lived in a Mandinka family (its name is Jaiteh) in Sibanor, which is quite a big village in the interior of Gambia near the only asphalt road. There we didn`t only get to know the language, but the culture as well. After having been forced to return to Germany for reasons of illness at short notice in August 1995 I have now the opportunity to sum up a part of the things we learned and discovered during our work. Some matters I can only describe without giving an explanation for them. This fact clearly revealed to me in which sectors I`ll still have to ask and learn more. Not to be out of the proportion of a seminary paper, I concentrated on the most important facts in the main part and added further, explaining remarks as appendices. Nevertheless I had to abstain from detailed descriptions, because of shortage of space.

Our time in Gambia had been prepared by lessons on the FMH in 1989/90. It was especially important for me to learn more about the culture, not only by observing but also by asking in order to avoid misunderstandings. Everyday, for instance, I watched some women washing their clothes on the floor. In this way they often had to bend down for hours and I asked myself why they didn`t lift up their washing-bowls at a higher place in order to spare their backs. One day I saw a young woman who had placed her washing-bowl a bit higher and therefore didn`t have to bend down. Spontaneously I thought that this woman must have found out that she spares her back in that way. Nevertheless I asked her for the reason. She replied that bending down wasn`t a problem for her at all, but her new-born baby she was carrying on her back always started crying, when she bent down. This event revealed to me, that a single action doesn`t show the intellectual and cultural background.

2.The surroundings: Sibanor
Sibanor, a village with about 3000 inhabitants, is situated 100 km inland in Gambia (a map of Sibanor is in Appendix A). On the right and left of the main road there`re about 230 compounds (farms). Altogether the population consists mainly of Mandinkas, but there`s also a big number of Fula and Jola, as well as Wolof and Serer. The compounds of these different nationalities are equally distributed over the area of Sibanor, and the relations between them are cultivated. Marriages between different nationalities exist, too, and are usually accepted.

For the majority of the population, especially for the Mandinkas, agriculture together with the breeding of small animals is the basis of life1. Besides small jobs, for example plaiting hair, cooking for others or for sale at school or building work, provide the opportunity of earning some extra money. During the rainy season men grow peanuts, cassava or millet on their fields, while women work in the paddy-fields. During the dry season many women work in the garden of the village, where every woman has her own plot of land and grows tomatos, onions, pepper, aubergines, bitter tomatos, okra, pumpkins, cabbage, cucumbers, courgettes, carrots, kuja and sweet potatoes. Fruit plants, for instance papaya, orange, grapefruit, lemon, many mango, banana, guava, melon, avocado, jackfruit and cashew, grow everywhere in and out of the village. The major part of these fruits and vegetables is eaten by the own family or sold within the village. Mangoes are partly picked up by traders from Senegal, some products are sold on the coast or to hawkers. The main food is rice which is half self-produced and half imported from Asia. Millet is eaten a bit less. As far as it is available and affordable fish is cooked in different variations and with different sauces for every lunch and dinner. Most of the deliveries of fish come from the coast. From there everyday the “fish-car” runs hooting through the villages. A few people go to the river for fishing themselves. Salt and palm-oil can be produced by the natives themselves, as well. Maize, poultry, goats, sheep and smaller wild animals (e.g. hare) from the bush are eaten, too, but very seldom.

Some inhabitants still practise other crafts apart from the growing of peanuts: There`re two butchers in Sibanor who irregularly sell beef, a smith who sharpens and renews the ploughs shortly before the rainy season, a mechanic who repairs car tyres and bikes, several tailors, a potter and many bigger and smaller traders. A few Fulas live as cowboys, some are used to fishing in the river. In Sibanor only a few people have a regular income. They work in the WEC-hospital, in the Christian kindergarten or at school.
As a famous person Seefoo Lamin Jobate, who appoints the chief of the district (Foni), lives in Sibanor. The Alikaaloo (chief of the village) and the council of the Alifaa (elderly men of the village) are the leaders of the village. Furthermore there exists a police station which has no influence on the local policy, at all. Other important organisations are the WEC-hospital, the state co-operative of agriculture (which is responsible for the export of peanuts), the kindergarten (“Christian Children Fund”, sponsored from America), the elementary school and several interest groups.

3. The Mandinkas
The history of the Mandinkas is described in appendix B. The society of the Mandinkas is patrilinear and polygamy is the norm2. In a Mandinka compound several core families and single persons live together. Often the oldest man of the core family, which has founded the compound, is the leader. Many old men have, according to their previous form of society, several wives, whereas many of the young men say they only wanted to have one. It`s a custom to marry ones cousin, if possible. Young men often stay in their parents` home even after the wedding (patrilocal), though many of them wish to have their own compound (neolocal), which is financially possible only for a few. Usually the wife moves into her husbands compound, but it can happen as well, that the second or third wife lives somewhere else. Especially widows who got married again for social reasons, often stay with their children in their former husbands compound (as a rule a close relative has to marry the widow). Women keep their surname, though many modern women call themselves with their husbands name, but it isn’t generally recognised. Children will have their father’s surname and nationality, even if their mother has another one. A very good description of the family structure and the living conditions can be found in Sidibe`s book Senegambian Traditional Families3. At first he explains the traditional structure of a composite family. Afterwards he describes the change since World War 2, which has been caused by the influence of luxury products, the development of individual “wealth” and therefore by changes in the leadership structures. Since many young people moved to the coast to make their fortune, due to this influence, the traditional family has a big influence in the interior of Gambia still today in contrast to the life in the cities.
A description of the structure of our compound is to be read in appendix C.

4.The importance of socialisation
According to the definition of culture as a strategy for mastering life culture includes all actions a man needs to survive in a certain society. This existence consists of the biological life (food, clothes, accommodation) and social life (relations between beings, visible and invisible). However not only practically comprehensible and observable actions belong to culture, but also the conscious and unconscious ideas which are standing behind them. They include attitudes towards beings and things, their values and relations. Living together in a group will only be satisfactorily possible, if these attitudes are equal. The individual has to know the values of persons and actions within the relations of the group for knowing how to behave and for being accepted by the group. On everyday in the life of an individual thousands of decisions have to be made, whether the planned behaviour is conforming to the rules (“right”) or not (“wrong”). The conscience is an inner authority that helps with that decision. For this reason every new member of a group (e.g. a new-born baby) has to learn these norms and values, its conscience has to be formed. It depends on the aspect you want to emphasise, whether you call this process socialisation, enculturation or development of the conscience. The aim of socialisation is the integration into the culture of the particular group. In the next chapter I will describe, what this means in the Mandinka society in Sibanor.
But not only the aim of socialisation differs from culture to culture. The actual process varies, too. This influences the result (society) as well. For this reason I have described the coarse lines of socialisation as the development of the conscience in appendix C.

5.Culture, the aim of socialisation
5.1 The Gambian culture
In his book Peace is everything, The World View of Muslims and Traditionalists in the Senegambia David Maranz describes, that the actual culture is hidden behind the people’s concrete behaviour in thoughts and attitudes. In this way he fundamentally discovered two major factors: relations and absolute facts. Due to ideas of how beings, universe and nature relate to each other, rules for the behaviour within these relations were developed. At the same time reasons for absolute facts can be derived from the behaviour. Due to his researches in Senegal and Gambia he formulated ten ontological absolutes and eight relations, which are the crucial factors for the behaviour of the different nations in these countries. Thus, influences of animism and of the Islam are recognisable. To sum up, Maranz describes the following world view:
The universe is a unity and it contains all beings and powers, which depend on each other. Within these relations peace is the highest striven value and condition. It can be achieved, if man treats the other elements (invisible and human beings, nature) in a correct and appropriate way. Concretely this means: respect towards other beings, which can’t be noticed, moral life, living together in society in harmony and respect for nature. Human beings have a central role in the universe. They can disturb the peaceful balance with their actions4.
A closer description of Maranz` results can be found in appendix E.

