The Senufo of West Africa
A cluster of 14 closely related groups in 3 countries.
The Northern Senufo are a cultural mixture of immigrants from around Odienne and Fourou, who intermarried with groups in the Kenedougou region. The Kenedougou kingdom was established in the 1800's, with Sikasso as its capital. Though Islam was the predominant religion, its spread was limited to the elite and tribal chiefs.
The Central Senufo are a cultural mixture of the Samogho, Lobi, Turka, Toussian, and Bobo-Dyula tribes. They continue to be influenced both by Sikasso and the Bobo-Dyula who live in their region. In the 1700's, Dyula traders settled among the Southern Senufo. They eventually overpowered the Senufo and raised up their own rulers. Kong became their Islamic capital; but Islam was once again limited to the elite.
What Are Their Lives Like?
One important aspect of Senufo society is its concept of "community." The Senufo think of themselves as one group, with all of their ideas pointing in the same direction. The concept of the "individual" is only known in limited circumstances; thus, no man stands alone. Instead, each person is thought of as part of an extended family, a member of the village, the elder or younger brother, etc. Everyone eats as a group and dips into a common dish. The fields are worked collectively; food is stored collectively; and each family contributes to the village. A Senufo is always aware of his place in the society as it relates to others in the group. To the Senufo, the good of the community always comes before the good of the individual. Unless the entire tribe makes a change, such as converting to a different religion, no one does.
Another important feature of Senufo life is the "male secret society," which is known as the poro. The poro prepares men for leadership in the community, so that they might attain wisdom, accept responsibility, and gain power. It begins with the child's grade of "discovery," followed by extensive training and service. It ends with the ritual death of the child and the final graduation of the "finished man." Dramatic ceremonies, dances, and visual displays mark the passage from one grade to the next. When the man reaches about 30 years of age, the initiation is complete and he is considered an adult. He then becomes one of the elders with whom the chief consults on major decisions. Poro sanctuaries are hidden inside dense groves of trees outside the Senufo villages. These sacred groves are used as schools, meeting houses, and places of worship.
Since World War II, the Senufo region has become more commercialized and urbanized. Today, the young men have opportunities to move to the cities and earn money. This has weakened the influences that Senufo fathers formerly had over their sons. The importance of the communal nature of their society has also declined. Unfortunately, the weakening of these two areas has allowed Islam to begin seeping into the cracks of this rapidly changing society.
What Are Their Beliefs?
What Are Their Needs?
Today, Senufo society is rapidly changing. The Senufo need an opportunity to hear the Truth of the Gospel before a total conversion to Islam takes place. Intense prayers and increased evangelism efforts must be made in order to reach them with the Good News.Prayer Points
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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