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The Halpulaar-en

Introduction
(See also Fuuta-Tooro)
Although they are also found widely dispersed throughout West- Africa, t
he Halpulaar,a sub-group of the Fulani people, live mostly in the Senegal River Valley in Northern Senegal and Southern Mauritania, .

The origins of the Halpulaar (sometimes called Tukolor) are hard to determine, but that they are descendants of the ancient rulers of the Tekruur Empire are quite certain. 
Although there is insufficient information about their origins, it seems likely that the nomadic, cattle-raising Fulani emigrated from Ethiopia, or an area adjacent to it, and in their search for pastures and water for their animals, eventually arrived on the northern borders of Senegal in the 10th century. It is now well recognized that the Fulani spread from there to different parts of West-Africa.
Early history indicates that the Halpulaar settled in the
Senegal River valley in the 9th century, and during the period from the 10th to 14th century, their strong state of Tekrur dominated the valley. The Halpulaar were converted to Islam and in the mid-11th century and participated in establishing the Almoravid state, centered in Morocco. In the 14th cent. the Mali empire expanded westward from the region of the upper Niger River and conquered Tekrur.
Islam was accepted as early as 850 AD in the Kingdom of Tekruur, situated on both banks of the Senegal, by the Dia Ogo dynasty. This dynasty was the first West African people who accepted Islam . It was for this reason that Arab Muslim historians referred to Bilâd al-Tekruur as The land of the Black Muslims. Warjabî ibn Rabis, was the first ruler of Tekruur, in whose reign Islam  was firmly established and the Islam ic shariah system enforced. This gave a uniform Muslim law to the people of the region. By the time the Al-MurabiÏûn or Almoravids began their attack on Tekruur in 1042 A.C., Islam had made a deep impact on the people of that area. Al-Idrîssa in 1511 A.C. described the Tekruur country as secure, peaceful and tranquil. The capital town of Tekruur was also called Tekruur which had become an important centre of commerce between North Africa and West-Africa.

The Society  

Traditionally sedentary farmers in a close-knit society, these Speakers of Pulaa, or Haalpular'en as the Halpulaar like to call themselves, were possibly the first West Africans to convert to Islam in the 11th century. It is through Halpulaar warriors and holy men that the other major population groups in Senegal and elsewhere in West-Africa were converted to the Islamic faith.

 

The Halpulaar inhabit the following areas: Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Gambia and  Some in Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Burkina Faso and other West African countries as well as numbers of expatriates in Europe, the Middle-East and America.

The Fuuta Toro, the largest area of settlement for the modern day Halpulaar people is in the northern St. Louis province of Senegal, in the major geo-political region officially recognized as the Fuuta Toro, encompassing a large area of northern Senegal and southern Mauritania.

This is the generally agreed birth place of Fulani people who in the 11th Century AD, started migrating east in search of better pastures. They migrated as far east as Sudan and Eritrea. In the process, they launched jihads in many parts of West-Africa including Sokoto in present day Nigeria. The Fulani-Tooroove of Nigeria have retain some of the original names and traditions of their Fuuta Tooro forbearers.

 

The Fuuta Toro is divided into 2 areas, one in the west called the Toro and one in the east called the Fuuta. Halpulaar staying in these two areas are respectively called Tooroodo (singular) / Tooroove (plural) in the Western region, and Fuutanke (singular) / Fuutankoobe (plural) in the Eastern region of the Fuuta Toro. The majority of the Halpulaar people in the Senegal River valley. They occupy a 350km long narrow belt of country (approx. 20km wide) in the Fouta region, between Fanaye, East of Dagana on the Senegal River, and Debankani North West of Bakel. This belt of land stretches right onto the border of Mali and Senegal in the East.

 

Since they are minorities in the countries they reside in the tend to speak other languages.

Second/ trade languages:

 

In Mauritania: French, Wolof or  Hassaniaya.

In Senegal: Wolof, and or  French.

In Mali: Bambara and French.

In Nigeria: Hausa, and English.

In Gambia: English, Wolof and French.

 

The Halpulaar have developed strong alphabetization programs in their own language. There are various current literacy programs among the Pulaarophone including; ARED,(Associates in Research and Development Inc,) and GIPLIN (Group for the Promotion of Books in National Languages).


