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Repenser les sociétés du Sahel ancien : circulations et transferts

Bentyia (Kukyia): a Songhay–Mande meeting point, and a “missing link” in the archaeology of the West African diasporas of traders, warriors, praise-singers, and clerics

Bentyia (Kukyia), un point de rencontre songhaï–mandé et un “chaînon manquant” dans l’archéologie des diasporas de commerçants, guerriers, griots et clercs en Afrique de l’Ouest
Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias

Résumés

L'actuelle tragédie malienne attire notre attention sur les divisions, les tensions et les conflits, présents et passés, entre groupes ethniques ouest-africains, confessions religieuses et populations de différentes régions. Mais, une perspective critique sur la longue durée fait apparaître des emprunts entre cultures et nous aide à comprendre comment la mobilité des personnes à travers l'Afrique occidentale relie les histoires régionales et ethniques. L’axe de communication allant de l’Aḍagh au Niger et, le long de la vallée du Niger, de Gao à Busa (au Borgou nigérian) et au-delà, est un espace stratégique pour examiner cette mobilité et cette connectivité. Il raccordait les zones du Sahara, de la savane et de la forêt. Il exerçait un attrait sur les diasporas de griots soninkés et de guerriers et commerçants mandingues. Les pêcheurs, comme d’autres « gens du fleuve », les gardiens de la tradition orale, comme les artisans, les prêtres et prêtresses des cultes africains, comme les clercs islamiques, ainsi que les marchands qui pratiquaient le commerce à longue distance se déplaçaient sur cet axe, sans oublier les armées et les gens réduits en esclavage. Si les sites archéologiques à Bentyia/Kukyia occupent une position stratégique sur cet axe historique, ils n’ont cependant pas fait l'objet de fouilles, d’où une grave lacune dans notre connaissance de l’histoire de la partie orientale de la vallée du Niger et de l’ensemble de l’Afrique de l’Ouest.

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Dédicace

In homage to Michał Tymowski1

Notes de l’auteur

I thank Anne Haour, Sonja Magnavita, and Sam Nixon for their comments on a draft of this paper; however, these colleagues are not responsible for any mistakes I may have made in its present text.

Texte intégral

Today’s conflicts and the connectivity of West African regional and ethnic histories

1As I complete this paper at the end of December 2012, the people of the whole north and east of the Republic of Mali face a food crisis, the prospect of renewed armed conflict, and restrictions on the freedom to pursue their way of life. The restrictions imposed on them particularly target some of the established religious practices of local Muslims and the customary rights of Tuareg and other women.

2After having had to cope with severe drought for three years or longer, the region had rains this year. However, as pointed out by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, rainfall also means that pastures and croplands may be exposed to plagues of locusts in the coming years. This new threat is largely a result of the interruption of insect-control programmes in the locust-breeding grounds on Libya’s border areas and the looting of much of the anti-locust equipment that was in place in northern Mali.2

  • 3  Amnesty International document, Index: AFR 37/001/2012 (see also our Bibliographic References).
  • 4  According to John Ging, Director of the Operational Division at the United Nations’ Office for the (...)

3The people of the Aḍagh and of the Niger valley from Timbuktu downstream to Burem, Gao, Ansongo, Bentyia/Kukyia (and further downstream across the border of the Republic of Niger) have been dramatically affected by this political and ecological crisis. Amnesty International estimated at the beginning of May that there were 300,000 displaced northern Malians and that about 190,000 of them had been forced to cross Mali’s borders and seek refuge in neighbouring countries.3 Since then, the number of Malian refugees outside the country has increased to perhaps 250,000.4

4In the refugee camps, Songhay, Tuareg, Bellah, Moor, Arab, Fulani/Peuhl, Dogon, Soninke, and other people from northern Mali, including families who combine two or more of these ethnic identities, are striving to survive in dire conditions. Their plight is shared by Tuareg, Moor, and Arab refugees who were violently forced out of Bamako, Kati, and some other places in the south of Mali earlier in the year. At the same time, the south of Mali is itself deeply affected by the influx of persons who had to leave the north and seek shelter there.

  • 5  In Tămašăq (the Berber–Tuareg language of the Aḍagh), the initial vowel in the name “Essuk” is sho (...)

5It might seem unfeeling to write at the moment about archaeological and other fieldwork at Ǝssuk (Essuk/Essouk)5 in the Aḍagh, and at Gao, Saney, Bentyia/Kukyia and other areas of the eastern arc of the Niger Bend, as if this were our sole concern about the region. It might also seem oblivious of present research difficulties as, owing to the insecurity that has spread over so many areas of the Sahara and Sahel, research projects conducted by African and other scholars that were well underway—in Mali and other countries—are now in abeyance, and unlikely to resume soon.

6But this paper is a statement of hope for the future. Above all, it stems from the conviction that the critical investigation of the region’s past is not a detached scholarly pursuit, of little meaning to local people in difficult times like these. Rather, it brings out the cultural borrowings between the various ethnic communities of Mali and reminds all of us of what they share over and above present and past tensions, divisions, and conflicts.