5.2 The Mandinkas` culture

On the background of this world view I`ll now describe the Mandinkas` culture, as I experienced it in Sibanor, as it was explained to me in conversations and as it is lived in relation to living beings and to nature in community.

God (in Mandinka Alla) is the creator of all creatures and things. As living beings he created animals, human beings, but also supernatural beings. The word for human beings (hadama-dingolu) means children of Adam. A man consists of baloo (body) and niyoo (soul, which goes to god after death and stays there forever. There is only little knowledge about it among human beings, things don´t have a niyoo). Furthermore parts of man that represent his character, his thinking, feeling and his will are described with the word jusoo (heart and liver), sondomoo (heart, place of feelings), hakiloo (mind) and kuncengo (brain). The English translations only approximately describe the meaning of the Mandinka words, but they don’t have the same word field.

Invisible beings are created in the same form as humans, only their body has more power and possibilities. There`re two basic types: malayikoo (angels) and jinoo (ghosts)5. Angels have been created in order to serve god and record the deeds of men. They’re never visible and It`s usually impossible to get into contact with them. Ghosts live on earth like human beings; they have a similar behaviour and similar habits. They built houses, work, marry, argue…and all that is usually invisible for human beings. Among them there`re good and bad ghosts, they have different religions, some try to influence human beings. Evil ghosts, for instance, try to take possession of small children and influence their character. If they are successful, it will never be possible to remove the connection between the bad ghost and the child. Hence, the character can’t be changed. In this way ghosts are responsible for men’s character, too. To avoid suffering from bad ghosts there`re a lot of rules which come from the ancestors` experience and have to be obeyed. Some statements about this topic are written down in appendix F. Some people succeed in getting into contact with ghosts, talking to them, making friends with them and even in having sexual contact with them. This can be a reason, if a man doesn`t marry a (human) woman, because his “ghostwife” forbids it.

An African Muslim6 has several obligations towards god: praying in Arabic five times a day (saloo), giving alms to beggars (sadaa), fasting during Ramadan (sung) and taking part in slaughtering a sheep (leeyango)7.These actions are performed for reasons of obedience and they are usually done together in the Islamic community. Not the individual’s attitude towards God is important, but its loyalty towards the society. This is clearly mirrored in the fact, that most people don’t have any or have only little knowledge about the historical or the dogmatic doctrine of the Islam8, but only know the Arabic formulations which are necessary for the prayers (which have the power of peace).

Apart from these duties, there`re different possibilities of receiving special blessing, e.g. in the form of protection or health. For this additional blessing partly god is implored and partly powers in nature or in the invisible sector, that have been created by god and can now be used independently from him, are used. A kind of prayer (duwaa) which is pronounced like a greeting (especially by elderly people towards younger ones) belongs to the first kind of receiving extra-blessing. God is implored to give his blessing for a certain matter in Arabic or Mandinka and the person who receives it answers Amiin9. The powers given by god become available for society through special men who are called marabouts (mooroo). Marabouts10 are men who were successful in helping with every-day-problems. They became famous for this reason and were recognised as marabouts. Their help can be e.g. advise from the Koran (some marabouts are spiritual leaders of composite families), medical aid with prayers or medicine or they can use their power against evil ghosts. Often the helping power is passed on in the form of a jujus11. A part of the jujus gets its power from the Koran. This can e.g. be a leather pouch with some verses from the Koran (safoo) or water in which a piece of paper with verses from the Koran has been dissolved is drunken. Almost every Gambian carries safoos with him/her for protection. They partly protect from injuries12.Another kind of jujus is made by men who get their power, independently from the Koran and the Islam, from other sources. Most jujus will lose their power, if they aren’t removed before sexual intercourse and if you don’t wash before taking them again. Other kind of help are boroo (medicine) in different forms which protect, for example from theft or vermin on the fields or from curses and evil prattling. A person who can heal with natural means is called marabout, too13.This person can also be a woman and he or she knows how to use natural powers in order to induce peace and blessing and how someone has to behave in order to keep his peaceful relation to nature14.

5.3 Practical life in the Mandinkas` culture

The everyday-life of the Mandinkas shows, that peace is experienced personally, but especially socially:
1. Unity is emphasised again and again. During our first weeks in the compound again and again relatives who also lived in Sibanor were introduced to us by family members. It was very impressive for us, that they said the sentence: “We are all the same!” again and again. This referred to single persons who felt as a part of the family Jaiteh or to whole compounds which belonged together in their opinion. We often understood the degree of the relationship only much later. Seldom these were relatives of first degree. The whole group of those who consider themselves to belong together is called kaabiiloo and often contains several compounds which have different surnames each and occasionally aren’t Mandinkas at all, but nevertheless relatives15.

2. It became clear to us, that within this unity real relations aren’t important, when we asked children (aged 8-14) about their relations and they often were unsure not only because of difficulties with our language. Even adolescents had to ask any older person for help, when they were requested to tell us about their relations within the family. One important distinguishing feature for them is the age. This can be recognised from the adults` language: in English they call who’s about their age brother or sister. In Mandinka there`s a difference between dooma and kotooma (older and younger brother or sister),but the sex can only be expressed by an addition. The relation to the biological parents often becomes less important from a certain age on, even though the father is responsible for clothes and food. This is plainly recognisable from language, too: the Mandinka word for “parents” which is used when you talk about material supplication is wuluulaalu and means “those who gave birth (wuluu)”. On the other hand, if you ask about the responsibility for the child`s education, you will hear the word alifaalu which means “your honourable fathers” or “elders”. So it often happens, that a child is given to relatives after having been weaned, for different reasons, and grows up there. In our compound there were many children who had lived away from their parents even for a long time. It even happened, that a six-year-old girl didn`t remember her mother’s name and had to ask her grandmother. Family life with father, mother and children exists, too, but very seldom.

3. We heard again and again about honouring persons who are older than you yourself as the highest objective of education and unchangeable value (horomoo). It is interesting, that the adjective horomantango doesn`t only mean “disrespectful”, but also “immoral” and “shameless”. The answer on the question: “What should children be punished for?” were mainly: “no respect towards older people”, but also “no obedience towards the elders”, “cursing on elderly people”, “not to greet the people” “lying to the parents” and “drinking alcohol”. As the reason for the necessity to honour older people, we were explained, that this would avoid problems. The disadvantages of this rule are accepted: Kebba, a young owner of a compound, mustn’t force his older cousin to work. If he doesn`t want to, Kebba has to earn the money to supply him with food.

4. Not only honour, but also social acceptance is an important value. Every Mandinka shows in his or her behaviour, that he/she wants to be honoured and respected. Mandinkas pay a lot of attention to clothes, which represent a personas body outwardly. When leaving ones house for shopping, for visiting someone on or for travelling, the best clothes are worn. Despite the poverty it is almost impossible not to have a new dress for a festival16. The Mandinkas look down on other peoples, because those don’t care so much about clothes17. It`s very difficult for a Mandinka to exclude from society concerning certain ways of behaviour. Even if they considered something theoretically bad or unpractical, they would never have the power to stop it, if their behaviour was against the social norm18.

All these points make clear, that among the Mandinkas the development of the conscience induces a feeling of shame towards society rather than an individual consciousness of being guilty. The individual depends very much on his/her composite family and even for a young man with an own income it is impossible to withdraw with his core family and neglect his responsibilities towards his composite family.