Traditional living:

Food: The favorite dish is rice and fish , called maaro e lizzi. This is often served with some pieces of vegetable. The staple in the Fuuta used to be Couscous a millet meal based dish. The dish that is considered to be the traditional dish of the Halpulaar, is Couscous served with a souse made from the green leaves of the peanut plant or the sweet-potato plant. This is called Lacciri e haako. (See Cooking)

 

Shelter: Traditionally the Halpulaar lived in thatched mud dwellings, grouped together in villages governed by an arzo. The villages are usually very neat and tidy. In larger towns thatched roofs are replaced by tin / sink roofs. Constructions are generally of mud bricks that are plastered over with mud or cement. Cement has the advantage that it does not have to be redone every year like the mud plastering. More and more people are adopting building with cement bricks instead of the traditional mud bricks.


Clothing
: The style of dress has been largely influenced by Arabic/Muslim tradition, but also reflects a certain practicality concerning the climate. During special occasions people dress up in brightly colored clothes with richly embroidered in gold thread. Women and men alike will also wear their best jewelry, mostly gold chains, rings, earrings and bangles, on such occasions. Men generally wear large long flowing mantels known as 3 piece or 2 piece Bubus, with turbans or Islamic style Fez skullcaps. Women generally wear large long flowing dresses, also called Bubus, with wrap-around skirts beneath, and scarves as head-dress (worn in turban style.) Another form of dress worn by both men and women is a basic drop-over long poncho style outfit made from one drop of material that falls to the knee or the ankles.

 

Society and Culture:

The principal forms of occupation are: Herders, Farmers, Tradesmen, Fisherman, Entertainer and Craftsmen. Authority and power is in the hands of the elders and the men in general. Transitory and Spiritual authority and power are in the hands of the upper cast, the Tooroove. High status is attached to membership in a noble lineage or a prosperous family. The organization of the Halpulaar society revolves around two main forces, the clan, and the caste system. Of these, the largest form of association and relationship is the clan, subdivided into lineage groups - a sort of extended family. Halpulaar always group themselves around a Chief or leader (of a suburb, town, region, etc.)


The Halpulaar maintain and follow a patriarchal social structure. Community life is highly stratified into a hierarchy of 12 casts, grouped into social classes: torroove , rimve, subalve, sevve, jawave,  and nyenyve.. The first and highest class comprises the chiefs and religious leaders. Most Halpulaar are members of this Tooroove class.

The value of an individual is determined by his cast and not by his riches, fame or any other position in life. Relationships are of primary importance but social connections are formed on the horizontal within a social class and marriages by example, are traditionally never contracted across class lines.In the caste system, the castes are characterized by hereditary, endogamy and / or professional specialization. They constitute closed groups and maintain relationships with one another on a hierarchical basis. Social relations, especially questions of domination and subordination are defined essentially by the castes to which people belong.

 

The social structure is highly stratified and is based primarily on male lineage groups, which are usually scattered among several villages. Each clan embraces all that trace their descent to a common ancestry. Within the clan, members owe one another social obligations and responsibilities. Members of a clan group usually occupy the same area and traditionally defend their area against other clans. Over the centuries the clans acquired a measure of autonomy, which was particularly pronounced during the time of the empire, and the Fuuta Toro became a loose federation of such groups.

Under the influence of Islam the Halpulaar gradually changed from matrilineal to paternally structured society. An example of this is that the wife would come to live at the village of her father-in-law. The typical household comprises father, his sons and grandchildren, their wives, children and sometimes more distant kin.


Greetings 

Greeting is one of the most important social conventions. Greetings are appropriate when coming across local people, especially in the bush, and the visitor should make the effort to learn these phrases. Handshaking on meeting, regardless of how many times a day one meets the person, is normal. When visiting a village it is polite to call upon the village headman or schoolteacher to explain that you want to spend the night there or visit the area.

 

Weddings: The Halpulaar strictly observe the Islamic categories of prohibited persons in marriage and marriage equality regulations. A bride price, including the obligatory gifts of animals, or nafore, goes to the couple to guarantee the stability of the union. Part of the nafore is turned over to the bride as a dowry, but if she seeks divorce, the nafore is restored to the husband. Halpulaar do not regard the levirate as obligatory. Customarily, Halpulaar prefer to marry in Shawwal, the month that the Prophet Mohammed married Aisha. Fridays are reserved for virgins, while Mondays are for divorcees and widows.

