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Introduction / History
The Malinke, or Mandinka, live scattered throughout West Africa. Those living in Senegal live primarily in the Casamance region. During the 1800s, Muslims from The Gambia played a role in bringing Islam to Casamance; and today, the great majority of the Malinke are Sunni Muslims. All over West Africa the Malinke, formerly a trading people, have become powerful merchants, civil servants, and religious leaders.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Malinke originated in the state of Manding, during the ancient empire of Mali, in the twelfth century. Manding gained her independence in 1235 A.D., which laid the foundation for Malinke greatness and expansion into the rest of West Africa. They moved in small groups west and southwest from Manding in search of better farmlands, establishing various Malinke states and kingdoms along the way. Many settled in Senegal, where the climate and well-watered land were more favorable than that of Mali.
The Malinke speak a Manding language from the Niger-Congo language family. They base their livelihood on agriculture and some animal husbandry. Sorghum, millet, peanuts, beans, sweet potatoes, maize, and cotton are their primary crops. Goats and sheep are tended, and cattle are kept as a sign of wealth. However, the milk is not drunk and butter is not made. Bees are raised for honey.
The Malinke men hunt, fish, herd the livestock, and do most of the agricultural work. The women help the men do the planting and harvesting, and are also responsible for domestic chores. They gather nuts, berries, and special leaves for medicines in the forest outside their villages. Malinke men sometimes set up or work for small, part-time businesses to supplement their incomes.
The Malinke live in walled, compact villages and towns. Their houses are grouped according to family ties, with each extended family occupying a compound. A number of these compounds compose a village. Each village has a headman who acts as judge over the village. He handles disputes and helps the council of elders. He also engages in important religious functions.
Most Malinke live in huts that are round or rectangular with walls made of sun-dried brick and roofs made of thatched grass. Many young, unmarried men occupy separate bachelor quarters in the same compound as their fathers. This practice has been the norm for many years.
Traditionally, a man's wife moved into her father-in-law's compound upon marriage. However, the recent trend is for the wife to leave her father's compound sometimes even before marriage. This practice has slightly weakened the extended family as an economic unit.
The Malinke have many elaborate ceremonies associated with the different societies and initiation rites of their culture. Both boys and girls are initiated into puberty. Men are initiated and advanced in their hierarchical society, the komo. Women also have their own secret society.
Sunni Islam blended with traditional beliefs (like magic and worshiping the spirits of the land) dominates the Maninka religious worldview.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The vast majority of the Malinke are Muslim. However, their Islamic beliefs have been blended with their traditional beliefs, which involved worshiping the spirits of the land. Healing, magic, and divination are also important aspects of their traditional religion. It is not uncommon for someone to first pray in the village mosque, then sacrifice a chicken to the village spirit.
What Are Their Needs?
Many of the Malinke consult marabouts (Muslim holy men) for healing, protective amulets, or insight into the future. Educated villagers may conceal their beliefs in magic, yet, most of them still carry amulets.
Very few of the Malinke are Christians. Although some Christian resources are available to them, the Malinke seem extremely devoted to their own beliefs. Prayer is the main key to opening the hearts of the Malinke to the Gospel.
Ask the Lord of the harvest to thrust forth long-term Christian laborers.
Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to any missions agencies currently focusing on the Malinke.
Pray that God will give Malinke believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Malinke church for the glory of His name!
Scripture Prayers for the Maninka, Western in Mali.