There are 8 main ethnic groups in Gambia living side
by side with a minimum of inter-tribal friction, each preserving
its own language, music, cultural
traditions and even caste
systems though there is an increasing amount of cultural
interaction and fusion. Indeed, the average Gambian will tell
you he feels he has more in common with his countrymen than
he has with a Senegalese from the same tribe! This by no means
suggests that there is a lack of individual identity. While
there is growth in multi-ethnic expressions, the search by
groups to reaffirm their identities remains.
of these communities speak their own language, all of which are classified as part of the Niger-Congo language group and as
a whole represent a snap-shot of Senegambia society. However,
classifying people by blood or ethnic traits is increasingly difficult
as there has been extensive migrations and inter-marriages over the
centuries. There were migrations of people into the Gambia before the 19th century but
such movement of people greatly
increased after the establishment of Bathurst (Banjul) in 1816. They
came from Casamance, Futa Toro, Sierra Leone, Mali, Guinea Bissau and
other West African countries.
The single largest ethnic
group in Gambia is the
an agricultural people with a hereditary nobility. Before they
migrated to the Gambia valley they lived in the northern slopes of
Futa Jallon Plateau. The country of the Manding is in the Niger
prominent in the capital city of Banjul and are prominent in the
Senegambia region. Their language is the lingua franca for Gambia and
can be heard being spoken in trading centres and family compounds. In
the up-river area of Gambia they are called the Fanafa.
people called the Creoles or
Akus, are Christians who are descendants of freed slaves
who first came to The Gambia in 1787 from Sierra Leone. and who rank among the bureaucratic elite
as well a being prominent in the private professional classes.
or Kujamat people are predominantly organized around the cultivation of
rice and are mainly based in the Foni district of the Western
Division. Theirs is a uniquely segmentary society with no tradition of
having a paramount chief. Their traditional location in swamps and
deep forests meant that they were among the last people to be
converted to Islam.
or Pol Futa a they are sometimes known
are mainly engaged in herding of cattle and running their ubiquitous
small corner shops. They are generally of lighter skin than most of
the population and several theories, some of which have proved
controversial have been put forward as to where
they originally came from.
people are involved mainly in farming, trade and property development. They can
be found in their largest numbers in the Basse region and speak in a
number of dialects including Azer and Kinbakka. They created the Ghana
Empire which encompassed Mauritania to present-day Ghana.
The other ethnic groups are the
are predominantly involved in fisheries have customs and a language
which bear considerable similarities to the Wolof. Then there are the
Tukulor who share strong ties with the Fulani's culture, history and
traditions and are mainly engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry.
There also exists a small community of
other groups such as the Lebanese, Europeans, Mansoanka, Bayot ,
Bambara, Badibunka, Balanta, Hausa, Mankanya and the Mandjak