The general term for marriage is dewgl (ve mbazii dewgal). The verb form to get married is resde, but the process of getting married is divided into several steps. The initial step is called the xamol, from the verb xamde meaning to ask for a woman's hand in marriage. At this stage the man's family approaches the family of the woman to discuss a desired marriage. The couple involved may or may not have made the choice, or approve of the choice themselves. In either case, the families must give their consent because marriage arrangements are carried out between families, and are considered family affairs. The next step involves the older male members of both families who will go to the Mosque to tie the marriage. This step is called the kumal, from the verb humde meaning "to tie". The symbol of this step is the sharing of kola nut (peccugol goro) which is provided by the man's family. Once this step has been taken the couple is considered married, but it still may be several months, or even longer, before the woman actually moves into her husbands compound. This last step known as the kuurtagol, the moving of the wife to the husbands compound is an expensive step, celebrated with jubilant and protracted festivities. While the preparations for this final step are being made, the wife may continue to live at her parent's compound, or elsewhere with other family members.

 

Art forms: Poetry is very important, and is incorporated in the traditional use language among the older generation. Dance also has a prominent place in Halpulaar social interaction. Traditional dance varies from region to region, but is generally accompanied by traditional drumming. Most celebrations incorporate some for of dancing. The younger generation in the true following of this age regularly arranges evenings of dance, where the music style is dominated by American , Caribbean,, and modern African jazz-style music.

Storytelling is also a very important art and communication form. Storytellers are paid for their services and perform such diverse stories as the recounting of history and folklore, to the praise-singing of dignitaries or events. Storytellers are a must at a wedding feast, and depending on the status of a family many might be hired for the occasion. (See Also Videos)

 

The main forms of recreation consist of socializing by visiting and chatting around the traditional tea, dancing and storytelling. In recent times it has become popular to arrange social evenings of debate over tea, as well as socio-cultural evenings where traditions and folklore is recounted and discussed.

The most important sports in the region are Football and West African wrestling. This form of hand-to-hand combat differs from Greco-Roman wrestling in that kicking and punching is allowed. The loser is the first one to hit the ground or have both feet of the ground. There are other traditional sports as well.

 

Religion

Mauritania apart, Gambia, Mali and Senegal,  are secular states with freedom of religion. Islam has grown over the past 50 years and Islam has increased to 95. Moslems in Senegal are adherents to Sunni Islam, but over 85% of Muslims are members of the three Muslim Sufi brotherhoods -- the Mouride, Tidjane, and Qadiri -- who are very influential in political and economic life in Senegal.

The Halpulaar are very proud of their Islamic heritage - of being the first West African group to embrace Islam. They generally belong to the strict Tijaniya School.

Traditional beliefs in the nature of man and his destiny after death play a significant role in the Halpulaar outlook on life. The impersonal vital force, fittaandu, is upon death absorbed into deity, while the shadow soul, mbeelu, is the personal spirit, subject to reward in heaven or punishment in hell. these two spirits, however, is not as clear as might be expected, and they are often confused.

Sernaave (sing. cierno), Marabouts are the spiritual authority centers. They are the religious leaders and teachers. It is through these men that Satan controls the lives of the people. From the cradle to the grave, a person lives under the shadow of the Marabout. Whether for giving a name at birth, for education, for celebrating a marriage, for burial, for healing or cursing, the Marabout is ever present.

Halpulaar differentiate among their clergy according to whether they lead prayer, teach, specialize in the study and interpretation of the canon law, or head a mosk. The common word for a cleric is midibbo, the teacher is the Cierno, while the jurist and the high priest is the fojo. The mosk head, often also the chief administrative officer in a village, is called almami.

The Brotherhoods: In the past the Halpulaar have been associated with various Sufi tariqas (brotherhoods). Early in the 19th century the Shadhiliya was introduced among them by a Fulani cleric, Ali As-Sufi, but they ultimately adopted the Tijaniya upon the rise of Al-Hajj Umar.


Adapted from:
1) www.wagetaway.org
2) "Intrduction to Pulaar" by Sonja F. Diallo