The Fulani people (also known as Fulbe or Peuls ) live in West Africa. They are among the most widely dispersed and culturally diverse peoples in all of Africa. Many Fulani trace their beginnings back one thousand years to the Senegambia area. By the eighteenth century some had migrated as far east as the Niger and Benue Rivers (now in Nigeria). In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some Fulani populations adopted the Islamic religion and initiated jihads (holy wars) in several parts of West Africa.
The largest concentrations of Fulani are in the countries of Nigeria, Senegal, and Guinea.
The language of the Fulani is known as Fulfulde (or Fula or Pulaar). There are at least five major dialects: Futa Toro, Futa Jallon, and Masina in the west and Central Nigeria; and Sokoto and Adamawa in the east. Although they have similarities in grammar and vocabulary, communication among Fulani from different regions is difficult. An example of a saying in Fulfulde is Tid’d’o yod’ad’d’o (Work hard and succeed). An example of a Fulani proverb is: Hab’b’ere buri ginawol (Actions should be judged according to intention).
Dress codes and styles vary greatly. In general, however, married men and women follow the Islamic dress code, which prescribes modesty. The men wear large gowns, trousers, and caps. Women wear wraps and blouses. Married Muslim women wear veils when they leave their household.
Nomadic Fulani also wear Islamic dress, but it is not as elaborate. The women do not wear veils. Younger men and women adorn themselves with jewelry and headdresses, and they braid their hair.
The Fulani diet usually includes milk products such as yogurt, milk, and butter. Each morning they drink milk or gruel (gari) made with sorghum. Their main meals consist of a heavy porridge (nyiiri) made of flour from such grains as millet, sorghum, or corn. They eat it with soup (takai, haako) made from tomatoes, onions, spices, peppers, and other vegetables.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Shortly after a child is born, a naming ceremony is held, following Islamic law and practice. Around the age of seven, boys are circumcised, followed by a small ceremony or gathering in their household. Shortly after this time, they begin performing herding or farming activities, sometimes on their own. At this age, girls help their mothers. Girls are usually betrothed in marriage during their early to mid-teens. Boys remain sukaa’be (handsome young men) until around the age of twenty. At that time, they start a herd or obtain a farm, and marry. There are ceremonies to prepare the bride and groom for marriage. Afterward, their families sign a marriage contract under Islam. By middle age, a man may be known as a ndottijo (elder, old man) who has acquired wisdom over the years.
CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
In their spare time, Fulani women make handicrafts including engraved gourds, weavings, knitting, and baskets. Fulani men are less involved in the production of crafts such as pottery, iron-working, and dyeing than some neighboring peoples. They believe these activities may violate their code of conduct ( Pulaaku ) and bring shame upon them.
Girls are usually betrothed in marriage during their early to mid-teens. Boys remain sukaa’be (handsome young men) until around the age of twenty. At that time, they start a herd or obtain a farm, and marry. There are ceremonies to prepare the bride and groom for marriage. Afterward, their families sign a marriage contract under Islam. By middle age, a man may be known as a ndottijo (elder, old man) who has acquired wisdom over the years
Among the nomadic Fulani, young men participate in a kind of sport known as sharro. This is a test of bravery in which young men lash each other to the point of utmost endurance. This practice is most common as men enter manhood. However, some continue it until they become elders.