6. A Mandinka`s development

The Mandinkas distinguish between the following phases of the human development:
1. deenaanoo: until the age of one, can’t walk, is breast-fed
2. cafudingo: between the age of one and two
3. dingo: isn’t carried anymore, not mature
4. sunkutoo (fem.), kambanoo (masc.): physically mature (he is balikuyaa- sexually mature), but not married yet
5.forromusoo (fem.), fondinkewoo (masc.): of marriageable age (over 26); he is mature and an adult- kamaliringo
6.keebaa, musukeebaa: mature man, able to take responsibilities, older than 45
7.keebaakoto: elderly man, can’t work anymore

6.1 Description of the phases

1.deenaanoo: During the first weeks after the birth (usually the women in Sibanor give birth to their children in the WEC-hospital as out-patients) neither mother nor baby must be in public without any good reason. From the very beginning the child is always carried by someone and it is laid down only under strict supervision. The baby will never sleep anywhere without supervision, so that evil ghosts don’t have the opportunity to influence the still helpless child.

When the baby is old enough for being carried on its mother’s back, it is prepared for this by a female marabout. For this purpose the child is laid onto the back of an older child several times for some moments: three times with a piece of iron between them and three times with a stark of rice between them. The iron is supposed to strengthen its head, which means it is expected to make sure that the baby will be respected by everyone when it will be an adult. The rice is supposed to make sure that the mother will still give birth to many children.

The child gets its mother’s milk as often as it wants to drink. It doesn`t get used to any timetable and for this reason it drinks more often, but not that much each time. If the mother is absent another woman will feed the baby. In this way the baby learns to live in a composite family already in its first year. Often it is carried around by an older girl or another female relative or friend.

2.cafudingo: Though the child learns how to walk now it is still carried around by anyone most time (cafu =carry, hold in ones hands). It is the centre of all attention, especially of the women’s. It is fed more and more, but still totally with mother’s milk. During this phase the child learns to sit on its potty at certain times of the day.
3.dingo: At the age of two the child’s life changes very much. From this age on the child is considered to get along without its mother. It is weaned from one day to the next (if necessary with the help of a medicine from the marabout) and it is carried only seldom. From now it eats out of a bowl together with other children and spends most time of the day with them. Often this change coincides with the mother’s new pregnancy. this is also the moment many parents give their child to their relatives for education (often to an uncle or aunt with the same surname). From now on the child is also beaten for educational reasons. In Sibanor most children of that age go to the Christian kindergarten, which is run by an American organisation (Christian Children’s Found) with native teachers. At the age of five the children start to help with the work in the compound. They have to lift water out of the well, carry it into the courtyard and finally wash with that water daily in the evening. Girls are taught how to light fire, sweep the courtyard and pound millet. Boys go into the bush to get firewood once a week with an adult woman; but apart from this they don’t have to work a lot, only some help with the harvest is demanded. Since a child sins from the age of seven, it is now time for it to learn praying. During the dry season all children of a compound are taught verses from the Koran by an elderly man. They sit around the fire in the evening and repeat the Arabic verses singing. If a child isn’t concentrated it will be beaten. If anyone in the family has enough money to pay it, a child over the age of eight, can attend elementary school for six years. At elementary school the child learns English, reading, writing, arithmetics and once again Arabic verses out of the Koran. Nevertheless those children often lack motivation, silence for learning and books, files and pencils, so that it isn’t unusual, that a child still has difficulties with the basic arithmetic operations after having finished the sixth class. As an alternative to state schools a child can also be sent to the Koranic school. This is cheaper and the child is taught the foundations of the Arabic language and reading, writing, arithmetics and the Koran in this language, but no English.

4.sunkutoo, kambaanoo: After having reached sexual maturity boys and girls are called with different terms, whereas both had been called dingo before and there had only been the possibility to express the sex with an addition (sankutundingo, kambandingo). Now the boys have to work harder, too. They mainly work on the peanut fields during the rainy season. At this point in time the girls already take part in household work regularly: cooking, preparing meals, washing and sweeping. But they don’t work on the paddy fields, yet. That’s the older women’s task.

5.forromusoo, fondinkewo: Generally speaking there isn’t a lot to do for young adults.Those who haven’t found an apprenticeship or job on the coast or any occupation in Sibanor spend a lot of time with talking, boiling tea, drinking and the women with plaiting hair. Especially during the dry season, young men have much time, because they don’t help with the housework. Their supplication is made sure nevertheless, because they live in their composite families. All duties in the household, e.g. cooking and washing, are given to female members of the compound. Only young men, who want to marry have to look for any possibility of earning money in order to pay the dowry.

6.keebaa: a male adult takes part in the council of elders of the village from a certain age on. He has responsibility for the decisions that have to be taken in the village. This phase starts for a woman when she can’t give birth to children any more.

7.keebaakoto:This phase starts when a man can’t work any more. He totally depends on his family. When senility becomes recognisable, he’s often teased. He can sleep a lot and maybe do some smaller jobs (e.g. open peanuts) or sing with the children.

6.2 Description of the rites of transition

Though the single phases aren’t differentiated strictly, there are again and again transitions into new stages of life of a growing up person. These transitions are celebrated in society in a very special way. The entrance into life is celebrated with the name-giving-festival, the transition from childhood into adulthood with the circumcision and initiation, the entrance into the marriage with the wedding ceremonies and there are even special rules for funeral ceremonies. In the marabouts` view all these rites of transition have to be considered a duty of every Muslim.

1. The giving of the name
Exactly one week after the birth the kulliyo takes place. This word means “shave the head” and it is a great festival, on which the baby gets its name. The father chooses the name and whispers it into the baby’s ear on this occasion. Afterwards the name is proclaimed in public. Often the first daughter’s name is Fatu and the first son’s name is Lamin. As the climax and centre of the festival some of the baby’s hair is shaved while some prayers are murmured. At the same time a sheep is slaughtered and later eaten. The shaving of the hair is performed by a marabout. Other important persons of the village give speeches and pray for the child. In this way it is admitted to the community of the village.

2. The circumcision

Though it can be done at any time most children are circumcised before having reached the age of ten. The circumcision includes the actual operation, an educational programme for the circumcised children and a big celebration. These elements don’t have to be performed in short intervals.

a) the actual operation (sunna): some children are already circumcised at the age of one, some of the boys in the hospital. If the circumcision is performed in the bush, a whole group of either boys or girls is led to a certain place. Often the children don’t know what is waiting for them, because they were told nice stories about the coming events. The boys are fetched into a bush by a kankurango. He’s an unknown person who is totally covered with leaves. Women mustn’t look at him. The person that circumcises (munkanoo (masc.) or ngansimbaa (fem.)) is chosen by the village elders, but isn’t generally known. According to a young man, the circumcisor didn`t work with his hands in his case, but was standing far away and had some lemons with the names of the boys. He didn`t know how the actual operation was performed. He only felt a sudden pain and saw he was bleeding (magic).

b) If a child isn’t circumcised as a baby, the first education will coincide with the circumcision. During this time traditions (no Islamic traditions), especially the necessity of honouring the elders and obedience towards them, is passed on to the children in the form of verses or songs. These songs are repeated every year at the time of the circumcisions, so that the children never forget them. During the time of the circumcision the children often have to lie on the floor, mustn’t wash or dance and are strictly punished, e.g. with eating sand or being beaten (often all are punished though only one was disobedient). The education can last some days up to one month. The girls partly sleep in a special compound in the village and go into the bush again and again during daytime. When the children finally come out of the bush they are welcomed in the village with a dance and they themselves have to dance, too.

c) About every tenth year a big festival for those who have been circumcised in the mean time takes place. Dancing is once again an important element of the festival. Many relatives and friend come to this festival from all over Gambia and the circumcised children get many presents.