7Such critical investigation also calls attention to other, far-flung African connections. This is so because the eastern arc of the Niger valley has been a cultural crossroads for West Africa as a whole. It is a great axis of communications between regions far to the north and to the south of it. For centuries it relayed into the savannah, and the forest areas, trans-Saharan contacts established via the Aḍagh and the Ayəṛ (Aïr or Ahir)—and continues to be closely linked to these two regions and North Africa. Also, east–west routes across West Africa have intersected that north–south axis. Thanks to this intersection, people and cultural inputs originating far to the west of the eastern Niger Bend, at the core of the Soninke-speaking and Manding-speaking countries, were able to reach areas of the Niger valley downstream from Gao, and also, in the hinterland to the south of the Niger River, the Borgu towns which are now part of the Republic of Bénin (figure 5).

8Soninke-speaking Gɛsɛrɛ praise-singers continue to live in Béninois Borgu, in addition to communities who speak the Dèndí dialect of Songhay. These communities had their historical nuclei established, centuries ago, by a diaspora of traders that spoke Songhay but is likely to have included Wangara traders of Mande origin. They later absorbed other people of diverse ethnic origins while maintaining Dèndí-Songhay as a marker of their distinctive identity. Both the Gɛsɛrɛ and the Dèndí speakers of Borgu are living evidence of the long-distance cultural transmissions facilitated by the eastern-Niger axis of communications that runs through Bentyia/Kukyia (figures 1, 2, 3, 5). From Bentyia/Kukyia in the 15th century grew, under rulers of Mande origin (the Sonyi or Sii), the large expansionist polity usually referred to as “the Songhay Empire”. Also at Bentyia/Kukyia, Arabic inscriptions dating from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century record the presence of a Muslim community whose existence is best explained by involvement in long-distance trade with Borgu, Yorubaland, Hausaland, and other regions. According to all the indications, this was the continuation of a trader community that had existed there since before the arrival of Islam. It incorporated old-established Songhay-speaking trader lineages, and, most probably, Wangara traders arrived later from the Mande.

  • 6  On such modes of interaction between societies, see P. Mitchell, 2005, p. 24.
  • 7  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, lxxxix-xcvii, c-cvi; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2006a, p. 236-260. Th (...)
  • 8  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 234-238; 1996, p. 267-278; 1998, p. 61-66; 2006a, p. 230-236.

9Narratives and rituals on the eastern Niger Bend, and in areas historically connected to it, are rich in convergences of themes.6 This becomes clear when one compares, say, the origin of the Bentyia/Kukyia Sonyi or Sii rulers, as described by one of the Timbuktu chronicles, to the beginning of the Askyia dynasty as constructed by Songhay oral traditions, and to the characteristics of the hero Aligurran/Arigullan as formulated by Tuareg folklore. In some Songhay oral traditions, Maamar (Askyia Muḥammad I, whose mother bore the name “Kasey”) is called Kasey Batyeria or Kasey Bakyeria (literally “Kasey’s rib part”), from the Songhay words ba (“part”) and kyeraw (“rib”, “hip on which a mother carries her child”). This is clearly a calque of the Tămăšaq (Tuareg) word tegăze (“waist”, but also used to mean “sister’s child”). The notion of “sister’s child” is crucial to the Tuareg stories about Aligurran/Arigullan but was then borrowed from these stories (together with other notions) by the Songhay traditionists, who reworked them for their own purposes. The Songhay title Askyia itself is the re-employment of a Tămăšaq word. Moreover, in 17th-century Timbuktu, a few elements of the same Tuareg stories were incorporated by the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān in its description of the coming to power of the Sonyi/Sii.7 Conversely, the name of the Gaani festival celebrated by the Tuareg of the Ayəṛ region in the Republic of Niger is clearly borrowed from Songhay, and (as we will see later in this paper) Songhay-speaking Muslim traders carried the Gaani festival into other West African regions and cultures, in which the festival has been celebrated either as an Islamic event commemorating Prophet Muḥammad, or as a celebration of kingship and chiefship that makes no allusion to the Prophet.8

Recent archaeological work on the Aḍagh–Niger Bend axis points to the need for excavations at Bentyia/Kukyia

  • 9  Contributions to the study of the past of those regions have also come in recent decades from rese (...)

10Lately, the eastern arc of the Niger Bend and some other areas connected to it have attracted a number of important archaeological projects.9

  • 10  S. Nixon, 2009 and his paper in this Dossier of Afriques (S. Nixon, 2013); S. Nixon et alii, 2011a (...)
  • 11  “Găwgăw” is still the Tămašăq name of Gao (the Songhay name is “Gaawo”). “Kawkaw” is one of the Ar (...)
  • 12  See al-Yaʿqūbī in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 52 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 21.

