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date: 25 April 2019

The Soninke in Ancient West African History

Summary and Keywords

The Soninke are an ancient West African ethnicity that probably gave rise to the much larger group that is called the Mande of which the Soninke are part. The Soninke language belongs to the northwestern Mande group but through the dynamism of its speakers has loaned many words and concepts to distant ethnic groups throughout the West African ecological zones. Mande groups such as the Malinke and Bambara may be descendants of the Soninke or a Proto-Soninke group. The Soninke are the founder of the first West African empire, Ghana, which they themselves call Wagadu, from the 6th to the 12th centuries ad Ghana was wealthy and powerful due to its access to gold, its geographic location between the Sahara and the Sahel, and its opening of trade routes from these ecological zones into the West African forest. Long distance trade contributed to the development of an ethos of migration among the Soninke, arguably making them the most traveled people of the whole continent. As they embraced Islam, some Soninke clans became clerics and proselytizers and followed the trade routes, sometimes becoming advisers to kings and chiefs. By the time of Ghana’s fall, the Soninke diaspora and trade networks were found all over West Africa. At present, pockets of Soninke, small and large, are found on all continents.

Keywords: Soninke, Mande, Marka, Jula, Malinke, Bambara, Songhay, trade, Islam, migration, slavery

The Soninke in Ancient West African History

There is an old saying in the Mande according to which the borders of the Mande world are places where patronyms (jamuw, pl.) cease to ring bells. These borders are not understood as physical borders but as social, cultural, linguistic, and historical. For the Mande person raised to the stories of Wagadu and Mali, there is an awareness of their jamu being spread all across the southern edges of the Sahara, the West African Sahel, and deep into the forest. The Soninke ethnicity is the most pervasive and adaptable of Africa. For over a millennium, through trade, they spread out from their original lands over much of West Africa from the Sahara through the forest.

Soninke Ethnicity

The Soninke in Ancient West African HistoryClick to view larger

Figure 1. Trade Routes in the Ghana Empire.

The Soninke are also called Sarakole and Marka among other names by various historically and geographically situated groups. The word Soninke means both the ethnicity and the language of those who founded the Ghana Empire that they themselves call Wagadu in what is now Southeastern Mauritania and Western Mali. In the Wagadu legends, the gesere (Soninke bards) mention a town called Sonna that was founded before Kumbi Saleh, the capital of Wagadu. For the gesere, Soninke derived from Sonnanke, which means people from Sonna.1 Other etymologies of Soninke could mean “pagan” as the Maninka-Mory (ethnic Soninke with a long tradition in Islam) refer to the non-Islamized Malinke as Sununke.2 The Russian linguists Vyacheslav and Vydrine mention that sununke could mean “courageous warrior” (archaic meaning) and paganist and further cite Pozdnyakov who suggested that the root retained in the ethnonym Soninke could have similar meaning in the Songhay title Sonni.3 Sarakole, as Delafosse suggests, may have come from the Soninke expression meaning white man (from sere: person, xulle: clear, white).4 The term Sarakole is an example of many Islamized black groups’ effort to invent an Arabian ancestry after they converted to Islam. Marka (or Maraka) is another name for Soninke by other ethnic groups or Soninke established far from Wagadu in Mali, Guinea, Niger, and Burkina Faso where the ethnonyms Meeka and Dafin are also used. The Maraka do not constitute a unified ethnic or linguistic group. There are some who call themselves Maraka jε‎ (white) to indicate that they are original migrants from Wagadu. There are also others called Maraka fin (black) and Maraka jalan (dry), this last dry qualifier implying Soninke ethnicity without linguistic capability.5

Soninke language belongs to the northern division of the northwestern Mande group of languages. As such, it is a member of the much larger Niger-Congo language family group.6 Soninke dialects are mutually intelligible though distinctions exist between eastern and western variants. The regional variants are mainly found in the choice of auxiliaries and postpositions, plural formations, and the ways they pronounce certain consonants in the initial position in words.7 Dalby suggests that Soninke may be an early Mande language that may have been influenced by some non-Mande ones while Bird finds features of northern Mande and Fulfulde in Soninke due to a long interaction between them and the Fula groups.8

Starting perhaps around the time of the fall of the Ghana Empire (1076), the Soninke recognized some sociopolitical divisions among themselves that reflected ecological and regional economic interests. Four West African countries have indigenous Soninke populations: The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal. The westernmost Soninke populations are located in the Gambia. To the west of Kayes (Mali) in the valley of the Senegal River are the Guidimaxa region (Mali and Mauritania), the Gadjaga region (extending from Mauritania to Eastern Senegal) and the Haire region (from Mauritania to Eastern Senegal south of the Senegal River). To the east of Kayes are the Jafunu, the Baxunu, the Jamboxo, the Sero, the Tringa, the Guidemme, the Xernyaremme, the Wagadu, the Xanyaga, and the Markadugu regions.9

The Soninke society consists of nobles (horo), free men who were either of the ruler (tunka) or Islamic clerical (moodi) clans, opposed to the nobles who are the slaves (komo). The professional or artisan classes (nyaxamala) consist of the blacksmiths (tago), the leatherworkers (garanke), and finally the griot caste divided into two groups (jaare and gesere).10 Each caste has a distinctive set of patronyms depending on the regions they come from, and this information allows most Soninke to deduce the social class of the bearer of a given patronym. Marriage is regulated along the caste structure.11 The presence of an Islamic clerical clan goes back to the Soninke conversion into Islam and along with Islamization, the rise of yet another caste, the funε‎, Islamic bards. From their traditional religion of “paganism,” the Soninke have been one of the early Western Sudanese people to embrace Islam and later use it as a tool of trade and political influence.