3. The wedding
a) bungkonokuwo: The father of the young man who wants to marry sends a mediator to the girl’s father in order to get into contact with them. Here as well as at further meetings betel nuts which the young man has to put at disposal are distributed.
b) londangkuwo: If the father and the closest relatives don’t have anything against the young men, all relatives of the girl will discuss about the dowry which usually has to be paid directly to the mother, father and the girl. The dowry can be money, household articles and/ or animals.When this has been managed, the young man and the girl are considered to belong together (“engaged”) and can appear together in public.
c) futuusitoo: The legal wedding is arranged by the village elders in absence of the couple. Important factors are once again the distribution of betel nuts, prayers and blessing.
d) buniyaaroo: Afterwards those who have enough money celebrate a party.
e) dundingkango: In former times it was a custom that the wedding night followed now and the mother-in-law showed the bloody sheet in public as a proof of the virginity and as a sign of the good education. But since sexual relations even in the childhood have become norm, this is usually omitted today.
f) fuuroo: The wife is taken to her husband’s compound. Usually the wife has to become pregnant before this in order to show that she can give birth to children. But nevertheless she is only borrowed. Her mother has the right to fetch her back anytime she needs help.
If it is the second or third wife of a man, fuuroo, maybe, won’t happen at all.
g) maanoobitoo: Only after this celebration, which often is carried out years later or even not at all, the mother loses the rights on her daughter. It is a special honour for the mother and though she has to pay a lot for this festival, many mothers aspire to it. An official marriage contract by the Kadi (there`re two of them in Gambia) is a duty only for soldiers.

4. The death
Because of the climate the bodies are usually buried on the same day. Many relatives are invited to the funeral. After three and after 40 days there`re belated celebrations. Many relatives come for a short visit on these occasions.
In the book Ethno-Pädagogik by Klaus E. Mueller (Hrsg.) the development of most children in traditional cultures is described in a general way. I have explained some interesting discoveries out of this book, which can be applied to Mandinka society as well, in appendix G.

6.3 Persons who influence the children`s development

The phases I have just described are pre-determined standards for each Mandinka baby in order to make it into a useful member of Mandinka society. In these phases there`re different persons who influence the child.

1. The compound leader (koridaa-tiyoo): The oldest man of the family that founded the compound is the actual owner and lord of the compound. He has to be respected. He’s responsible for the supplication and the discipline of all occupants and he has the right to reprimand all of them.
He’s involved in the search for wives and he represents the compound in the council of elders. He has the right to punish a child against its parents` will and to forbid them to punish it. For the children obedience towards him is a guarantee for a peaceful and proper life.” Honouring him solves problems”.

2. The parents (wuuluulaalu): As long as a child lives with its parents they will influence its education, but they are subordinate to the head of the compound and often they don’t have more rights than any other adult. During the first two years it is the mother’s task to care for the child and make it sleep. From the age of two it is the duty of the whole compound to look after the child; the mother is responsible only for washing the clothes. The father is responsible for buying new clothes and caring for enough rice as well as school materials. Everything beyond the physical supplication isn’t the parents` task.

3. The occupants of the compound (suumoolu): Everyone in the compound who isn’t a child has the right and the duty to educate and reprimand the children.

4. Other children: Only a small part of the child’s daily routine is influenced by the parents. From the age of two on a child spends most of its time with other children. It decides about its bedtime, too. Often the children play or watch TV in the neighbouring compound and one of them falls asleep. Then another child will carry it into its bed. In this way every child learns a lot about manners from other children.

5.Grandparents (mamamusoo, mamakewoo): It is their task to look after the children when all other adults work in the paddy fields. Sometimes they tell stories or sing songs with the children.

6. Religious leaders: From the age of four the children are taught Arabic verses out of the Koran, which they need for prayers. These verses have to be known by heart. Initially it is an interesting and voluntary matter for them, but from the age of ten they sometimes have to be forced to do it. It all happens in the Koranic classes in the evening. For this purpose all children of a compound come together. Furthermore they are educated through their observations and later through the participation in festivals and Koranic lessons at school.

7. Teachers at public schools: The first priority for them is to teach English, reading (not Mandinka!) and arithmetics. They also have the right to reprimand and punish.

8. Missionaries: Some years ago a French missionary was allowed to teach the Christian religion at school. Furthermore the children of the village play with the missionaries` children. Some of them come to the Christian children`s meeting.

6.4 The way of learning

The way how a child is taught and how it learns can be described with certain terms. kuluu is the most general word and means to raise a child, educate it concerning its behaviour and in connection with this punish it, too. An old man answered to the question, what kuluu meant, that it was the task of the elders to beat (kuluu) the child so that it honours (horoma) them. Nevertheless this term can also be used for learning a trade. The contents of the training can be described with the word londoo and it includes all the knowledge (loo= stand, londi= to put something somewhere, let others know something, londoo= the things I got to know, long= know something). The word karang is usually used for learning a concrete action or a theoretical subject. It means to “study”and “read” at the same time. Originally this was the difference between karang and niking, which has the meaning of “imitating” or “trying”. Nevertheless both have the same meaning in the sector of learning (a child learns a language, praying, walking, a trade…) today. However niking seems to emphasise the method of learning which is used in nearly all sectors of life: imitating. Especially concerning learning reading, you can realise that for a long time most children can read only those texts which they heard at school and learned by repeating. Once I saw a young woman in our compound helping a child to read: she read out every sentence aloud and the child repeated it. The meaning of karang, that someone reads about a certain subject, studies it, digests it and afterwards applies it to other situations isn’t that common. Of course, one reason for this is that most older people don’t speak English, only few people understand Arabic, Arabic literature is only available in the form of Islamic scriptures and Mandinka has been researched and used in written way only for a few years.

6.5 Methods and factors of education

For a survey and in talks about methods of education I used the following questions (in Mandinka):
– Name an example for evil behaviour!
-What will you do to such a child ?
-Which methods of education do you usually use?
-What will you do, if a child has done something good ?
-How do you show to your child that you love it ?
As an example for bad behaviour most people mentioned disrespectfullness, as I’ve already written before. Other deeds that have to be punished are bad words, not to learn the Koranic verses and relieving oneself in the bed or in the trousers. All answers on the question what to do with the child were: beating (buutee) and thus corresponded with my earlier observations. This fact clearly explains the two meanings of kuluu: “educate” and “punish”. In the course of conversations I realised that a child is often warned at first and after further disobedience it is beaten. If it isn’t obedient, it “will be beaten until it wishes to die “, one of the elders explained to me. A very strict, but common form of education (kuluuroo) is waking up a child that was disobedient the day before with smacks. Some younger people answered on the question about further methods of education with confinement, monkeydance (a kind of aerobical exercise which is used for punishment) and diet. However I didn`t see the usage of the methods in our compound. Reactions of adults on positive behaviour weren’t considered to be methods of education and therefore not mentioned. For this reason I still asked the fourth and fifth question, which were usually answered in the following way: telling the child that has done good and giving something it wants to have (e.g. food). Loving attention, e.g. embraces, which I had expected were only mentioned with the words “run with ones fingers over the child’s shoulder. After having reached the age of four a child isn’t embraced any more, except during time of illness. Consequently I asked about the word for “embrace” and I found out two: muta and bendundi. Muta means carrying an object or a baby. You can realise that this isn’t a proper word for “embrace”, because an older child can’t ba carried any more since it is too heavy. Bendundi (derived from beng= meeting someone, bendung= return home and be welcome) was explained to me in the following way: you stretch out your hand in order to welcome the person that returns home and carry his or her luggage into the compound. Emotional touches or embraces aren’t common and there doesn`t exist any Mandinka word for them, as far as I could find it out.
Another reason for the frequent beating of children is the following: Often, as I’ve mentioned before, bad ghosts try to influence the child’s character. This influence can’t be cancelled, it can only be avoided: with smacks !
In most cases children are hit spontaneously and in public, with the hands, a stick or a broom.
In appendix H I have described two educational situations which make clear the things I’ve written so far.

