Introduction / History The Maninka of Senegal are a sub-group of a much larger people group known as the Mande, who inhabit the western portion of Africa's northern plains and coastal forests. The Maninka, like their ancestors, are mostly farmers. They have raised cotton for centuries, as well as many grains and cereals.
The Maninka are the descendants of the once great Mali Empire. The empire amassed a great fortune by 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, primarily their discovery of the use of millet.
The Maninka speak Maninka, one of many Manding languages. The Manding languages are spoken in nine African nations by approximately 11 million people. 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? In addition to farming, many of the Maninka also raise cattle-but only to gain prestige within the community or to use in ceremonies. Very few people drink the milk. Trading is another important occupation, and many men travel far from their homes to do business with other markets. Large markets are typically located in both cities and villages.
The Maninka live in large, walled-in villages. Within the villages, families live in separate, fenced-in compounds. Their homes are thatch-roofed huts made of mud and sun-dried brick. 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, former slaves, and griots, or musicians and singers. The griots are responsible for passing down the oral traditions of the Maninka.
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.
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, however, 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? 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 Muslim merchants. Their desire was to enhance the region both religiously and culturally. 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. 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.
Sadly, 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 of Jesus Christ.
Prayer Points * Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies currently focusing on the Maninka.
* Pray for the effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Maninka.
* Pray that God will give the Maninka believers boldness to share the love of Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Senegal through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be planted among the Maninka of Senegal.