People often first pray in the village mosque, then sacrifice a chicken to the village spirit.

AFM has ministered to the Mandingo of Gambia since 2018.

About the People

The Mandingo people live along the Gambia River, which cuts through the center of Gambia, West Africa. Their oral literature is considered some of the best in the world. There are three clear divisions of Mandingo society: free-born, artisans and slaves. The free-born class, comprised initially of only people of noble birth, now includes farmers, merchants, and Muslim clergy. The artisans consist of blacksmiths, leather craftsmen, and praise singers, or griots. The griots are respected because they are responsible for passing down the oral traditions of the Mandingo. Their rich musical heritage is reflected in the national anthems of four West African nations.

Most of the Mandingo are farmers of peanuts, rice, millet and sorghum. While the Mandingo raise most of their own food, they also gather from the forests. During planting and harvesting seasons, they spend much time in the fields. At other times, the men work in part-time businesses to supplement their incomes. Some raise goats, sheep, bees and poultry. Others raise cattle to gain prestige, use as ritual sacrifices, or use as a bride price. Traditionally, parents arranged their daughters’ marriages while the girls were still infants. Today, marriages are still arranged, but not as early. The groom is required to work for the bride’s family both before and after the wedding. He must also pay the girl’s family a bride price.

Clans, or family groups, all having the same name make up Mandingo villages. A wall surrounds each village, and the homes inside are either round or rectangular. The Mandingo construct them of mud with either thatch or tin roofs. These rural villages have neither electricity nor telephone services. Most of the villagers have never traveled more than five miles from their homes.

Islam is the primary faith of the Mandingo, but they mix it with traditional spirit worship. It is not uncommon for someone to first pray in the village mosque, then sacrifice a chicken to the village spirit.

Most of the Mandingo observe Islamic rituals with little understanding of what they truly mean. They view Allah as being the one supreme god. However, they also see him as inaccessible and little concerned with the daily affairs of his creation. Many of the Mandingo consult marabouts (Muslim holy men) for healing, protective amulets, or insight into the future.

People-Group Facts

  • Population: 783,000
  • Language: Mandinka
  • Religion: Islam / spirit worship

    Serving this Project

    • Angelica Pereira Lourenco

      AFM-Brazil Short-term missionary for 2020

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