7. Conclusion

The described material surely leaves some gaps, which have to be researched further. Generally however it shows that the Mandinkas educate their children to a culture whose values and attitudes are influenced by the Islam, animism and by the life in a group.

The most important aspect of Mandinka society is community. Older generations are asked for help with all kinds of problems. Daily life is structured with the help of rules, so that the individual doesn`t have to take many decisions at all. If it is nevertheless necessary, the decision is taken together with an older person (often the head of the compound). For the community’s sake the examination of conflicts is avoided, though they exist.

Though the outward relations are peaceful, there`s only little interest in the feelings and the life of the other people. Parents only care for their children`s physical supplication, but don’t care about their emotional and psychological needs. The aim of education is making the child stick to certain rules sometimes without understanding them. There`re often not enough educational explanations for this purpose and understanding isn’t expected, but there`re always enough smacks. The child is usually beaten in public, so that it is always aware of being a member of that society.

Learning is usually mechanical- receptively (the subject is introduced without any additional explanations and it has to be learned by heart). As a result of this many behaviour patterns are simply imitated in daily routine. Studying a subject independently which would lead to new ways of finding results and solutions isn’t common.

Appendix A: Map of Sibanor

Appendix B: The Mandinkas` history19
The ancestry of the Mandinkas of today’s Senegambian area lived in Kangaba which was a part of the ancient Mali empire. They became independent in AD 1235 and gradually some of them moved westwards. They were looking for a better climate as well as farming and grazing land which they found near the big rivers Gambia, Senegal and Casamance. Another reason was their search for better trading possibilities near the Trans-Sahara-Route. Finally it was also princes` and generals` hope to reign over own land. This was indeed possible, because the original inhabitants of the region lived on scattered farms and therefore weren’t able to defend themselves effectively. Whereas at the beginning only single families dared to move, in the middle of the thirteenth century general Tiramang Touray started a big campaign into the region which is today in the south of the eastern half of Gambia. He founded the Kaabu empire and expanded into all directions, so that at the end of the thirteenth century the whole area with many different nationalities was under the Mandinkas` rule. Later Tiramang`s descendants and his generals founded their own empires within Kaabu. In the centre of the seventeenth century Kaabu was in its heyday which wasn`t only mirrored in the geographical extent, but also in the cultural development. During this time the Europeans` influence started. They were mainly interested in trade with slaves and gold, but also with ivory and coats.

In the beginning of the nineteenth century the Kaabu empire lost power. The single states were led by individually thinking rulers and the influence of the Islam changed very old traditions and structures.

The Islamic influence already started in the 15th century, when the Fulas sent out missionaries to other peoples, priests from Marrocco preached and Muslim traders came from far away and founded churches near the rivers. Muslims usually enjoyed high standing, because they were well educated, had medical knowledge and extensive relations. Therefore they were also often in the council of Mandinka rulers. The people were especially interested in their magical powers. Soon amulets were filled with Koranic verses and Muslims` prayers were considered to be a special protection. Nevertheless the animistic thinking didn`t stop.

In the 19th century Islamic leaders had established in nearly all Mandinka states. Strict Muslims accomplished the building of mosques, prayer five times a day and fasting in many settlements, but often the Islamic doctrine wasn`t taken too serious. Usually the personal experience of Allah, even through animistic actions, was more important for them than the actual doctrine. In this way it was, for most people, easier to become a Muslim. Nevertheless the Islam tried to weaken the central points of the traditional religion: Secret societies were destroyed or turned into Islamic communities and places of initiation were used for Islamic feasts. As a result of this the rites were still important in the families, but the annual festivals and the honouring of the ancestry lost their importance. Thus two societies with separate laws and behaviour patterns developed within the empire. In this way many conflicts and changes were induced in all nations. Young men left their families in order to follow their masters, new Muslim settlements developed and traditional ones broke up for reasons of religion. Even families were divided in this way.

Supporters of the traditional religion were called “Soninke” (from kafir = arab. unbeliever), whereas Muslims called themselves marabouts, which was originally used for Northern African masters of cults. In 1850 an open fight broke out, which went down in history as the Soninke- Marabout- War. Islamic Fulas invaded the country and Ma Bah, son of a Mandinka marabout proclaimed the holy war (Jihad). The longer the war lasted the more the fight for power displaced religious reasons. Thus It even happened that Muslims fought against each other, e.g. when a traditional ruler was to be displaced by a marabout.

At the end of the 19th century this war made it possible for the English who had their settlements near the mouth of the Gambia river even a long time before to subjugate the area along the river and make it their colony. The marabouts` leaders were defeated and some of the Mandinka rulers even were glad about it, because they were tired of fighting, though the ancient Mandinka empire had now been destroyed and the traditional Mandinka rule had come to an end.

In 1901 England and the native leaders signed a peace treaty and the interior of the country was divided into 5 provinces.
You can read more about the history of this country in my seminary paper ” Landeskunde Gambia”, Korntal, 1995.

Appendix D: The development of the conscience

The sources of the following descriptions are partly Lothar Käser`s and Klaus W. Müller`s lessons at the FHM, but also further leading thoughts. I`ll now define some terms, which are important in the development of the conscience:
Conscience: a power in human beings that protects them from wrong behaviour within their group by influencing the feelings and the autonomic nervous system according to a special internal norm. Unpleasant feelings and physical disposition which can be more or less serious try to prevent them from actions, sometimes even against their own aims or desires.

Norm, law: is a kind of table where all actions that induce, according to the discoveries of a society, negative reactions and therefore should be avoided are listed. This table can be developed through experiences or thoughts.

External norm: a norm that was developed by other people and influences the individual. It can be a supernatural power, an administration or the society I live in.
Internal norm: a norm which has been personally recognised by the individual. On the one hand it has been developed with the help of personal experience but mainly it has been taken over from the external norm, as it was explained by persons whom the individual took as an example during its development of the conscience.
Obedience: is the suitable behaviour according to the norm. It depends on the situation whether it complies with the internal or the external norm.
Violation of the norm: the behaviour which doesn`t correspond with the norm. It doesn`t matter whether there was or wasn`t a negative reaction.
Sin: actually the same as the violation of the norm; it`s usually referred to religious violation of God’s rules.

Justice: will be considered as peace, if the behaviour is obedient and neither induces negative reactions for oneself nor for other people. It often isn’t felt intensively.
Guilt: the fact that a norm has been violated and there has been a negative reaction.

Feeling of being guilty: reaction of the conscience that makes you feel having violated an internal or external norm and that makes clear to you that you have to expect a negative reaction for you, for other people or other things. This feeling is strongly connected with fear and you feel it intensively. Only re-establishing justice and paying for the damage or changing the behaviour can improve the situation.

Prestige: will be considered as peace, if the behaviour is obedient and doesn`t cause any loss of recognition by society. It often isn’t felt intensively.
Disgrace: is an expression of the conscience that makes you feel that a) an external norm has been violated by your behaviour or you don’t meet the external requirements and b) thus you’ll experience the disapproval of society. This feeling is closely linked with fear and you’ll feel it intensively. There`re two possibilities for relieving the situation: a) changing the objectionable behaviour or being or b) hiding it from society. Both ways are possible only under certain circumstances. Maybe both can be combined, e.g. when a person withdraws from one society and takes part in another one and avoids objectionable behaviour there. In this case making good the injustice is not necessary.

