The Manya of Liberia
About 11 million people in nine African nations speak Manding languages. Most of these languages are oral and do not have written forms. Thus, the Mande record their history through the spoken word, and their oral literature is regarded as some of the best in the world.
The Mande inhabit the western third of Africa's great northern savanna and coastal forests. They descended from the people of the once great Mali Empire. The empire amassed a great fortune by taxing the trade of gold and ivory in the region. Before becoming a part of the empire, the Mande were credited with revolutionizing agriculture in the area. They discovered the use of millet, which is still their staple food.
What are their lives like?
A typical Manya meal consists of steamed rice, covered with a spicy stew of vegetables and meat or fish, if available. Mangoes, bananas, oranges, papayas, and cashews add balance to their diet.
The Manya live in large, walled-in villages. Within the villages, extended families live in separate, fenced-in compounds. Their dwellings are round, thatch-roof huts made of mud and sun-dried brick. The compounds are composed of clans who share a common surname. Villages are ruled by a chief, but the oldest representative from the descendants of the first settlers is counted as nobility and also has authority. Men commonly have more than one wife.
There is a clear social order among the Manya that ranges from nobility to commoners. The lowest and most despised class consists of craftsmen and former slaves. Some people are born into certain "caste-like" trades, such as griots, or musicians. Their society is patriarchal, or male-dominated. The line of descent is traced through the fathers, and inheritances are passed down through the males.
The Manya children belong to "age-sets" until they marry. An age-set is a three or four year interval, with every child born in those years belonging to the same set. The children in an age-set go to school together and work together.
What are their beliefs?
Islam was first brought to West Africa by individual merchants who served as agents to advance their religion. In addition, they helped prepare the way for a deeper, more permanent religious and cultural penetration of their faith. Islam's simplicity has made it both popular and deep-rooted in Mande culture. Because Islam does not ask its adherents to abandon all their old customs and beliefs, it is very adaptable to traditional religions. The Manya belief that spirits are either good, evil, or mischievous is derived from Muslim teachings. Also, Islam approves the use of magic to obtain healing from disease, the prevention of misfortune, and the assurance of prosperity and success. Traditional cults of the dead continue the belief in saintly forefathers acting as mediators between god and man.
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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