Introduction / History While most of the Pulaar (or Tukulor) live in the nation of Senegal, another group can be found in Gambia. The Pulaar are thought to have descended from the Fulani and the Wolof or Serer tribes. The name "Tukulor" is derived from the word Takrur, which is an Arabic term used to describe an eleventh century realm near the middle Senegal River Valley. Today, the Tukulor are known by a number of names, including Pulaar, Haal Pulaar, and Torobe. They have retained their respective languages, and many are also fluent in Arabic.
Most of the Gambian Pulaar live a rural lifestyle, raising livestock, farming, and fishing. Sadly, a steadily rising population and an unequal distribution of land have resulted in the emigration of large numbers of Pulaar (particularly youth) to the cities in search of better job opportunities.
What are their lives like? Traditional Pulaar society is divided into four main social classes, each having twelve "castes." Their social life is a mixture of native customs and Islamic traditions. Neither Islam, the effects of colonization, nor the goals of various national leaders have been able to erase the old social divisions.
The torobe are the aristocratic class. The middle class, or rimbe, is made up of fishermen, farmers, tradesmen, and administrators. The middle class also includes the craftsmen, and the lower class includes the freed slaves and the slaves. Social status rarely changes; however, slaves are freed at every third generation. The Pulaar marry within their class divisions, women usually between the ages of 16 and 18, and men between the ages of 25 and 30. Although it is uncommon, a man may have up to four wives. Families are generally large, with an average of six children per family.
Traditional, rural Pulaar villages are small. They have round huts made of clay or rough bricks, with straw roofs. Villages are governed by a group of elders from the aristocratic caste. Dietary staples include rice, millet, sorghum, fish, nuts, and fruit. The average per capita income is only $150 to $200 per year.
Pulaar women often wear large, embedded pieces of wood in the soft lobes of their ears and have two small facial slits near the outside corners of both eyes. Although female genital mutilation is becoming increasingly illegal, over half of Pulaar girls from the ages of three to nine undergo this practice in order to be considered "clean" and worthy of marriage.
What are their beliefs? The Pulaar first accepted Islam in the eleventh century. Traditional Muslim beliefs, such as the nature of man and his destiny after death, play a significant role in the people's outlook on life. Muslim brotherhoods teach a mystical approach to Islam: the people seek closer relationships to God through rituals, prayer, and other techniques. However, Islam has not brought any major changes to Pulaar attitudes toward spiritism and magic. The people still use charms, amulets, and witchcraft. The Pulaar attribute supernatural powers to various Muslim clerics who practice divination, the use of supernatural powers.
What are their needs? Decreasing income from the sale of agricultural products, encroachment by the Sahara Desert on farm land, deforestation, and increasing population are resulting in extreme financial concerns for the Pulaar. Nearly all village water sources are polluted. Malaria and other infectious diseases inflict a heavy toll each year. Although there is some literacy among the aristocracy, most of the Pulaar are illiterate.
Islam has enormous penetration into every aspect of Pulaar life. A somewhat isolated people with minimal exposure to other religious ideas, the Pulaar view the world and gain their personal identities from their rigid beliefs in the Islamic family and community. They are extremely reluctant to leave the world they know.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies currently focusing on the Pulaar.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio among the Pulaar.
* Ask God to give the small number of Pulaar believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to save key Pulaar leaders who will share the love of Jesus with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the spiritual soil of Gambia through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Pulaar.