The Mimi of North Central Africa
A Cluster of 2 related Groups in 2 countries.
The Mimi and Mima are two closely related ethnic groups located in north central Africa. The Mima are concentrated in the Darfur and Kordofan provinces of Sudan, while the Mimi live in the Wadi province of Chad (near the Biltine region). At one time, they were considered a single group. There is no explanation for their present division; however, their distinctiveness is evident in their separate languages.
It is believed that the unified group originated in the Nile Valley of Egypt with a westward migration taking place in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Some settled in the Biltine region of Chad, where they became farmers. Others became nomadic herdsmen and maintained frequent contact with the Arab nomads. The settled Biltine group, or Mimi, still speak their ancestral language, Amdang. The nomadic Mima eventually adopted the Arabic language as their mother tongue. Some scholars still group the Mimi and Mima as one. Although their lifestyles and languages differ, they do share the same heritage, culture, religious beliefs, and traditions from many centuries ago.
What are their lives like?
Dar Mimi is sandy and virtually treeless. Because of the shortage of water in the area, the settled Mimi are limited in the number of animals they can keep. For this reason, they tend to force the nomadic Mima and Mimi to migrate southward and westward. They are surrounded on all sides by a number of other ethnic groups, including the Mahamid Arabs, the Zaghawa, the Mararit, the Tama, and various Maba-speaking tribes.
The settled Mimi sometimes intermarry with the Maba and the Arabs; whereas, the nomadic Mimi intermarry with the Zaghawa and the Abu Sharib peoples. A Mimi will never marry a Tama. Because of this intermarriage among the Mimi and the neighboring groups, cultivation techniques and some vocabulary, among other things, have been assimilated into Mimi culture.
From the 1970's through the 1990's, the social and political lives of the Mimi have been disrupted due to the civil wars that are taking place in Chad.
The Mima of Sudan are chiefly nomadic herdsmen. Most of them own herds of camels and flocks of sheep and goats. During the winter months, the young men take some of the camels to grazing areas that are abundant in water and grass. The women weave hair rugs, while the men make water-skins, buckets, and ropes. Children have responsibilities such as spinning goat and camel hair into thread. Some of the men also go to market towns to sell animals or to buy grain, cloth, sugar, and tea. These market centers include Woda'a, Fafa, and Magrur merchants.
Despite their differences in livelihood, many similarities exist between the Mimi and Mima. Both groups have a history of being politically significant and were divided into twenty or thirty subsections headed by native chiefs. Both fought well in battle and were commended for their bravery. Both groups are looked upon by outsiders as not being dedicated or orthodox in their Muslim religion and as being somewhat uncivil when dealing with strangers. Also, both groups have the same physical characteristics.
What are their beliefs?
Islam is a religion of works based on five basic teachings or "pillars." Muslims must affirm that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." They are also required to pray five times a day, give alms to the poor, fast during the month of Ramadan, and try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca. The Mimi and Mima are not as strict in their observance of Islam as are some other Muslim groups in the area; however, most of the rules are followed.
What are their needs?
The life expectancy in Chad is only 40-42 years. In Sudan, the life expectancy is in the mid-fifties. The literacy rate in both countries is only about 30%. Both of these groups need more educational opportunities and quality health care facilities. Perhaps Christian teachers and medical workers will have the greatest opportunities to share the love of Jesus with them.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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