The Soninke nobles (horo) in addition to long distance trade also engaged in agriculture as they exchanged grains against salt, cattle, and other goods coming from the Sahara that went either toward the Middle and Upper River Niger and also to the Gambia River Valley for the Soninke coming from the Upper Senegal River. Since the 18th century, Soninke have engaged in long-term labor migration as laptots (indigenous sailors) for the French while seasonal migration in peanut farms in Senegal and the Gambia began in the mid-19th century. These activities were lucrative and increased their capacity to buy more slaves for sale and for their own use for their plantation economy.12 Before and after the onset of colonialism, the Soninke also heavily engaged in slavery for sale and for the farming of cereals that they exchanged with the desert nomads. Slaves also contributed to the economy as weavers of the cotton cloth that the Soninke sold all over the Sudan.13 Much further south in present-day Burkina Faso where the Soninke also established along the kola and gold routes to modern Ghana, is the artisan caste male jeli (bards) who are weavers while females are dyers and the only ones among Soninke to use locally produced silk.14 Noble Soninke women throughout history have always been associated with indigo dying, which also involved slave labor.15

Though all the artisan castes mentioned above are found among other Mande groups, two are unequivocally of Soninke heritage: the garanke and funε‎ (Islamic bards).16 The funε‎ are attached to the Islamic clerical families. They are depositories of legends and myths of the Prophet and Islam. They helped their cleric patrons in expanding converts’ knowledge of Islam. The garanke’s contribution to the Soninke economy may have peaked with the Ghana Empire. The Soninke have traditionally been a horse and donkey people. The horse was so important that dozens of Soninke patronyms are associated with it, practically all names ending in si (horse), for example, Ganesi, Mangasi, and Sadesi; and many of these are garanke. The Soninke were among the first black people at the receiving end of horses coming from North Africa and the garanke have specialized in the making of horse trappings and other leather material. Horses and trappings among other goods initially came from North Africa and goat hides were among the trade items that went north.17 Horses significantly increased Soninke mobility and speed in communication, but the donkeys’ role in the transportation of goods in long distance trade cannot be overestimated. An ethnic Bambara’s metaphor for the donkey is “the provider of the Soninke man’s bride wealth” though in reality the donkey was much more. Making trappings for horses, donkeys, tanning goatskins, and other leatherwork made the garanke a valuable contributor to Soninke economy.

The fall of the Ghana Empire might have resulted in the decentralization of former Ghana and ushered many changes that are characteristic of modern Soninke people. Ghana had a single ruler who organized and controlled trade, levied taxes, and acted as the senior religious leader and representative of the founding ancestors of the Soninke people.18 The demise of the Empire might have led the Soninke to an earlier form of sociopolitical organization, highly decentralized states with Islam as a new religion and a society characterized by the search of wealth in a patriarchal system. This was the Soninke society Europeans traders and later colonialists found in Africa. Before European contact, the Soninke were organized in regional confederations that were, in turn, composed of several clans. The monarch, tunka, selected from the ruling chiefly clan governed the region assisted by a council of notables who represented their clans in the federation.19

The Soninke in Ancient West African HistoryClick to view larger

Figure 2. Map of the successor states of the Ghana Empire, on the upper Niger River Valley, West Africa, c. 1200. Map drawn by T. L. Miles, Creative Commons License, CC BY-SA 3.0.

According to Manchuelle (1989), a major characteristic of the pre-colonial Soninke societies was the weakness of their states, which were small (ten to fifteen thousand people), led by chiefs who were the eldest men of the founding family of a kingdom or village. The central authority in these states was weak and the basis for power was wealth in a system of clientage. This gave rise to fierce and violent competition among aristocratic families. Manchuelle argues that “[i]n spite of their political institutions . . . Soninke “kingdoms” had a lot in common with Africa’s “stateless” or “segmentary” societies.” The decentralized pre-colonial kingdoms created a system in which groups on the periphery of political power including casted artisans and slaves could access considerable degrees of influence.20 Trade and the accumulation of wealth through slave labor enhanced people’s chance to attain power and influence, though it created tension between individuals, between the individual and the group, and between groups.21

The search for wealth and self-reliance through hard work is central to Soninke ideology as they abhor dependency. As soon as young boys can make a little money shining shoes in cities or selling their labor, they are expected to contribute however much they can to the family kitchen money. Hard work is perceived as a precursor to the ability to migrate. In his discussion of how young Soninke boys in rural Gambia are socialized in the culture of migration, Gaibazzi (2013) mentions that they are expected to grow into productive hustlers, a local term also used to refer to migrants. Learning to toil is synonymous with learning to live by one’s own sweat (futte) and sweat signifies honesty. Migration among the Soninke reproduces the agrarian ethos in the widespread practice of transnational rearing as children born to wives left behind, or the ones born abroad are sent back home to be socialized as their fathers were.22

Soninke History

Legend has it that there once lived in Wagadu a snake that its people made a pact with that consisted of giving it a sacrificial virgin every year. In return, the divine snake made the country prosperous with gold and good rains. Wagadu’s misfortune began when the fiancé of a virgin decided to kill the snake rather than let his future wife become the sacrifice. The young man cut off the snake’s head and seven years of bad drought followed as gold also disappeared. These events set in motion the decline of Wagadu as its people begun to abandon it. Migration out of Wagadu is central to Soninke history as they refer to it as the “Great Dispersal of the Soninke.” This great dispersal is part of the Soninke epic and other lore, including songs and individual family stories. There have been two major historical events that created “great dispersal”: the Almoravid conquest and the big drought. The drought may have caused out-migrations in proportion large enough to be retained in the ethnic memory. Historical documents place this drought sometimes in the 13th century as the Mali Empire begun to rise.

The Soninke were the dominant ethnic group in Ancient Ghana where some of their ancestors would have been the Stone Age farmers who cultivated sorghum and millet in the Sahel from 3000 to 1000 bce. They also were among the first farmers to benefit from the development of iron technology in West Africa around 500–400 bce.23

The Soninke are most probably the oldest Mande stock having given rise to the other ethnicities whose cultures diverged from it and whose languages though mutually unintelligible at present display a lot of similarities with Soninke. In fact, the other Mande groups are probable descendants of Soninke or Proto-Soninke ethnicity. In early historical writing the Soninke are mentioned as Wakore while their Mande relatives, especially the Jula, are known as Wangara. Other Soninke Mande relatives include the Malinke/Maninka, Bamana, Kuranko: one proof for this being that the great majority of Malinke, Bamana, Jula, Senufo, Minyanka patronyms are Soninke in origin. Similarly, Soninke language and culture have affected many other West African groups far and near such as the Songhay/Zerma, which some argue are a Mande group; but also others along the historical Soninke trade routes and settled areas from the Sahara into the West African forest regions of modern Ghana, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. Subgroups of the ethnic fishermen of the Niger River commonly called by the ethnonym Bozo speak a dialect that is highly mutually intelligible with Soninke. These ethnic fishermen call themselves Sorogo and could have spawned the Sɔrko fishermen from Songhay country downstream into the Republic of Niger and beyond.