Shame: hiding a certain condition or behaviour consciously or unconsciously, because it doesn`t correspond with the external norm. It`s the constant and normal condition of a human being in order to avoid showing a behaviour or fact which doesn`t correspond with the external norm in public. This bashful behaviour avoids falling into disgrace (Naked and not ashamed, first pages).

The conscience develops out of a innate hereditary disposition. Already at an early age a human being realises that certain behaviour patterns induce negative reactions. These reactions can affect people (the individual itself, physically or psychologically) or things, but anyway they have to be avoided. The more mature a child grows the more reactions it can realise. As a small child it only realises clearly visible and perceptible reactions, but later also sensitive and psychological ones. The decision whether a reaction is negative or not is first made with the help of own experiences and feelings. The child realises that it starts crying when it feels pain or when it is afraid of something. Anytime it watches someone crying it will know that something negative must have happened.

It keeps these reactions in mind. Later the conscience falls back on this knowledge and induces unpleasant feelings when the individual has done or thought about a certain deed, even if there hasn’t been any negative reaction yet. The conscience develops according to experiences in ones childhood. Unpleasant feelings (fear or negative reactions) keep us from doing certain things.

In course of time a kind of table, where behaviour patterns are distinguished (positive/ no/ negative reaction), is memorised. This table is arranged in a very detailed way (every kind of behaviour in a certain situation is mentioned individually, e.g. blowing ones nose in the wood, blowing ones nose in the theatre). The individual learns how to predict reactions that follow a certain kind of behaviour. Behaviour patterns that induce positive reactions will only be realised, if they aren’t ordinary and therefore praised very often (and the child can be proud of it). But usually the conscience won’t react if the behaviour corresponds with the norm. The kind of the experienced reaction, which means the kind of socialisation, determines the feelings in ones conscience.

a) On the one hand there`re direct reactions. The child immediately realises or notices the negative reaction about itself, another person or another thing. In this case the experience will be memorised in the table as an reaction.

b) On the other hand there`re reactions the individual learned from other people. With the help of a medium (e.g. a person) it is informed about negative reactions. This can be done preventively (warning) or as an reaction on a certain kind of behaviour (e.g. scolding) The way in which the individual was informed about the reaction is memorised in the table, too and therefore it influences the development of the conscience as well.

The reaction you’re informed about generally has two aspects:
b1) the objective description of the reaction to a certain action

b2) the subjective reaction of the person that informs you and the environment where you’re informed. This includes the emotional reaction of the informing person, the description of the contents of his/ her reaction, the number of present persons and their reactions. The table will be arranged according to the importance of these aspects.
An example in order to make everything clear:

a) A small child, let’s call him Jim, is playing with a knife and he hurts his small sister. A negative reaction will be memorised in his conscience (maybe only after several experiences): ” playing with the knife- small sister feels pain”. This is a direct reaction which Jim experienced himself. If Jim experiences many negative things with knifes (and no positive ones), his conscience will induce the negative feeling, that the usage of a knife is followed by a negative reaction, whenever he’s thinking of knifes. He will consider it wrong, a sin or a violation of the norm to use a knife. It would be a guilt for him which he wants to make good.

b) But if Jim only plays with the knife and nothing happens or he didn`t realise it at least, a negative reaction will only be memorised in his conscience, if anyone informs him about it. There`s one possibility that his mother comes in. Her reaction will strongly influence the development of Jim’s conscience.

b1)She takes the knife away from him and shows him his sister’s injury or explains to him that he could have hurt someone. In this case his conscience will develop in the same way as if he had experienced it himself. The reaction is directly linked with the behaviour and memorised in the table. Prospectively a knife or the thought about playing with a knife will induce a feeling of guilt in him, which will avoid an action or force him to make his deed good (justification).

b2) The conscience will develop differently, if Jim’s mother reacts extremely emotionally and doesn`t explain to him what has happened or could have happened. She shows him that all present persons have seen what he has done and that they’ll now think he’s a bad boy. She can also refer to “God” who watches everything. In this case Jim will consider the loss of recognition among the other people to be the negative reaction to his deed. Jim will memorise the situation in his table,too, but in another way: “playing with the knife- mum becomes angry, people don’t like me.” In future a knife or the thought about a knife will induce (with the help of the conscience) a feeling of disgrace that avoids an action or demands the re-establishment of the social recognition after a deed. In this case Jim will always pay attention to his social recognition and he’ll always try not to do anything that could bring disgrace on him. This can become very difficult and full of tension for him, especially when he will live together with people whose norms he doesn`t know exactly, because they come from another culture (multicultural situation).

In this way some people develop a more guilt-oriented conscience and others a more shame-oriented conscience. But there`s no conscience which has only developed into one direction. Someone with a guilt-oriented conscience will always be ashamed, too, if other people learn about his violation of the norm. And someone who has a shame-oriented conscience can also feel guilty because he/she has gained experience with direct reactions. Nevertheless there`s a tendency that guilt orientation includes disgrace more often than it is the way around. Shame-orientation will develop especially there where many people live together closely and depend on each other (loyalty and dependence on the group are necessary for surviving in the group) and where only little privacy exists (everybody will see it when Jim gets an earful).

Appendix E: The culture in Senegambia in Maranz` view20
The anthropologist David E. Maranz has discovered a system which is the basis of every culture and describes behaviour and its causes. To make it easier to understand the whole matter I tried to develop a scheme:

In this system the best point for beginning is level 4 which includes every kind of visible behaviour (people’s deeds or words) within a certain culture. Level 5 (people’s explanation) contains the spontaneously given explanations when asking about the reason of this behaviour. Level 6 describes the basic knowledge the people’s explanations are based on.

However not everybody is able to formulate it. Level 7 stands for connections only a few specialists for a culture can express (e.g. marabouts). Finally the last level contains the deepest “universal thoughts, which are the basis of every kind of behaviour and can only be realised by people who are no members of the culture. Maranz came to the conclusion that a comparison between cultures is best and most clearly possible on this level . Apart from this knowledge there`re different values (Maranz uses the English word “methathemes”, “themes” and “subthemes”) which are pre-determined in every culture and influence the behaviour of the people. These values represent general behaviour patterns whereas the knowledge on levels 5-8 gives concrete reasons for the behaviour. These values refer to 3 sectors: people’s relations to a) cosmos b) society and c) nature and break down into many differentiated values and ideas. Every kind of behaviour is at least influenced by one of these three sectors.
together, values and knowledge ( methathemes and ontological absolutes) form culture, they cause and explain people’s behaviour.
For the Senegambian society Maranz describes the following 8 methathemes and 10 ontological absolutes:21
Eight basic values (methathemes):
cosmic methathemes:
methatheme 1: Senegambian people try to achieve personal, transcendent peace which can be experienced through a moral conscience, a spirit of personal peace and through social peace.
methatheme 2: Peace, luck and success can be achieved through power which can be given by supernatural beings or powers from the invisible world.
methatheme 8: The perfect word has possessing power which can be mobilised by an appropriate formulation.
social methathemes:
methatheme 3: People ought to live in a society of mutual dependence.
methatheme 4: Social peace can be achieved through a united life in society.
methatheme 6: People are defined by their relationships and their relations to the cosmos.
methatheme 7: Black African people are unique, especially Senegambians. This is very important for their structures of thinking, their agreements and feelings.
natural methathemes:
methatheme 5: Human beings live in a symbiosis with nature which is the source of physical life and survival for them.
Ten basic facts (ontological absolutes):
1.God: he’s transcendent, rarely interested and involved in the daily matters of his creation. For Sufi- Muslims God can only be experienced through appropriate behaviour.
2.Universe: consists of visible and invisible realities. The visible is more important for the being.
3.Peace: is the ideal condition and harmony is the ideal relation to the universe.
4.Integration: Integration is the ideal condition for all sectors of the universe. All powers have to depend on each other.
5.Pre-determination: Every part of the universe has its pre-determined role it has to play. Muslims make sure their recognition on Judgement Day by subordinating under the devine law.
6.Hierarchy: The universe and every field of life is hierarchically organised with regard to position and power.
7.Power: The universe is led by a power which is heritable and can be gained.
8.Reality: Everything is divided in visible and invisible reality.
9.Human beings: ceremonial centre of the universe
10.Transfer: Everything which is spiritually good or bad and abstract qualities can be transferred through special intentional principles and mechanisms.

