Introduction / History
Côte d'Ivoire is home to about 100 distinct ethnic groups, with the Ivorian Malinke representing approximately 6% of the population. They are closely related to a number of other groups in the area, and their language belongs to the Mande sub-group. About 11 million Africans speak a Manding language; about two-thirds use it as their main language. Manding oral literature is some of the best in the world, but few Malinke are literate.
Most Manding speakers can trace their roots back to the once great Mali Empire. This empire was created by several Mandinka clans in the second millennium. It grew in power in the thirteenth century under the rule of Sundiata, the "lion king," who unified the kingdom and began to conquer surrounding peoples. In the fifteenth century, Portuguese explorers reached the coast and began trading in slaves and ivory. Ancestors of most of the present population of Cote d'Ivoire probably moved into the area from the northeast and east in the 1700s and 1800s.
What are their lives like?
The Malinke are mainly full-time subsistence farmers. Rice is an important staple crop, along with millet, sorghum, and peanuts. When they have time, the men are also involved in other activities. Some have small part-time businesses to supplement their incomes. They may keep goats, sheep, bees, poultry, and dogs. In addition, they keep cattle for prestige, as bride-price payments, or as sacrifices.
Men usually do the heavy farm work, while the women do both domestic and farm chores. Women have the jobs of cooking, cleaning, tending to the young children, and gathering forest products. Men are usually responsible for hunting, fishing, and holding leadership positions, such as headmen or imans (religious leaders).
The Malinke are a patrilineal society, with the oldest male as the leader of the lineage. A "minor lineage" consists of a man and his immediate family. A "major lineage" is made up of the houses of brothers and their families. The next larger unit is the village settlement, which contains the houses of men of the same clan name. The men of one village attend ritual meetings together.
Malinke marriages were commonly arranged when the girl was still an infant. Today, marriages are still arranged, but not so early. The groom must give premarital and post-marital bride-service to the bride's family in addition to paying a bride-price. There is unlimited polygamy (having multiple wives) among the Malinke, but men rarely have more than three wives.
There are three divisions within Malinke society: those who are free-born, the artisans, and the slaves. The free-born class originally consisted of Malinke nobility. Today, it consists of farmers, merchants, Muslim clerics, and others. The artisan class includes blacksmiths, leather workers, and griots (praise singers). Artisans are revered for their expertise and craft secrets, which involve spiritual rituals; therefore, they are looked upon with fear and awe. Griots are important members of society because they are responsible for passing down the oral traditions and cultural heritage of the Malinke.
What are their beliefs?
When foreign merchants came to Africa, they brought Islam with them. The religion blended with the Malinke's native religious practices and today, this blending of religions is still evident. It is not uncommon for a Malinke to first pray in the village mosque and then sacrifice a chicken to the spirits. Healing, magic, and divination are important parts of Malinke Islam. Many people consult marabouts (holy men) for healing, protective charms, or insight into the future. Marabouts can also be consulted to put a curse on an enemy. Educated Malinke may conceal their belief in magic, but there are very few who do not possess a charm or amulet of some sort.
What are their needs?
There is religious freedom in Côte d'Ivoire and the government is sympathetic to missions activity. The New Testament, Christian broadcasts, and the Jesus film are all available to the Ivorian Malinke, and there are some believers among them. Prayer is the first step towards seeing them fully reached with the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send additional laborers to join the few who are already working among the Ivorian Malinke.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are ministering to the Ivorian Malinke.
* Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Ivorian Malinke.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Ivorian Malinke.