Thanks to Arab writers, we have early documents about Ghana, the very first of these being Ibn Abd Al Hakam (ad 803–70) who though he does not mention it by its name, knew of Ghana.24 The astronomer Al Fazari, writing before ad 800, enumerates many African countries referring to the territory of Ghana as “the land of gold.”25 The geographer Al Khwarizmi (before ad 833) places Ghana on his map, which is reported to be a mere copy of Ptolemy’s.26 It is Yakoubi (ad 872) who mentions the king of Ghana, gold mines in his territory, and vassal kings under his domination.27 A little over a century later, Ibn Hawqal (c. 977), having visited Aoudaghost, mentions that the kings of that town have relations with the king of Ghana, which he describes as being the richest on earth because of his gold.28 El Bekri is the best-known source of information for the medieval Western Sudan providing descriptions of the kingdom, its court, its economy, its religions, and its army.29

Two more recent texts written in Arabic in Timbuktu by local native scholars that provide us information about Ghana are the Tarikh el Fettach and the Tarikh es Sudan. Mahmoud Kâti and one of his grandsons, of Soninke stock, wrote the Tarikh el Fettach between 1655 and 1665. In this Tarikh, Kâti informs that the rise of the Mali Empire, a former vassal to Ghana, came only after the fall of the Kayamaga dynasty (kaïhou: meaning gold and maga king). The Tarikh el Fettach mentions that twenty Kayamaga have reigned before Prophet Muhammad’s flight to Medina known as Hegira (ad 622) and that Koumbi was the capital of the kingdom.30 Es Sa’di wrote the Tarikh es Sudan in 1655 and describes Ghana as a big westernmost country toward the ocean where the first prince was the Qaïamagha with a capital named Ghana. He adds that twenty-two princes reigned before the Hegira and twenty-two afterward. Es Sa’di claims that the kings were white and their subjects were Oua-Kori (Wakore, another term for Soninke).31 Several authors (Yakoubi ad 872, Maçoudi c. ad 944, Ibn Hawqal c. 977, Al Birouni c. 1036) describe Ghana as a land of black people, and the North African historian El Bekri [a.k.a. Al Bakri] describes the religion of these negroes as paganism.32

Later writers argue in support of the Soninke background of the king of Ghana as well as for much of his court (Levtzion, Bathily).33 Munson’s archaeological research not only supports the Soninke origin of Ghana, but argues for Ghana’s being the heir to a complex prehistoric political system.34 Munson divides his research in the Dhar Tichitt-Oualata region of Southeastern Mauritania into several phases the first of which, the Naghez Phase, was carbon dated about 1100 bc The villages during this phase consisted of roughly circular compounds connected clearly by winding streets that continue to be a pattern with the modern Soninke, Malinke, and Bambara.35 Monod’s findings based on ceramic similarities argued for a direct continuity from the Neolithic of the Oualata area to the Aser.36

Munson writes that pockets of Negro cultivators speak or at least until recently spoke the Aser dialect of the Soninke in much of the northern two-thirds of the old Ghana (Nema, Oualata, Tichitt, Affole, Assaba, and Tangant regions).37 Soninke very likely was the language spoken in these regions, now dominated by Moors who speak the Hassaniyya dialect of Arabic.38 Language definitely argues for Ghana’s kings being black. The title Kayamaga, King of Gold, can still be related to today’s Soninke language, kanŋe meaning gold, and manŋa king.39

Ghana was already a powerful trading state by the early 9th century. Ghana originally meant war chief, one of the titles of the ruler of Wagadu (the Soninke term for the state). Its rise to prominence was probably due to the need to organize under one king the gold trade with its northern Saharan neighbors. As Ghana grew in wealth and power, it expanded to incorporate neighboring smaller kingdoms, levied taxes, and created a powerful army. From what we learn in Al-Bakri’s description of Ghana, the ruler lived in Kumbi Saleh Ghana’s capital, but as a follower of Ghana’s ancestral religions, he allowed the Muslims to build their own town some distance from his. The northern traders were guaranteed safety and hospitality so long as they abode by the laws of the land and paid their taxes. The king had 200,000 warriors with “more than 40,000 of them armed with bow and arrow.” Davidson reports from North African sources that the real strength of Ghana’s armies came from their power in iron-pointed spears making them technological superior to their neighbors.40

Around 1050, Ghana began to suffer from Berber warrior invasions from the Mauritanian Sahara. These Berbers followed a strict form of Islam under the leadership of Abdullah ibn Yasin who and his followers were known as “the people of the hermitage, Al-Murabethin, or Almoravids.” They conquered many areas including Morocco, and Al-Andalous in Spain before waging a long war against Ghana whose capital fell in 1076 followed by much chaos as Ghana fell apart.41 Conrad argues that the Almoravid conquest had limited consequences on Ghana. The struggle for power between the sons and nephews of the Almoravid commander, who died in 1087, destroyed the Almoravid unity as Ghana regained its commercial and political dominance.42

Soninke Migrations

Manchuelle mentions a saying in Senegal which states that “when Americans landed on the moon, a Soninke was already there.”43 This saying or similar metaphors abound in West Africa in describing the Soninke diasporas. The routes may have changed along with the means of communication as well as the activities that sustained the migrations but the ethos remains the same.

Soninke migrations began long before the rise of the Ghana Empire and continued unabated to the present. Historical linguistic research, archaeological research, and toponymy can contribute further to our understanding of early Soninke migration. Ancient cities like Ja (Dia) and Jenne (Djenne) were founded by the Soninke and possibly many ancient towns and villages that might have disappeared. Jenne derives from Janna (Djanna), the Nono (Marka) way for saying “Little Ja” (Monteil).44 Archaeological investigations of the Jenne-Jeno (ancient Jenne) region demonstrated that this early site of Jenne was occupied since the 3rd century bc.45

In addition to archaeology, the toponymy and oral history of people who claim to have come from Wagadu all over much of West Africa can help contribute to the study of Soninke migrations. An example of Soninke toponymy is Lake Faguibine (Black Lake) in the Goundam region of Mali from fanŋe (river), binne (black). Sometimes, another Mande dialect might have been used in toponymical description even where the early settlers are Soninke, for example, Soso (: horse, so: house/country, horse country in Bambara, in reference to Sumaworo Kante’s kingdom), Markala (Marka: Soninke, la: at, another Soninke settlement). Oral stories indicate genetic relationship between Soninke and other ethnicities in geographical locations that are far from Soninke country.

