Introduction / History
The Wamei or the Konyagi are natives of Guinea who migrated into Senegal and the Gambia to work in the bamboo belt, settling mainly along the major roads from Tamba to Dakar, and from Velingara to Kolda. There is a population of 23,000 living in Senegal and 17,000 that live in Guinea, on the southern border of Senegal.
They are hard workers and earn better than the average. From May to December they raise millet, fonio, peanuts, rice, mango and keep cattle. They make and sell bamboo mats for use as house walls, roofs and beds. They also make and sell millet and palm wine, and a pure alcohol beverage called "soum soum". Their greatest external resource is the Catholic Church which provides them with jobs, education, training in certain skills such as sewing. 90% of their time is devoted to work and 10% is play. Friday is usually their festival day.
The Wamei social structure is hierarchical where those belonging to an older age group are responsible for teaching and disciplining the group that is below them. Belonging and conforming to the group is very important. They are very proud of their way of life and they hold initiation rites as very important to them, so much so that they were banned by the government for a while. They still perform them now and they are very exclusively for the men only. Some are secret ceremonies that the women should not know about and the outsider should never hear about. They hold kinship very tightly and even if living apart, a kin has more importance than an outsider.
Education is considered a good thing as it leads to good jobs. The Konyagis are more apt to finish high school then the other neighboring ethnic groups. They are very open and are quick to learn, those who are involved in the Catholic Church have a greater appreciation for the need of literacy. They desire to learn French so that they can communicate with their relatives that are far away.
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