Introduction / History Over one million Pulaar (or Tukulor) live in the West African nations of Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea, and Mali. Most are located in Senegal, where they comprise nearly one-tenth of the population. They are mainly concentrated in the Middle Senegal River Valley near the Dagana River.
The Pulaar are thought to have descended from the Fulani and the Wolof or Sereres tribes. Their name is derived from the Arabic word Takrur, which was a 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 and Torobe. They have retained their respective languages, and many are also fluent in Arabic.
Most of the Pulaar live in rural areas, where they raise livestock, farm, and fish for their livelihood. A steadily rising population and an unequal distribution of land have resulted in large numbers of Pulaar (particularly youth) moving 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 current high levels of unemployment are forcing many men to travel to France or urban areas of Senegal in search of better paying jobs.
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 farmland, deforestation, and increasing population are resulting in extreme financial concerns for the Pulaar. In addition, the construction of dams on the Senegal River could result in displacement of many families and villages along the Senegal River. 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. Christian teachers, humanitarian aid workers, and medical teams are needed to live among the Pulaar and share the love of Jesus with them in practical ways.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Pulaar.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio among the Pulaar.
* Ask the Lord to call Christian teachers, doctors, and humanitarian aid workers to Senegal to share Christ with the Pulaar.
* 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 Senegal through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Pulaar.