The Missionary Mandate Newsletter

Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Historical Reflection of the Bambara People of Mali

By: Charles & Mia Harris
In our previous article; Declaring:  Our "Unreached People Group," we introduced our "frontier people group" (a term we prefer using in our research) as the "Bambara Tribe" of Mali, West Africa.  In this writing, we will answer three main questions: (1) Are they indigenous to this area? (2) Did they migrate from another location? (3) Did any significant events (war, fame, natural disaster) play a part in their history?
As we reflect back on the historical facts of this great tribal nation, we have discovered the Bambara are a large "Mande" group located mostly in the country of Mali (officially known as Republic of Mali)" and they are an indigenous tribe which mean they are the "original inhabitants of a this area. Mali is a landlocked nation of West Africa, with a population of over 14.5 million people, which consists of diverse Sub-Saharan ethnic groups, sharing similar historic, cultural, and religious traditions.
However, the Bambara people are known to be the largest and most central indigenous group in that area of West Africa.  They speak "Bamana", which is one of the Manding languages.  Bamana is widely spoken in Mali, especially in the areas of business and trade. It is connected to the Bantu language, which includes Swahili and Zulu. "They are known for their elaborate cosmology and metaphysics, their indigenous writing, and religious sculptures. They founded two important states, at Segu and at Kaarta." "With the exception of the Mossi states to its south, the Mali Empire faced very few external threats throughout its existence. Even after its glory days had passed, the mansas were generally concerned with holding onto subject peoples rather than outright invasions. That all changed during the reign of Mansa Uli II in the mid-15th century. For the next 150 years, the Mali Empire would be locked in a life or death struggle for its very existence amid a barrage of enemies on all sides." 

Slavery in West Africa

Did any significant events (war, fame, natural disaster) play a part in their history? One of events that has significantly impacted the lives of the Bambara people of West Africa, was the historic Transatlantic Slave Trades, which began in the middle of the 15th century and continued in Africa until end of the 19th century. "The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the transatlantic slave trade, refers to the trade in slaves that took place across the Atlantic ocean from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries. The vast majority of slaves involved in the Atlantic trade were Africans (estimated 9 to 12 million) from the central and western parts of the continent, who were sold by African slave dealers to European traders, who transported them to the colonies in North and South America."  The European traders were the "Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, and North Americans. European- and American-owned fortresses and ships obtained enslaved people from African slave-traders, though some were captured by European slave-traders through raids and kidnapping."
During this period, Europeans began to establish a trade for African captives. African tribal leaders entered into a unique relationship with Europe that led to the devastation and depopulation of Africa, but contributed to the wealth and development of Europe. In Senegambia, between 1300 and 1900, close to one-third of the population was enslaved. "In early Islamic states of the western Sudan, including Ghana (750–1076), Mali (1235–1645), Segou (1712–1861), and Songhai (1275–1591), about a third of the population were enslaved."

"At first this trafficking only supplemented a trade in human beings that already existed within Europe, in which Europeans had enslaved each other." However, enslaved Africans were already occupying Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world prior to the mid-15th century. "It was gold from the great empires of West Africa, Ghana, Mali and Songhay that provided the means for the economic take-off of Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries and aroused the interest of Europeans in western Africa."

All of Africa's economic and social development before the 1500's possibly may have been ahead of Europe's, but the devastation and horrific conditions imposed on this population was without saying,  a period of gross inhumanity and insane brutality of an innocent people. Researchers estimates the "sixty-five to 80% of those captured and incarcerated died before they arrived at their destination...the Antilles, Brazil, or the southern USA. Husbands and wives were indiscriminately separated from each other and their children,"  leading to the destruction of their cultural traditions, and language, their religion and even human potential.
The overall result of the slave trade "impeded the formation of larger ethnic groups, causing ethnic fractionalization and weakening the formation for stable political structures. It also reduced the mental health and social development of African people," thereby poisoning past, present and future relations with others, especially those who only know tribal Africa through this stereotyping, and as a result, continues to damage genuine God-fearing relations among the people of today.

1 comment:

  1. "wow what a mission"! Charles Harris is doing what God wants of humanity.The missionarymandate is a blessing to the world!!!!!