Bassari in Senegal

Photo Source:  Darcy Dueck 
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People Name: Bassari
Country: Senegal
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 22,000
World Population: 44,600
Primary Language: Oniyan
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 18.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.25 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Atlantic
Affinity Bloc: Sub-Saharan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Most Bassari are concentrated on either side of the Senegal-Guinea border, with several hundred in Guinea-Bissau. Others are in Senegal. The Bassari arrived in the area between the 11th and 19th centuries, establishing their settlements in the hills. These settlements provided defensible vantage points overlooking the plains below and were made up of groups of circular thatched huts congregated around a central space. They live in Senegal, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Like most of the people of Senegal, the Bassari are farmers. Using basic tools, they grow a variety of crops. Maize, manioc and rice are the staples, but they also grow squash, melons, sweet potatoes, peppers and tomatoes. Major tree crops include bananas, coconuts, mangoes and papayas. They raise cattle, sheep, and goats, but do not use their milk. Hunting is of less importance than agriculture, but they gather wild fruits and roots, berries, and nuts (kola, shea, and palm).

Men hunt, fish, clear the land and tend the cattle. The women do the gathering and help with the agricultural work. Chiefs exercise political authority in the villages. Succession usually passes to the next brother or to the oldest son of the deceased chief's oldest sister.

Bassari people live in extended family compounds, each comprising a cluster of huts usually arranged in a circle around an open space. Often, a hedge, a fence or a wall surrounds the entire compound. The compounds usually adjoin to form compact villages. In general, the dwellings are round with mud walls and cone-shaped, thatched roofs.

The Bassari people circumcise the males and sometimes the females. These practices are part of initiation ceremonies at puberty and typically involve a period of instruction in an isolated "bush school."

The Bassari people tolerate premarital sexual freedom for girls and prefer cousins as marriage partners. The male's family pays a bride-price in livestock, commonly pigs. The groom to be usually must provide premarital bride-service to her family. There is very little polygamy (having over one wife). In such cases, however, each wife has her own hut, and the husband spends a fixed period with each on a rotation basis.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Bassari people adhere to the same traditional religion as their ancestors. They worship spirits they believe will provide for their needs without realizing these same spirits will do them eternal harm. There are some Christians among them, but we consider the Bassari an unreached people group.

What Are Their Needs?

Gospel recordings are available in the language of the Bassari people. There is a need for workers to use these to win people to Christ.

Prayer Points

There are a number of Christian believers among the Bassari living in Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. Pray the Holy Spirit will thrust some of these out to take Christ to the Bassari and help disciple the few believers already there.
Pray for abundant crops for the Bassari, and for health care facilities.
Pray this will be the decade of spiritual harvest among the Bassari people, leading them to make disciples throughout West Africa.

Text Source:   Joshua Project