Article

Mande

David C. Conrad and Stephen Belcher

in African Studies


Published online August 2015 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199846733.016.0175

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The term “Mande” covers a linguistically and historically related group of peoples sharing an extremely rich and vibrant historical background, the high point of which was the Mali Empire that flourished from roughly the mid-13th to the early 15th century. The heartland of Mande territory is located in what is now northeastern Guinea and southern Mali, but Mande peoples are found across a much larger portion of sub-Saharan West Africa, speaking various dialects of the Manding family of languages. Recognized linguistic groups include the Maninka of northeastern Guinea and southern Mali, the Bamana of Mali, the Mandinka of Senegambia and Guinea-Bissau, the Mandingo of northern Liberia, the Kuranko of Sierra Leone, and the Dyula of northern Côte d’Ivoire. The Soninke provide a linguistic and historical substrate for much of this region. Many other culturally related groups are located around the periphery of this central zone between southern Mauritania, western Burkina Faso, northern Benin, and the Atlantic coast of Senegambia. The Mande cultural complex is distinguished by two especially prominent features, one of which is a social structure that divides the society into noble and servile, but also includes a separate professional class of occupationally defined craft specialists and artists (e.g., bards, blacksmiths, potters, and leatherworkers) called nyamakalaw who provide services and products essential to farmers, pastoralists, and traders. The second distinguishing characteristic is the Mande peoples’ profound sense of self-awareness derived from an identity grounded in a body of historical knowledge preserved and articulated by a vast body of professionally maintained oral tradition. See also the Oxford Bibliographies article “Early States of the Western Sudan.”

Article.  13873 words. 

Subjects: African History ; African Languages ; African Music ; African Philosophy ; African Studies

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