The Susu of Guinea
The Susu are a group of farmers, traders, and fishermen who can be found primarily in Guinea. Other smaller communities are also located in Sierra Leone and Senegal. As descendants of the thirteenth century Mali Empire, the Susu moved to their present location after 1725, when the Fulani attempted to dominate them and managed to convert them to Islam.
The Susu live primarily in the coastal areas of Guinea, where there are many waterways and marshes. Their language, called Soso or Susu, serves as a major trade language in the region and is almost indistinguishable from the language of the Yalunka.
Because of these linguistic similarities, some people think that at one time the Susu and Yalunka were one group, living in the Fouta Djallon (Middle Guinea) region of the country. It is thought that Fula invaders separated the two groups, with the Susu moving southward and absorbing other peoples in the process.
What are their lives like?
The Susu are well-known as traders and as craftsmen of leather and metal. Other important activities include fishing and salt mining. Salt is mined during the dry season, and it may take a man three months of hard work to produce any substantial amount.
Houses are made of either mud or cement blocks, depending on the resources available. They are generally quite large in order to accommodate extended families. In the cities, roofs are most often made of corrugated iron, while in the rural areas, they are usually still made of thatch. Most cooking is done over open fires. Electricity is available in most places, but clean water is generally lacking. Humanitarian aid organizations are trying to help the Susu by digging wells throughout the area.
Although Western clothes can be obtained in the markets, most Susu women seem to prefer African dress. They usually wear African-style skirts that reach to their ankles. Older men wear loose-fitting cotton robes, but the younger men prefer Western-style clothing.
The extended family is important to the Susu. Polygamy (having more than one spouse) is allowed under Islamic law, but it is only practiced by those who can afford it. Although good relationships are valued, there are many conflicts with neighbors, especially when dealing with money or property. Thus, each village usually has its own "wise man," as well as an elected or appointed leader to help resolve conflicts.
The Friday meeting at the mosque remains an important social event for most Susu. There is some indication that the young men are perhaps growing disillusioned with both Islam and socialistic ideas. Today, many of them are moving to the cities, where they have been plagued with poverty and idleness.
Formal education follows the French academic system. In the past, the government attempted to offer education in the local languages but were alarmed at the high rate of illiteracy in French that resulted. Thus, today, instruction is offered only in French. Guinea now has an estimated 15% literacy rate; however, quite a few of the Susu know Arabic, having learned to read the Koran at an early age.
What are their beliefs?
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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