Soninke Women of Mauritania Painting Their Hut

(Photo from Mauritania)

The Soninke (also called Sarakole, Seraculeh, or Serahuli) are a Mandé people who descend from the Bafour and are closely related to the Imraguen of Mauritania.

They speak the Soninke language, a Mande language. They were the founders of the ancient empire of Ghana c. 750-1240 CE.

Subgroups of Soninke include the Maraka and Wangara. After contact with Muslim Almoravid traders from the north around 1066, Soninke nobles of neighboring Takrur were among the first ethnic groups from Sub-Saharan West Africa to embrace Islam.

When the Ghana empire dispersed, the resulting diaspora brought Soninkes to Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.

This diaspora included Wangara, famous traders who spread far from traditionally Mande areas. Hence the term Wangara is used today in Ghana and Burkina Faso to describe the Soninke populations in cities and towns.

Today, Soninke around 1 million.



Côte d’Ivoire, Fillettes Guéré  (Ivory Coast, Guéré little girls)

'Jeunes filles Guéré du groupe des “enfants-saltimbanques” : leur costume symbolise le “serpent” (elles sont différemment maquillées). De la série “Enfants du monde”.

 Guéré young girl from the group of “child acrobats”:  their costume symbolizes the “snake” ). From the series “Children of the World”.

Photo and caption by Olivier Martel  


Photo from the book ‘Shadow and Light: The Photographs of Bernhard Springer.’ - Poli, Kenneth editor - New York 1976.



Mangbetu women’s clothing, Medje village, Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo), 1970 - Photo by Eliot Elisofon

The photograph depicts woman wearing traditional barkcloth ‘negbe’. The main item of women’s clothing was a rectangular barkcloth garment called ‘nogetwe’. Worn like a short skirt or sometimes like an apron, it was left open to reveal the ‘negbe’, or back apron. Women generally wore barkcloth when they were not at work and when strangers were present.” (Schildkrout E., Keim C., 1990: African Reflections, University of Washington Press)

(National Museum of African Art - Smithsonian Institution)

(via beautiesofafrique)