In a long distant African past, Soninke migrations followed the trade routes of cola, gold and, slaves [and salt].46 Traveling southbound in caravans of donkeys loaded with salt and other goods from the southern edge of the Sahara, they traded with both people of the savannah and the forest and contributed to an economic and cultural symbiosis between the Sahara, the West African Sahel and Forest. On the return northbound trip, the Soninke would bring cola, gold, slaves, ivory, and grains. Rock salt from the Sahara became a special currency for marriage in the Sahel and a preferred offering for the divinities and religious objects of the forest at the southern end of the trade route.

The Soninke in Ancient West African HistoryClick to view larger

Figure 3. Trade routes of the Western Sahara c. 1000–1500. Goldfields are indicated by light brown shading. Map data from Natural Earth. Creative Commons License (CC0 1.0).

Cola is also a special currency entering marriage negotiations, naming ceremonies, funeral and religious rites in the Sahel. Like rock salt in the forest, cola is one of the preferred offerings to divinities and religious objects in the Sahel. The Soninke benefited a lot from the middleman position that they occupied between the three main environmental zones of West Africa.

As many of them embraced Islam as one consequence of the Almoravid conquest, a marabout caste arose and began to migrate out following the trade routes. The clerical Islamic families of the Mali Empire who bear Soninke patronyms Sise, Kumah, Jane, Ture, and Berete are prominent members of the thirty-three founding clans of the Mali Empire according to the Mande Epic and indications that the Soninke engaged in trades other than material goods.47 The Maninka-Mory (lit. Maninka clerics) of Guinea and Mali are in fact ethnic Soninke traders, early converts in Islam who abandoned their language for Malinke, Jula, and Bamana. Many early Mande scholars living in the ancient cities of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, and beyond are Soninke. Included among these were Mohamed Bagayogo from Jenne (teacher of Timbuktu’s famed scholar Ahmad Baba); Salih Jawara from Tindirma (later settled in Timbuktu); Fudi Sanu of Jenne; Mahmoud Kâti, the author of the Tarikh El Fettach; contributors and heirs to the radiance of the University of Sankore; and Askia Muhammad himself, the Songhay emperor, is Soninke.48 In his court, Askia Muhammad had gesere (Soninke bards) and he surrounded himself with Islamic scholars, many of whom were Soninke or Wangara.49

As suggested above, the Songhay royal title of Sonni may have evolved from Sununnke (pagan warrior). The enigma of the origin of the Songhay Sonni dynasty remains unsolved. Very little is known of them before Sonni Ali the Great’s coming into power in 1464. His father was Sonni Ma Daw or Mohamed Da’o and his mother was from the Farou region of Sokoto where he spent his childhood exposed to and embracing ancestral beliefs. Until Sonni Ali’s accidental death in 1492, he remained hostile to the Muslim establishment, molesting and killing highly learned clerics in Timbuktu.50 That he kept Askia Mohamed, a devout Muslim, as governor of Hombori region may be one piece of the puzzle in that there might have been blood or ethnic affinities between the Sonni and the Soninke. Askia Muhammad would later overthrow Ali’s son Aboubakar Daw, a.k.a. Sonni Bâro, to establish his own dynasty. Askia even sent Mahmoud Kâti, another Soninke, as a mediator to Sonni Bâro during this struggle to succeed Soni Ali.51 Part of Songhay oral history retains that Mohamed’s overthrow of his cousin’s regime met his own sister’s opposition when they protested “A shi te a” (a: s/he, shi: will not, te: be/become, a: it, meaning “he will not become it [king].” According to this legend, “A shi te a” thus became the name of the Askia dynasty. Cissoko (1975) suggests that the term Askia might be a Soninke or Berber word, the meaning of which is not clear.52

The Songhay emperor, Askia Muhammad, was a Soninke of either Silla or Ture patronym from as far out west as the Futa Toro in Senegal. Oral Soninke historians further claim that the main Songhay patronym Mayiga derives from Soninke patronym Marega. There are two main surnames associated with the Songhay ethnicity: the Mayiga who are the original Songhay and the Ture who are the descendants of the Moroccan conquerors. While the Songhay call themselves Soŋey, they call the Ture Arma. Arima is an original Soninke word meaning Almoravid. The Zarma of Niger, who speak a mutually intelligible dialect with the Songhay but strongly claim to be a different ethnicity, call themselves descendants “Dinga Sillance.”53 The legend of their migration via the territory between the Senegal and Niger rivers has been preserved in Soninke by the local bards called djassarés (from Soninke gesere). The local bards recite the text of the legend in Soninke and proceed to the translation of simultaneous interpretation to their non-Soninke understanding Zarma audience.54 The mother of the founder of the Segu Bambara kingdom Bitòn Kulibali was Sunun Sakɔ, an ethnic Soninke. Similarly, the history of Segu is filled with names of Soninke towns and villages.

The Soninke were and still are famous as travelers and traders in Africa and in the rest of the world. For most male Soninke youth, travel in search of wealth and adventure was an obligatory rite of passage. Some of these travels were temporary but many became permanent as established colonies (e.g., Jenne) along trade routes grew and prospered. Many historians, and the Soninke lore itself, mention the fall of the Ghana Empire under the Almoravid yoke as the onset of the Soninke migration. The Almoravids’ conquest may have created great distress and dramatic migration patterns, but it came long after traditional migratory patterns were already established. This was particularly true for their permanent migration into the Middle and Upper Niger River regions.

The onset of the expansion of the Mali Empire in the 13th century coincides with the waves of the Soninke migrations due to recurrent droughts in Ghana (Niane). Given that the founders of the Mali Empire were Mande like the Soninke, the latter were just being absorbed by their former vassal kingdom. Sunjata Keyita, the founder of the Mali Empire, had actually gone in exile in Ghana from where he obtained help to conquer Mali back from the Soso king around 1240. By then, many Soninke settlements in Mali that might have previously been outposts of Ghana had probably become permanent. Similarly, the ancient cities Ja, Jenne, Tendirma, and Gao and possibly many other settlements that might have disappeared would have had Soninke populations long before the rise of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay.

