The Fulakunda are a sub-group of the Fulani , a vast cluster of peoples living throughout central and western Africa. They live primarily in Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and The Gambia in small villages of round, mud, straw-roofed huts. They do subsistence farming of corn, millet, peanuts and rice.
As the Fulani migrated southward to and through Guinea Bissau during the fifteenth century, some of them mixed with the Mandingo in the area. Those who intermarried with the Mandingo were considered black, or preto. These Fulani became known as Fula Preto, or Fulakunda. They speak Fulakunda (a Fulani language), which belongs to the West Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language family. The area they inhabit lies between Guinea Bissau, Guinea, and Gambia. They live among the Mandingo and other Fulani peoples in the forests of southern Senegal.
Although the Fulakunda have mixed cultures and have intermarried with other groups in the area, they still practice many of the customs and traditions of the traditional Fulani. Their lives center around their herds of cattle or sheep. In fact, the more cattle one owns, the wealthier he is considered to be. In addition, some Fulakunda are hired as herdsmen for various kingdoms in the Sudan, just as their fathers were before them.
Mixing agriculture with herding, the Fulakunda consume grains and milk as their staple foods. Meat is seldom eaten. In fact, only during important formal events, such as the naming ceremony or at the birth of a first son, is beef consumed. Even then, it is usually eaten only for ceremonial purposes. Donkeys, chickens, and dogs are kept on the farms.
The wuro (village) is the center of Fulakunda society. It is there that the women do most of their work. They prepare the evening meal, which takes about four or five hours. They also gather grass and twigs for the construction of their huts. Milking the cattle and preparing butter are other important chores. The men herd the cattle and dig wells. Sons over the age of 15 assume their fathers' work. The young men are directed and supervised by their fathers.
At 15, a boy builds and begins living in his own hut, which he will eventually share with his first wife. Subsequent wives will be given huts of their own. A girl is often lent to a man, to see if she will work well with the first wife. The prospective husband will visit and give gifts to the girl's family until the marriage is official.
Although they may lack a western scholarly grasp on book knowledge, they are considered skilled social analysts. Some elders have traveled in many countries and know of the language, people, and culture of each.
The Fulakunda of Senegal are a Muslim people. They adhere strongly to Pulaaku virtues and good morals, such as justice, honesty, generosity, and patience.
The Fulakunda think of the village as a place of rules and obligations, a place for socially acceptable behavior. The bush, on the other hand, is a place of freedom, where they can act according to their own needs.
The Fulakunda hate to feel alone. However, they tend to hide their feelings, and the need for love and companionship is not expressed in public. Only through songs is this need freely acknowledged.