Introduction / History The Maninka are a subgroup of a larger people group known as the Mande. Mande tribes inhabit the plains and coastal forests of West Africa. Although the Maninka only began immigrating to the region of present-day Liberia about three hundred years ago, they are already widely scattered throughout the country.
The Maninka are the descendants of the people of the once great Mali Empire. The empire amassed a great fortune taxing the trade of gold and ivory in the region. Before becoming a part of the empire, the Mande were credited with revolutionizing agriculture in the area. They discovered the use of millet, which is still their staple food.
The Maninka speak a Manding language that is also called Maninka. Manding languages are spoken in many West African nations. Although some of these languages have no written script, their oral literature is regarded as some of the best in the world.
What are their lives like? Liberia has a tropical climate with only two seasons: the wet (May-October) and the dry season (November-April). Most of the Maninka, like their ancestors, earn their livelihood as farmers. They have grown cotton for centuries, as well as many grains and cereals. Cattle are also raised, but they are primarily used in ceremonies or to gain prestige within the community. Very few people drink milk. Quite a number of Maninka travel long distances from home to work as merchants.
The Maninka live in large, walled-in villages. Within the villages, families live in separate, fenced-in compounds. Their homes are round, thatch-roof huts made of mud and sun-dried brick. Although each village is ruled by its own chief, the oldest descendants of the first settlers are counted as nobility and also have a certain amount of authority.
There is a clear social order among the Maninka that ranges from nobility to commoners. The lowest and most despised class consists of craftsmen and former slaves. Their society is patriarchal, or male-dominated. The line of descent is traced through the fathers, and inheritances are passed down through the males. Men commonly have more than one wife.
The Maninka group men and women into narrow age ranges called age sets. These groups develop into sororities and fraternities that help to strengthen their social ties.
A typical Maninka meal consists of steamed rice covered with a spicy stew of vegetables and meat or fish. Mangoes, bananas, oranges, papayas, and cashews help to balance their diet.
What are their beliefs? The Maninka have adapted the doctrines of Islam to their own beliefs, resulting in a wide variety of sects. Islam was first introduced in West Africa by traveling Muslim merchants. Their desire was to enhance the region both religiously and culturally.
The Maninka Muslims in Liberia are a model of the growing influence Islam is having in Liberia. Their Islamic religion has given them a status among foreigners not enjoyed by other tribes.
Since the Maninka were not required by Islamic leaders to abandon their old customs and mystical beliefs, Islam was simply mixed with their traditional religions. Today, Islam is a popular religion that has become deeply rooted into the Maninka culture.
The Maninka believe that spirits are either good, evil, or mischievous. Maninka Islam approves and even encourages certain magical procedures-particularly those directed towards healing the sick, preventing misfortunes, and ensuring prosperity. Other traditional cults persist in a Muslim guise. For instance, deceased saintly ancestors are looked to as mediators between Allah and man.
What are their needs? Although evangelistic tools such as the New Testament and the Jesus film have been made available to the Maninka, the villagers are very reluctant to accept Christ. Prayer is the key to reaching these precious souls with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into Liberia.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Maninka.
* Pray for the effectiveness of the Jesus film when it is shown among the Maninka.
* Pray that God will give the Maninka believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Maninka Church for the glory of His name!