Every environmental, political or economic rupture in the past many centuries have contributed to Soninke further expanding and settling more permanently into the territories where they had established trade networks. According to Lovejoy, the Soninke had reached as far east as Hausa country since the last decades of the 14th century.55 Though the meaning of Wangara had grown increasingly complex to incorporate other groups, those who introduced Islam and the monetary system based on gold and cowries to the Hausa were of Mande origin. The Hausa words for money, kurd’i or kud’i, and for cola, goro, are Mande origin.56

As Songhay declined during the last decade of the 16th century following the Moroccan invasion, further Soninke and Jula migrations increased from Jenne, on the Bani (a tributary of the Niger) toward the south.57 Following ancient established routes from Timbuktu to the kola-bearing forest regions in the South, some Marka (not all of them Muslim) began to migrate into the Sourou and Black Volta valleys at the beginning of the 17th century. The beginnings of Islam in the region called Dafina (Dafin country) were associated with this trade route.58 This route continued through Bobo Dioulasso (Burkina Faso), Kong (Côte d’Ivoire) to Begho (modern Ghana). According to Wilks (1961) the Mande arrival dates in Begho cannot be ascertained but they definitely long antedated the advent of the Ashanti Kingdom (late 16th century), the creation of the Gonja state by Mande invaders (mid-16th century). Wilks concludes that evidence tends to support that the Mande Jula colonization of Begho must have occurred in the early 15th century. One of the consequences of the extension of the Niger-Begho route to the coast had been the rise of the new kingdom of Ashanti, and important component of the history of modern Ghana.59

By the time the great empires of the Western Sudan had collapsed, the Soninke were established in most of the territories that later became French, British, and Portuguese colonies in West Africa. They had previously been trading partners with many European trading companies on the coast, selling slaves and gold and buying European goods. As mentioned, with the arrival of European colonizers many Soninke became long-term migrant indigenous sailors and seasonal peanut farmers in Senegal and Gambia (Manchuelle). During the whole colonial period they traveled throughout Africa and established colonies in most West and Central African countries irrespective of the colonial powers, dealing in gold, diamonds and other precious stones. By the time African countries achieved independence the Soninke were established in much of East and Southern Africa. The epic journeys of these people with a culture of migration continue to be told in the songs where they are said to be the Jula of Lusaka, Kinsasha, Monrovia, Paris, London, or Tokyo, just to name a few. In 1962, approximately 72 percent of automobile plant laborers, sanitation workers, etc., mainly in Paris, France, were Soninke, and it is not uncommon to find Soninke villages where nearly 60 percent of all adult male population is absent at all times making them West Africa’s population with the highest migration rate.60

The Dynamic Ethnicity of the Soninke

The Soninke are an ancient ethnicity in the Western Sudan and may be the origin of many other West African groups of the Mande linguistic family. Since ancient times, the Soninke have been associated with long distance trade, eventually making travel and migration an obligatory rite of passage for young Soninke males. They established colonies far from their original land of Wagadu (The Ghana Empire), mixed with other groups, sometimes losing their language and original ethnic names, and established market networks between the various ethnic and environmental zones along the trade routes. The rise and fall of the Ghana Empire affected Soninke migrations differently and they were able to adapt to the new conditions and benefit from it. Even the fall of the empire under the Almoravids in the second half of the 11th century and the subsequent conversion to Islam opened the opportunity for them to become Islamic clerics, proselytizers, and advisers to Ghana’s subsequent heirs: the Mali and Songhay Empires. Many other kingdoms small and big in the West Sudan are cultural heirs to the Ghana Empire and peoples. By the time of European colonialism, the Soninke used their fine-tuned practice to spread through the rest of Africa and the world. Presently Soninke are found on all continents with sizeable colonies in many African capitals, Western Europe, North America, and Asia. Given the constant dispersal of the Soninke population, maintaining common identity has always been a problem. The recurring Soninke diaspora leads to absorption of new languages and cultures in spite of the transnational child rearing practices.

Discussion of the Literature

The literature on the Soninke is a very rich one given the early interest Arab writers gave to their original land. This literature starting from the late 10th to the 16th and 17th centuries are likely to be found in many major works on the Ghana Empire. Many of these Arab sources discussed the history, political, social, and cultural conditions of Ghana though their main interest was the trade in gold, slaves, and other goods that became the raison d’être of the two-way trans-Saharan trade. One late Arab source was written by Ibn Battuta, a Muslim Berber from Morocco, at the sunset of the Mali Empire (1352–1353) thus more than two centuries after Ghana’s demise. Ibn Battuta’s accounts of the peoples he met and places he visited in Ancient Ghana and then Mali remains a treasure that will continue to contribute to academic knowledge on the Western Sudan. Ibn Battuta’s work is anthropological, linguistic, economic, historical, social, political, and even botanical. The backdrop of Battuta’s work informs us that many of his African traveling companions, hosts, and interpreters must have been bilingual Soninke/Arabic speakers.61 Much later in the 17th century, local authors in the Timbuktu region writing in Arabic give us additional information on Ghana long after its decline. Though the authenticity of some of the information from these local authors can be questioned, they complement all the previous knowledge we have of Ghana and the Soninke. More importantly, these are documents generated locally by natives, and Mahmoud Kâti, the author of the Tarikh El Fettash, was a Soninke himself.

Portuguese sources coincide with British and with other Arab writers’ accounts, and they give us a glimpse on the dynamics of Soninke trade on the West African coasts where Soninke dealt with other Europeans including the British.62 Many people described in Portuguese and British account as Mandingoes or Wangara were most probably Soninke stock. These sources focused on commerce, trade, and diplomacy while through them additional details on the Soninke can be filtered.

The works of pre-colonial explorers such as Mungo Park (1795 to early 1800s), René Caillé (1820s), Eugène Mage (1863–1866) cover many ethnic groups and much information can be obtained on the Soninke as traders, Islamic clerics, and advisers to kings.63 Valuable insight can be obtained on the dynamics of Soninke interactions with groups in territories that these Europeans explored through surnames, ethic names, towns, and villages passed through.