Try of an example:
Occasionally some smaller portions of rice are stolen from Yamunda. She knows that the thief is her aunt Manimah, but she doesn`t accuse her. She only tries to hide the rice better.22
In Maranz` system this situation can be explained in the following way:
Level 1: Social peace can be achieved through a united life in society.(methatheme 4)
Level 2: Peaceful values are mirrored in different relations in every-day life (e.g. elderly people- youth, wife- husband, leaders- common people, inhabitants among themselves) (theme 2).
Level 3: Elderly people are to be respected. (subtheme 1)
Level 4: Yamunda doesn`t accuse her aunt.
Level 5: Yamunda explains that one usually doesn`t do so (to accuse ones aunt).
Level 6: Marabout Suthe Sanyang emphasises that you mustn’t blame an elderly person for a lie or for cheating.
Level 7: Respect and subordinating under the older generation protects the necessary unity of the group.
Level 8: Peace is the ideal condition and harmony is the ideal relation in the universe. (3. ontological absolute)

Appendix F: Reports about ghosts
Mandinkas` statements about ghosts: Jinoos live in the bush and were created by God as well as human beings. Hunters can meet them at night, but they can also come to the villages in human form. Sometimes the take part in special events, e.g. disco. It occurred that there was a young woman on a concert, but she didn`t say a word to anyone. When a young man addressed her in order to make a date with her, she met him outside and suddenly everything was full of light, so that he got terrified and ran away. Sometimes they live in big trees. People see strange things in such places, especially when It`s hot. Two boys are said to have once tried to fetch honey from such a tree. One of them climbed onto the tree and wound down the honey in a bucket. But every time the bucket reached the ground it was empty. When the boy tried to climb down the tree split and catched the boy so that he died. The other boy ran away and was mad for several months.

The mosque belongs to a ghost who is used to praying there before the official praying time. For this reason nobody ought to go into the mosque before the official praying time. Once a man did so and at the sight of the ghost he was shocked so much that he ran home in total confusion.
A ghost who doesn`t like merchants is said to live by the northern roadside in Sibanor. For years try of running a shop there failed.

Appendix G: Ethno-educational discoveries23

The book Ethno-education includes the chapters “ideas of childhood”, socialisation in the early childhood in traditional societies”, and “initiation”. All explanations generally refer to traditional societies and examples of many nations are used. I`ll now give an account of some attitudes which weren’t directly explained to me in Gambia, I admit, but they are nevertheless possible, because you can them from behaviour patterns and statements.
G1: Ideas of procreation and birth:24

The child’s organism is created through the joining of female blood and male sperm in the womb. The actual life will develop after the animation which is performed by the father. The child’s soul isn’t completely linked with the body at the beginning of its life. Therefore you have to care for the child especially thoroughly during pregnancy, birth and infancy , so that the soul doesn`t leave the child and it dies. During this time the child isn’t yet a person, because the soul isn’t completely integrated, it hasn’t got the ability to act, it has no name and it hasn’t passed the ceremonies that make a social person out of it. The most important ceremony in ones childhood is the giving of the name. At the beginning children aren’t distinguished according to their sex, because they have only the necessary organs, but not their functions. Only after having reached sexual maturity one distinguishes between boys and girls.

In the Mandinka tribe the child’s vulnerability in this early phase becomes clear through the fact, that mothers have to stick to certain rules of behaviour and live on a diet during their pregnancy and lactation period. Another important aspect is, that nobody must know the child’s name before it has received protection and blessing through the name- giving- ceremony. Whoever knows someone’s name can use it for cursing. Another rule is the one, that a baby must never be left alone, because an evil ghost could do him or her harm or even take away its humanity. Thus we were told about children who behaved strangely, ate only little food and weren’t human beings at all. Therefore babies wear amulets from their first day on. Among the Mandinkas the complete recognition as a boy or girl starts after having reached the sexual maturity. 25

G.2 Ethno-educational observations in the early childhood26
Weaning always means the loss of the mother and of an important source of food for the child. In their childhood children in societies that don’t conduct a household of storage are left to playing. In its playing-group a child learns about norms and values. The transition between childlike freedom and responsible behaviour usually happens gradually. The relation to the father is always a relation to an authority. Penalties are often accompanied by strong emotions of adults.
G.3 Initiation to the transition into adulthood 27

DEF: This initiation is a ritual action (profane or religious), which is usually performed when a boy or a girl reaches sexual maturity, in order to transfer him or her into adulthood. It can be carried out individually or collectively.
Times of transition are always dangerous. However the transition into adulthood is especially difficult. The youngsters are on the way to the top of their power and maturity. They’ll soon be a threat for the position of the elders and in their insecurity they’ll want to achieve changes which could endanger the traditional order. Adults seldom show understanding for the reactions of the youth which also cause tensions in the development of their personality, because the youngsters search for confidence. The crises will be the harder the more different the “sheers of being” of the child and its parents are. The youngster’s reactions are: increased sensitivity, demand for new things, curiosity, realising contradictions between norm and reality , utopian ideals towards shortcomings (caused by indifference, unscrupulousness and rigidity of older generations), which are enforceable with a good measure of intrepidity, fighting spirit, selflessness and readiness to make sacrifices. In highly cultivated societies it is possible to get the problem under control (because of the graduated entry into adulthood, dissection of the society into several social groups which make a wide solidarity practically impossible, police, military and other “organs of order” of state as well as schools) whereas in traditional cultures only one rule exists: absolute obedience towards elderly people. This applies to any older person, may it be a brother, a sister or a friend.

This rule isn’t only taught, but also lived in every generation. Besides the conditions determine the way of each person and they don’t leave any space for alternatives. The transition is a drastic cut and not a process. Breaking out of the traditional transition will do harm to the group and has to be considered a risk. The fertility and ability of conception which start in the puberty are important for the group. From this moment on society has to provide that the youngsters use their power with responsibility an according to the rules of the group. Fertility is said to be a gift from hereafter and the ancestors and ghosts have to decide on it. Therefore the teenagers have to be familiarised with the religion of the group. This process is of great importance for the group and nothing must be left to chance. For this reason the transition from youth into adulthood has been carried out in an institutionalised way, in the form of so-called initiations, strictly ritualized and socially controlled.
The initiation consists of three phases:
1.taking out of the present condition (isolation)
2.central process of the transition (conversion)
3. entry into the new way of being (reintegration)
major goal of the initiation are:
1.Accompanying support and control of the physical process of becoming mature by responsible representatives of the adults, especially for completing sexual differentiation and for strengthening the fertility and the ability of conception, which means the liquids that are responsible for reproduction.
2.Dramatic explanation of cultural values. The initiates are made realise how important cultural values are in a kind of prismatic condension.
3.Formally celebrated conclusion of the education, public recognition of its success as well as magic- ritual protection of the gained skills and the knowledge for the future under the control of ancestors.
4.Making the initiate realise the tasks and duties of an adult for the survival of society and the responsibility of every individual.
5. Explanation of religious traditions, which means instructions about the nature, functions….of the powers from beyond, who cause and carry the traditional order and the appropriate contact with them. It is necessary for being fertile and successful.
6.Prevention of the adolescent crisis by discipline and integration of the youngsters into the adults` community.
7.Altogether finally, as the sum of everything mentioned before, the stabilisation and protection of the traditional order of living and the existence at all in order to ensure the further existence of the group.

