Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Culture Series: Fulani People

 Photo credits: Christoph Herby

Happy New Year guys, thanks for being with me all the way.
On this week’s culture series we’ll be considering the Fulani people. The Fulani or Fula people are predominantly in West Africa, spreading across Guinea, Cameroon, Senegal, Nigeria, Mali, Central African Republic, as well as Sierra Leone. The Fula people form the largest ethnic population in Guinea, forming about 40% of the total population.
Although the origin of the Fulani people is greatly disputed, it is an open secret that the Fulani people are the largest nomadic group in the world. They are the first people in West Africa that converted to Islam and it is believed that they are descendants of nomads from sub-Saharan and North Africa.
Quite similar to the Hausa people of Nigeria in terms of nomadic nature and lifestyle, it is important to note that the Hausa and Fulani people are different.
The Fulani can be said to be of two groups, namely; nomads and settlers. As the names imply, nomads move with their cattle throughout the year while settlers dwell in villages or cities. In the traditional setting, these settlements are often dispersed with huts scattered around.
Aside being nomads, the Fulani people are crowned with bravery. They value fearlessness and bravery. In times past, certain rituals that require boys to go through pain to show they have come of age were performed.  Such rituals require them to inflict pain on one another but other than show signs of pain, they laugh.

Fulani men mainly work on the fields, tend the cattle and sheep while their women are mainly housewives, taking care of the children and managing the home. Owning cattle is considered a privilege and honor and the number of cattle a person has is a sign of his wealth.
As a code of conduct, called “pulaaku”, “Fulanis” are not involved in artwork as they believe it will bring shame upon them while women are more involved in handicrafts such as basket making, knitting, and weaving.

Code of Conduct
As earlier stated, the Fulani people have a well-defined code of conduct usually passed from generation to generation. These codes rally around four tenets as captured below.
  • Strength and courage (Munyal)
  • Intelligence and foresight (Hakkilo)
  • Shame and self-restraint (Seemteende)
  • Hard work (Sagata)
A true Fula must possess all these.

Beliefs and Religion

About 99 percent of the Fulani people are Muslims. Muslim Fulanis pray five times per day, fast, and study the Quran by heart, much like the standard Muslim practice.
They also believe in the existence of people with supernatural powers (shamans).
In the area of food, Fulani people do not eat goat meat as it is believed that eating it will make one a leper.
As touching afterlife, Fulani people do not believe in death after life rather they believe each person lives through loved ones from generations to generations.

A Fulani man usually marries between the ages of 18 and 22 depending on his financial status. Basic items for the home and wedding are provided by the bride’s parents but the groom provides the money. The family of bride also provides one of his cattle for the groom. This is to legalize the marriage.
Females get married between the ages of 13 and 15.
A man is permitted to have up to four wives as long as he can support them. He is also encouraged to have as many children as possible.
As with other African tribes, they are cases of arranged marriage amongst the Fulani people.  Some of these arrangements are done even before the birth of the child and is based on family ties and social status.

Traditional Fulani clothing consists of well embroidered flowing robes and hats for men while women decorate themselves with beads and cowries.  Piercings as well as body tattooing is common amongst Fulani women. They pride themselves in hair decoration; attaching coins and ambers to their hairstyles.
It is also common practice for married women to wear veils when they leave their household.

I hope you enjoyed this piece.


  1. Yes I have.thank u

    1. Thanks bakeuhappy. I am glad you did.

  2. Quite descriptive.
    Let's just say they are from a time beyond memory (just kidding)

    Nice piece.

    1. Hahaha. Thanks for reading Sam. Truth remains that we can never forget where we are coming from, no matter how vague it is.