In the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, colonial and post-colonial periods, research on Soninke continued in the history of Ghana logically following Arab documents in attempts to reconstruct the societies, cultures, and economies of the Soninke in relation to the other groups involved in the trans-Saharan trades, including slavery and the spread of Islam.64 Many of the colonial administration’s civil and military personnel wrote monographs and kept archival documents that are found in the capital cities of independent African countries. Colonialism opened the door for archaeological research in Ghana.65 Some archaeological works have been done with the help of foreign researchers and funds but many other known archaeological sites beg for attention. Very little work has been done in Soninke linguistics though early on it was known to be a Mande language. Delafosse has produced several major volumes on Mande language and its dialects focusing on Malinke, Bambara, and Dioula.66 The German scholar Frobenius who has done research all over Africa from 1904 to 1935 in history, art, and culture is also a valuable source for Soninke history, art, and folklore: an example of this being his recording of “Gassire’s lute” in 1921.67

Recent research efforts on the Soninke open new frontiers but also continue to fill the gaps of generations of researchers and writers going back to the origin of the Ghana Empire. Many of these continue to be devoted to Soninke history (Levtzion); issues of migration (Whitehouse); the Soninke diasporas inside and outside Africa (Manchuelle; Timeira; Whitehouse), slavery (Meillassoux), changes in Soninke society and how they are coping with in legally post-slavery societies (Bellagamba and Klein; Bellagamba, Green, and Klein), analyzing unexplored sources and challenging previous work such as in a recent case concerning the Tarikh El Fettash (Nobili and Mathee).68

Primary Sources

Colonial archives, whether in former colonizing or colonized countries, tend to be good sources for information on census, social issues, and cultures throughout much of the European colonial presence. Many of these have become regional or national archives. Many African countries have begun digitization programs for their national archives. These programs are still in their infancy and these centers are understaffed and underequipped. A major archival source from colonial times for the so-called French West Africa is the I.F.A.N in Dakar.

Because of their early exposure to writing in Arabic, some ancient Soninke clerical families have kept written records across generations. Many of these are private and unknown to the general public. Sometimes the writing is ajami, Arabic script but the language is Soninke. Many such sources exist but have not yet been exposed to academics who could exploit them.

Archival audio and video materials are good sources though the sound and image quality might have deteriorated depending on the level of conservation, especially if these are in Africa. National radio and television offices are the best places for finding such material. Many universities in Europe and North America, as well as museums, could be an invaluable source for audio and video files even for Africa.

Since the Soninke are primarily an oral society, this being true even for the literate people, oral sources remain important. The Soninke bards (gesere and jaare) are knowledgeable about all aspects of Soninke life. Tapes on Soninke history told by the gesere and jaare are available on the markets both for living and deceased bards. The same is true for Soninke music.

Further Reading


Bradley, Phillip N., Raynaut, Claude, and Torrealba, Jorge, eds. The Guidimaka Region of Mauritania. London: The War on Want, 1977.Find this resource:

Goody, Jack. The Ethnography of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast West of the White Volta. London: Colonial Office, 1954.Find this resource:

Levtzion, Nehemia. Muslims and Chiefs in West Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968.Find this resource:

Meillassoux, Claude, ed. The Development of Indigenous Trade and Markets in West Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press for the International African Institute, 1971.Find this resource:

Quiminal, Catherine. Gens d’ici, gens d’ailleurs: Migrations Soninké et transformations villageoises. Paris: C. Bourgeois, 1991.Find this resource:

Razy, Élodie. Naitre et Devenir: Anthropologie de la petite enfance en pays Soninké (Mali). Nanterre, France: Société d’Ethnologie, 2007.Find this resource:

Sanneh, Lamin O. The Jakhanke: The History of Islamic Clerical People of the Senegambia. London: International African Institute, 1979.Find this resource:


Arnaud, Robert. “La singulière légende des Soninké: Traditions orales sur le royaume de Koumbi et sur les divers autres royaumes soudanais.” L’islam et la politique musulmane française en Afrique occidentale francaise. Paris: Annuaires et Mémoires du C.E.H.S., 1912.Find this resource:

Bathily, Abdoulaye. “Notes socio-historiques sur l’ancien royaume Soninke du Gadiaga.” B. IFAN 31, 1969.Find this resource:

Bathily, Abdoulaye. “A Discussion of the Traditions of Wagadu with Some Reference to Ancient Ghana.” B. IFAN (sér. B) XXXVII, no. i (1975): 1–49.Find this resource:

Chastenet, Monique. “Les migrations soninkés dans la longue durée: Stratégies et identités [note critique].” Cahiers d’Études Africaines 39, no. 153 (1999): 169–177.Find this resource:

Daniel, Fernand. “Etude sur les Soninkés ou Sarakolés.” Anthropos, 4 (1910): 27–49.Find this resource:

Dieterlen, Germaine. “Premier aperçu sur les cultes des Soninké émigrés au Mandé,” in Systèmes de pensées en Afrique noire, Cahiers du L.A., 221, E.P.H.E., Ve Section C.N.R.S (Ivry, 1975): 5–18.Find this resource:

Meillassoux, Claude, Doucoure, I., and Simagha, D. “Légende de la dispersion des kusa (Epopée Soninké).” IFAN (Dakar, 1967).Find this resource:

Monteil, Charles. “La légende de Ouagadou et l’Origine des Soninké,” Mémoires IFAN 23 (1953): 359–408.Find this resource:

Perinbam, B. Marie. “Notes on Dyula Origins and Nomenclature,” Bulletin de l’I.F.A.N. (ser. B) 36, no. 4 (1974): 676–690.Find this resource:

Pollet, Eric, and Winter, Grace. “La Société Soninké (Dyahuna, Mali).” Université de Bruxelles Ed. de l’Institut de Sociologie, 1971.Find this resource:

Saint-Père, J. H. “Les Sarakollé du Guidimaka,” Comité d’études historiques et scientifiques de l’Afrique Ocidentale Française. Paris, 1925.Find this resource:

Wilks, Ivor. “Wangara, Akan and Portuguese in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Cenutries. II. The Struggle for Trade.” Journal of African History 23, no.4 (1982): 463–472.Find this resource:


(1.) Oudiary Makan Dantioko, Dictionnaire Français-Soninke (Bamako, Mali: Editions Jamana, 2003), 9.

(2.) Djibril Tamsir Niane, Recherches sur L’Empire du Mali au Moyen Age (Conakry, Guinée-: Institut National de Recherches et de Documentation, 1962), 65.

(3.) Vyacheslav M. Misyugin and Valentin F. Vydrine, “Some Archaic Elements in the Manding Epic Tradition: The ‘Sunjata Epic’ Case,” in “The Production and Reproduction of Sunjata,” Charles S. Bird (unpublished manuscript, 1991).

(4.) Maurice Delafosse, “Le Gâna et le Mali et l’emplacement de leurs capitales,” Bull. Com. d’Études hist. et sci. de l’A.O.F. (1924): 479–542, quoted in R. A. Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” Africa: Journal of the International Institute 24, no. 3 (July 1954): 205.

(5.) Richard L. Roberts, Warriors, Merchants and Slaves: The State and the Economy in the Middle Niger Valley, 1700–1914 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987), 6.