Wolfgang Pfau


Ajayi, J.F. und Michael Crowder, Historical Atlas of Africa
Essex,Longman Group Ltd, 1985 [FHM: VA 08.3 His]
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Wiesbaden, Franz Steiner Verlag, 1979
Fafunwa, A.Bas, Education in Africa
London, 1982
Hirschberg, Walter, Völkerkunde Afrikas
Huppertz, Norbert und Engelbert Schinzler, Grundfragen der Pädagogik
7.Aufl., München, 1983
Lafargue, F., Einführung in die Anthropologie
Nach Vorlesungen zusammengestellt vom Seminar für Sprachmethodik, Wycliff
Lindig, Wolfgang (Hrsg.), Völker der vierten Welt
Lexikon fremder Kulturen unserer Zeit
München, Wilhelm Fink, 1986
Maranz, David E., Peace is everything
The World View of Muslims and Traditionalists in the Senegambia
Dallas, International Museum of Cultures, 1993, 300 Seiten
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Saarbrücken, Breitenbach Verlag, 1982 [FHM: Vd 05.3 Mic]
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Wuppertal, 1979
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Eine Einführung
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Traditionalism, Islam, and the European Expansion
London 1972
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3.Aufl. Frankfurt 1991
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Eine Feldstudie zum Kulturwandel in der Republik Sudan
Braunschweig, 1969
Sidibe, B.K., Winifred F. Galloway, Senegambian traditional families
Banjul, Gambia Cultural Archives, 1975
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Banjul, Gambia Cultural Archives, 1975
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1 Linding, Lexikon fremderKulturen, 1981:217.
2 Linding, see above, 218
3 B.K. Sidibe, Senegambian Traditional families, Banjul, 1975.
4 according to Maranz, see above, 257.
5 Satan is also a jinoo who rebels especially against God: in former times he was the angels` leader, but he didn`t bow down in front of Mohammed and ever since then he has been on earth in order to work against God. Whoever believes in God is protected by Him from the Satan`s influence. Satan has no religion and he’ll be the last to die.
6In many of the Muslims` (who live in Sibanor) view there`re only three religions: the Islam for the Africans, Christendom for the Whites and paganism (these are all other religions, especially the “godless” animists, because they are Africans and nevertheless drink alcohol and eat pork). Muslims and Christians are both “good”, because they worship God- everyone in another way. Because of this attitude it isn’t necessary to become a Christian in the Africans` view.)
7 The slaughtered lamb will take those who regularly took part in the festival over the bridge that leads into paradise.
8 I’m speaking with my language teacher about vocabulary. As an example for the word “believe” (dankeneyaa) he mentions the sentence :”I believe in Jesus Christ”. When I ask him whether he as a Muslim is allowed to say this sentence he answers affirmatively. Jesus is one of the highest prophets. He considers him a lord and an important person. I ask whether he excludes that Jesus said he was God’s son. My teacher wasn`t sure about that. At the moment he is a Muslim, because he belongs to a Muslim society. He doesn`t know what will be in future and whether it will change. Another time I am told about Moses who wanted to convert Israel to the Islam and about Mohammed who was ordered by god to sacrifice his son.
9 E.g. “God may give you a long life”
10 Originally the name marabout typifies someone as a man with a great charisma, a priest, a shaman, prophet and mystic. In Gambia they originated from the group of the elders. They learned reading and writing with the help of the Koran. This seemed like magic to the common people. In this way the marabouts became important and powerful people in the whole country. Often they were asked for advice.
(Sweeney, Philip (Hrsg), Reiseführer APA Guides – Gambia und Senegal, Berlin, 1991, 71f).
11 The word juju has been used by Mandinkas when they talk in English about things which correspond in their form and function to amulets or talismans, especially for the protection of the human body.
12 On a festival we saw Cessay and Kebba, two young men, rushing out of the house and showing a kind of sabre-dance. They are only wearing trousers and they demonstratively sharpen their machetes with a stone. Wildly gesticulating they begin to scratch themselves into arms, abdomen and throats. Cessay also tries to stab into his stomach. The knife bends. I’m not sure whether it was only a trick. I am explained that Cessay`s dance is usually only performed at circumcisions and that it`s called fansango. Furthermore I’m explained that Cessay got a special juju for it and besides still borrowed one so that he doesn`t hurt himself.
13 An elderly woman (Kadi Sanyang) in our compound has learned from her how to cure illnesses. One night Kebba Sanyang came to her, because he had a pain in his chest. With a cord she measured the distance between his shoulders over his head. This measurement she compared to the chest measurement. If he’s healthy both measurements will be equal. If the chest measurement is longer a cough will develop. Then she helped him by binding a cord around his chest, so that the normal size might be restored.
14 Kadi Sanyang also imparts knowledge which helps to avoid accidents. Some examples: Mothers mustn’t feed their babies at night lying, because the milk could flow into the nose or the ear. In the ear it can become inflamed and in the nose it’ll smell. An animal called bambango has got the second name Sanyang. Therefore all members of the family Sanyang and their relatives mustn’t eat this animal. Pregnant women mustn’t eat hares otherwise the child will have long ears. If pregnant women eat meat of a duck, the child won’t sleep very long at night. If you cut small children`s nails, they’ll become thieves.
15 When I spoke with my language teacher about the adverb bambandiroo (strongly) he spontaneously gave me the explanation that they together strongly resist against everything that wants to destroy their community. Whoever doesn`t do so is a coward and useless for society.
16 Fatu Jaiteh changed her clothes several times on the day of her son’s name-giving-celebration so that she can show all her new dresses.
17The nation of the Balantas is notorious for being dirty. Once my wife Ina was walking with Mariahma, a girl from our compound, they met a girl from Mariahma`s class. Disdainfully she explained to Ina this girl was a Balanta.
18 The following story makes the immense social pressure and the eldest` position of power clear: In my conversations about the rites of the circumcision I was ensured again and again that this was a dirty , useless and painful matter. Circumcision doesn`t include any religious education. It only means to ” lie on the floor and not to wash”. Every father has to decide himself whether he will have his children circumcised and when. He’ll answer on the question whether he wants his children to be circumcised with a clear “yes”. There would be too many troubles with his relatives. When he’ll be older he’ll fight for the abolition of the circumcision.
19 Jahn Rosel, Mai’s Weltführer 29 – Landeskunde Gambia, Frankfurt 1991, 53-72 and
Philip Sweeney, Reiseführer APA Guides – Gambia und Senegal, Berlin, 1991, 25ff, 31ff, 41ff and
Sonko-Goderin Patience, Ethnic Groups of the Senegambia, Banjul 1985 and
Charlotte A. Quinn, Mandingo Kingdoms of the Senegambia, London 1972.
20 Maranz, Peace is everything, pages 9-59.
21 Maranz, Peace is everything, appendices 3 + 5. Maranz has formulated detailed themes and subthemes for each methatheme.
22 Yamunda asked us for a box to hide her rice.
23 Klaus E. Müller und Alfred K.Treml (Hrsg.), Ethno-Pädagogik, Sozialisation und Erziehung in traditionellen Gesellschaften, Eine Einführung, Berlin, Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1992.
24 Müller, Ethno-Pädagogik, pages 12-20.
25 see the chapter about the Mandinkas` word for the phases of the human development.
26 Müller, Ethno-Pädagogik, pages 30-57.
27 Müller, Ethno-Pädagogik, pages 58-79.

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