Introduction / History The Eastern Maninka are a subgroup of a much larger people group known as the Manding, who inhabit the western portion of Africa's northern plains and coastal forests. The Maninka are known for their ingenuity and leadership qualities, as well as their trading, farming, and mining abilities. They are the descendants of the people of the Mali Empire, which lasted from the early 1200s to 1600. The empire amassed a great fortune taxing the trade of gold and ivory in the region. Before becoming a part of the empire, the Manding were credited with revolutionizing agriculture in the area; they discovered the use of millet, one of the most important grains in West Africa today.
The Maninka speak a Manding language that is also called Maninka. Manding languages are spoken in many West African nations, including Mali. Although some of these languages have no written script, their oral literature is regarded as some of the best in the world.
Where are they located? The Eastern Maninka people live in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Sierra Leone as well as Mali.
What are their lives like? The Maninkas 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. Few of the homes have electricity or running water. The Maninka primarily work as farmers, miners, or merchants. Some raise cattle to gain prestige within the community or to use in ceremonies.
While each village is ruled by its own chief, the oldest descendants of the first Maninka 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. Maninka 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.
Some of the Maninka people prefer living in cities where they can develop a trade or work in a service occupation. Nevertheless, while living in the cities, they usually remain attached to their villages in some way.
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 add balance to their diet.
The Maninka value such characteristics as honesty, logical thinking, and the ability to speak in public. They do not approve of dishonesty. Ironically many Maninka use manipulation and deceit as methods of getting ahead in society. For this reason, they are a very suspicious people. Men rarely have close personal relationships with each other because they expect even their closest friends to be cunning and deceitful.
What are their beliefs? Muslim merchants first introduced Islam to West African peoples like the Maninkas. 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, resulting in a variety of Muslim sects. Divination, healing, and the casting of spells are all important parts of their religion. In fact, Maninka Islam approves and even encourages certain magical procedures-particularly those directed towards healing the sick, preventing misfortunes, and ensuring prosperity.
Fear plays a big role in the spiritual lives of the Maninka. It is not uncommon for someone to first pray in the village mosque, and then sacrifice a chicken to the spirit of the land on which his village rests. Practically every villager has at least one or two charms in his possession.
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.
Prayer Points * Pray that fear will be replaced with faith and joy when the Maninkas hear about the power of Jesus Christ.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray for the effectiveness of the JESUS Film among the Maninkas.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send many laborers to the Maninka people in Mali.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to mission agencies focusing on the Maninka. There are SIM missionaries in neighboring Guinea.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Maninka church for the glory of His name.