(6.) Martha B. Kendal, Mamadou Soumare, and Saloum Soumare, Soninke: Special Skills Handbook (Brattleboro, VT: Peace Corps Language Handbook Series, 1980), 29–30.

(7.) Kendal, Soumare, and Soumare, Soninke: Special Skills Handbook, 21.

(8.) David Dalby, “Introduction: Distribution and Nomenclature of the Manding Peoples and Their Language,” in Papers on the Manding, ed. Carleton T. Hodge, African Series, vol. 3 (Bloomington, Indiana University, 1971), 1–13, quoted in Barbara E. Frank, Mande Potters and Leatherworkers: Art and Heritage in West Africa (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998), 8; and Charles Bird, “The Development of Mandekan (Manding): A Study of the Role of Extra-Linguistic Factors in Linguistic Change,” in Language and History in Africa, ed. David Dalby (London: Frank Cass, 1970), 146–159, quoted by Frank, Mande Potters and Leatherworkers, 8–9.

(9.) Kendal, Soumare, and Soumare, Soninke: Special Skills Handbook, 21.

(10.) Gesere sing. (geseru, pl.) are the bards of the Wage (free men, nobles) and specialize in the genealogy of the latter while the jaare (jaaru, pl.) are social brokers mostly involved in conflict resolutions, marriage arrangements, and praise singing; see Dantioko, Dictionnaire Français-Soninke, 74, 86–87.

(11.) Kendal, Soumare, and Soumare, Soninke: Special Skills Handbook, 34.

(12.) François Manchuelle, “‘The Patriarchal Ideal’ of Soninke Labor Migrants from Slave Owners to Employers of Free Labor,” Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines 23, no.1 (1989): 106–125.

(13.) Roberts, Warriors, Merchants and Slaves.

(14.) Domba Blegna, Les masques dans la société marka de Fobiri et ses environs: Origines, culte, art (Stuttgart, Germany: F. Steiner, 1990), in Hill-Thomas, “Silk in the Sahel: Tuntun and Marka Faso Dan Fani in Northwestern Burkina Faso,” African Arts 45, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 60; and Genevieve Hill-Thomas, “Silk in the Sahel,” 58–69.

(15.) Frank, Mande Potters and Leatherworkers, 149; and Roberts, Warriors, Merchants and Slaves, 172–173, 199.

(16.) Frank, Mande Potters and Leatherworkers, 141–142.

(17.) John Hunwick, West Africa, Islam and the Arab World (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2006), 16.

(18.) Basil Davidson, The Growth of African Civilization: A History of West Africa 1000–1800 (London: Longman, 1965), 36.

(19.) Kendal, Soumare, and Soumare, Soninke, Special Skills Handbook, 33.

(20.) Slaves in Soninke Society could migrate to work and could own slaves of their own as in West African customs. Manchuelle, “‘The Patriarchal Ideal,’” 113.

(21.) Manchuelle, “‘The Patriarchal Ideal,’” 106–110.

(22.) Paolo Gaibazzi, “Cultivating Hustlers: The Agrarian Ethos of Soninke Migration,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 39, no. 2 (2013): 260, 264, 269.

(23.) David. C. Conrad, Empires of Medieval West Africa: Ghana, Mali and Songhay, rev. ed. (New York: Chelsea House, 2010), 23.

(24.) Ibn Abd Al Hakam, Conquête de l’Afrique du Nord et de l’Espagne, trans. A. Gateau, (Alger, Algeria: Carbonel, 1942), 119, quoted in R. A. Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” 201.

(25.) Al Fazari, in Prince Y. Kamal, Monumenta Cartographica Africae et Aegypti, Cairo, t. iii, f. I (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1930), 510, quoted in Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” 201.

(26.) Al Khwarizmi, quoted in Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” 201.

(27.) Yakoubi, in Prince Y. Kamal, t. iii, f. I, 540 seq., quoted in Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” 201.

(28.) Ibn Hawqal and Prince Y. Kamal, Monumenta Cartographica Africae et Aegypti, Cairo, t. iii, f. 2 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1932), 647 seq., quoted in Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” 201.

(29.) El Bekri, Description de l’Afrique Septentrionale, trans. Mac Guckin de Slane, 2eme ed. (Alger, Algeria: Jourdan, 1911), quoted in Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” 201.

(30.) M. Kâti, Tarikh el Fettash, trans. O. Houdas and Maurice Delafosse (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1913), quoted in Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” 203.

(31.) Es-Saʻdi, Tarikh es Sudan, trans. O. Houdas (Paris: Ernest, Leroux, 1900), quoted in Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” 204.

(32.) Maçoudi, quoted in Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” 204; and Al Birouni, quoted in Mauny, “The Question of Ghana,” 204.

(33.) Levtzion, Nehemia, Ancient Ghana and Mali, Studies in African History 7 (London: Methuen, 1973); and Abdoulaye Bathily, “A Discussion of the Traditions of Wagadu with Some Reference to Ancient Ghana.” B. IFAN (sér. B) XXXVII, i (1975): 1–49.

(34.) Patrick J. Munson, “Archaeology and the Prehistoric Origins of the Ghana Empire,” Journal of African History 24, no. 4 (1980).

(36.) Théodore Monod, Meharées: Explorations au vrai Sahara (Paris: Je Sers, 1937), 230, quoted in Munson, “Archaeology and the Prehistoric Origins of the Ghana Empire,” 463.

(37.) Munson, “Archaeology and the Prehistoric Origins of the Ghana Empire.”

(38.) Munson, “Archaeology and the Prehistoric Origins of the Ghana Empire,” 463.

(39.) The words kanŋe and manŋa ((Dantioko, Dictionnaire Français-Soninke, 102, 128) are the modern Soninke rendering of what the Tarikh el Fettash call kaïhou: meaning gold and maga king.

(40.) Davidson, The Growth of African Civilization, 35–37.

(41.) Davidson, The Growth of African Civilization, 42–43.

(42.) Conrad, Empires of Medieval West Africa, 38.

(43.) Manchuelle, “‘The Patriarchal Ideal’ of Soninke Labor Migrants,” 108.

(44.) Charles Monteil, Monographie de Djénné (Tulle, 1903), in Roderick J. McIntosh and Susan Keech McIntosh, “The Inland Niger Delta before the Empire of Mali: Evidence from Jenne-Jeno,” Journal of African History 2, no.1 (1981): 9.

(45.) Roderick J. McIntosh and Susan Keech McIntosh, “Recent Archaeological Research and Dates from West Africa,” Journal of African History 27, no. 3 (1986): 427.

(46.) Kendal, Soumare, and Soumare, Soninke: Special Skills Handbook, 33.

(47.) Lovejoy, 189, writes that by 1600 Ture and Sisse surnames were associated with groups of Muslim clerics in Borgu.

(48.) Alpha Salih Diawara originally came from Tendirma and was a friend of Askia Muhammad’s brother, the Kanfari Amar Komdiâgo. According to Cissoko, he played a very important role close to the Askia. Sékéné Mody Cissoko, Tombouctou Et L’Empire Songhay: Epanouissement du Soudan Nigérien aux XVe–XVIe siècles (Les Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1975), 81. One year after he came back from pilgrimage (1497–1498), Askia Muhammad named Fudi Muhammad Fudiki Sanu al-Wankori as the qādī (judge) of Jenne. Michael A Gomez, “Timbuktu under Imperial Songhay: A Reconsideration of Autonomy,” Journal of African History 31, no. 1 (1990): 6. Sanu is a derivative of the Soninke patronym Sanogo or Saganogo.

(49.) Cissoko, Tombouctou Et L’Empire Songhay, 101, 81.

(50.) Cissoko, Tombouctou Et L’Empire Songhay, 4–45, 51, 54–55.

(51.) Cissoko, Tombouctou Et L’Empire Songhay, 77.

(52.) Cissoko, Tombouctou Et L’Empire Songhay, 88–89.

(53.) Dinga is the ancestor of the Soninke who came from East to establish in Wagadu according to Soninke myth of origin.

(54.) Fatimata Mounkaïla, “Ancestors from the East in Sahelo-Sudanese Myth: Dinga Soninké, Zabarkâne Zarma, and Others,” trans. Jeffrey S. Ankrom, in Research in African Literatures, ed. John Conteh-Morgan (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004), 13–21.

(56.) Lovejoy, “The Role of the Wangara,” 183, 180–181. The Soninke word for money is gode while woro and goro are used by many Mande people to refer to cola.

(57.) Raymond Mauny, Tableau géographique ouest-africaine du moyen âge (Dakar, 1961): 499, in Myron J. Echenberg, “Jihad and State-Building in Late Nineteenth Century Upper Volta: The Rise and Fall of the Marka State of Al-Kari of Boussé,” Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines 3, no. 3 (Autumn 1969): 536.

(58.) Echenberg, “Jihad and State-Building in Late Nineteenth Century Upper Volta,” 536.

(59.) Ivor Wilks, “The Northern Factor in Ashanti History: Begho and the Mande,” Journal of African History 2, no. 1 (1961): 28–29, 33.

(60.) Souleymane Diarra, “Les travailleurs africains noirs en France,” Bulletin de l’I.F.A.N. XXX, Série B (1968): 902, quoted in Manchuelle, “The Patriarchal Ideal,” 90; and Francine Kane and André Lericollais, “L’émigration en pays soninké,” Cahiers de l’O.R.S.T.O.M., Série sciences humaines XII, no. ii (1975): 177–187, quoted in Manchuelle, “The Patriarchal Ideal,” 90.

(61.) Ibn Battuta, for example, discusses the Islamic practices he encountered in Mali, the clerical family names of Ṣaganaghu and Tūrï (Soninke surnames Saganogo and Ture). In the court of the Mali King he mentions receiving two sacks of fūnī and a calabash or ghartī, in Said Hamdun and Noël King, Ibn Battuta in Black Africa (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1998), 41, 44. Here, Ibn Battuta uses Soninke words for the cereal called fonio and shea butter. The French word karité (shea butter) is a loan word from xarate.

(62.) Valentim Fernandes, Description de la Côte d’Afrique de Ceuta au Sénégal, trans. P. de Cenival and Th. Monod (Paris: Larose, 1938); and Teixeira da Mota, The Mande Trade in Costa da Mina according to Portuguese Documents until the Mid-Sixteenth Century (London: SOAS, 1972).

(63.) Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa in 1795, 1796, and 1797 (London: John Murray, 1799); Mungo Park, The Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa in the Year 1805, in The Travels of Mungo Park, ed. Ronald Miller (London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1960); René Caillé, Voyages à Tombuctou I (Paris: Éditions La Découverte, 1985); René Caillé, Voyages à Tombuctou II (Paris: Éditions La Découverte, 1985); and Eugène Mage, Voyage au Soudan Occidental (1863–1866) (Paris: Éditions Karthala).

(64.) Raymond Mauny, Tableau Géographique de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (Dakar, Africa: IFAN, 1961).

(65.) A. Bonnel de Mezières, “Recherches de l’emplacement de Ghana (fouilles à Koumbi et à Settah),” Comptes rendus de l’Académie des inscriptions et des belles lettres, XII (1920): 227–263; and P. Thomassey and R. Mauny, “Campagnes de fouilles de 1950 à Koumbi Saleh (Ghana ?),” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Afrique Noire (sér. B), XVIII, nos. i–ii (1956): 117–140.

(66.) Maurice Delafosse, La langue Mandingue et ses dialectes (Paris : P. Geuthner, 1929).

(67.) Leo Frobenius, “Tales from the Sudan: Gassire’s lute (Mali),” in Leo Frobenius on African History, Art and Culture: An Anthology, ed. Eike Haberland (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2007), 140–147.

(68.) Nehemia Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali (London: Methuen,1973); François Manchuelle, Willing Migrants: Soninke Labor Diasporas 1848–1960 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1997); M. Timeira, Les Soninkés en France (Paris: Karthala); Bruce Whitehouse, Migrants and Strangers in an African City (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012); Bruce Whitehouse, “Centripetal Forces: Reconciling Cosmopolitan Lives and Local Loyalty in a Malian Transnational Social Field,” in West African Migrations: Transnational and Global Pathways in a New Century, ed. M. O. Okome and O. Vaughn (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Claude Meillassoux, The Anthropology of Slavery: The Womb of Iron and Gold, trans. Alide Dasnois (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Alice Bellagamba and Martin Klein, “Ancestry and Religious Discrimination in the Gambia,” in The Bitter Legacy: African Slavery Past and Present, ed. A. Bellagamba, M. Klein, and S. Green (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2013); A. Bellagamba, S. Greene, and M. Klein, eds., African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013); and Mauro Nobili and Mohamed Shahid Mathee, “Towards a New Study of the So-Called Tārīkh al-fattash,” History in Africa 42 (2015): 37–73.