11Archaeological evidence excavated by Nixon (then of the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, now at the University of East Anglia) in 2005 at Ǝssuk in the Aḍagh (figures 1, 2) has thrown new light on the siècles obscurs of the Islamic trans-Saharan trade, the 8th and 9th centuries AD, of which the extant medieval treatises reveal comparatively little.10 His remarkable work (to which we shall return later in this paper) calls attention to the possibility that gold from areas of the Niger Bend south of Bentyia reached Ǝssuk, probably travelling through Bentyia and Gao (Găwgăw/Gaawo, spelt “Kawkaw” by many medieval Arabic sources).11 This could explain why al-Yaʿqūbī, in 259 AH/872 AD, described Gao as the most important of the polities of the Sūdān.12

12Working in co-operation with the University of Ouagadougou, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft “Man and Environment in the West African Savannah” project based at Goethe-University, Frankfurt-am-Main, uncovered at Kissi, in the Oudalan province of Burkina Faso, evidence pointing to trans-Saharan contacts earlier than the 8th century, i.e. earlier than the crossing of the desert by Muslim traders. This is a major achievement of recent archaeological research in West Africa.

  • 13  See R.C.C. Law, 1967; D.F. McCall, 1999, p. 217.
  • 14  See M. Liverani, 2000a; M. Liverani, 2000b; M. Liverani (ed.), 2005; D.J. Mattingly (ed.), 2003; 2 (...)

13The Kissi evidence is all the more significant in view of other new archaeological evidence, on the ancient Garamantes, which has been gathered in Libya. The hypothesis that the Garamantes were involved in contacts with the Niger Bend and other areas of the West African Sahel has been considered for many years by historians.13 However, work in recent years in the Fezzan, in the area extending approximately from Jarma (the site of the Garamantes’ capital, north-west of Murzūq) to the Ghāt district (figure 1), is renewing the question. The research has been conducted by two parallel teams, the Italo–Libyan mission led by Mario Liverani of La Sapienza University of Rome, and the Anglo–Libyan Project led by David Mattingly of the University of Leicester and supported by the Society for Libyan Studies (United Kingdom).14

14It now appears that the Garamantes are best understood not as a peripheral entity on the desert fringes of the Mediterranean world, but rather as a central-Sahara power able to control routes to the Mediterranean shores and, possibly, to the sub-Saharan Sahel. They cultivated cereals and dates, thanks to irrigation through a system of foggara tunnels for the exploitation of aquifers. This fed a large population and supported the development of large-scale fortified settlements, monumental architecture, and a centralised polity. While the Garamantes were mentioned by Herodotus as early as the 5th century BC, it seems this centralised organisation developed later, from sometime in the last century BC onwards, and reached the peak of its power in the first three centuries AD. Their polity declined from c. 400 AD.

  • 15  S.K. McIntosh, 2008, p. 362. See also the remarks on the subject by S. Magnavita, 2009, p. 94-95.

15As remarked by Susan K. McIntosh, so far there is no indisputable evidence of regular trade, carried out by camel caravans, between the Garamantes and sub-Saharan Africa, though “new archaeological evidence may change that assessment at anytime”.15

16In any case, in the centuries intervening between the end of the Garamantian era and the beginning of the journeys of Muslim merchants across the Sahara, it is probable that some degree of trans-Saharan contact with the Sahel was maintained by camel-owning Saharan groups.

  • 16  S. Magnavita, 2009, p. 79, 91, 92; on Kissi, see also S. Magnavita, 2003, and her paper in this Do (...)
  • 17  See A. Ọbáy, 1979, p. 180; R. Horton, 1979, p. 100-103, p. 107.

17Some of the evidence found at Kissi might reflect such early, pre-Islamic contacts across the desert. Other tantalising Kissi evidence suggests the likelihood of southern contacts, sometime in the 9th–13th centuries, with what is now southern Nigeria, most likely along the Niger and through Bentyia.16 Arguably, some of these southern contacts were with the celebrated Yorùbá city of Ifẹ̀, also known as Ilé-Ifẹ̀ (figures 1, 5), within the rain-forest areas of West Africa, which among other things was a glass-working centre.17

  • 18  S. Magnavita et alii, 2007a, p. 157; S. Magnavita et alii, 2007b. See also T. Insoll, 1996, p. 82; (...)
  • 19  See T.R. Fenn et alii, 2009, p. 133, see also p. 138. Igbo-Ukwu is in southern Nigeria, east of th (...)

18In collaboration with the University of Arizona and the Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines of Niger, Sonja Magnavita (since then at the DAIDeutsches Archäologisches Institut, Bonn) and Carlos Magnavita (Goethe-University, Frankfurt-am-Main) carried out work at Marandet, near the Təgiddit cliffs south-west of Agădez and the Ayəṛ region, in Niger (figure 2). Some evidence of possible contacts with the Gao–Kissi–Bentyia/Kukyia region was found there—including a segmented ceramic bead, of the type also recorded at Gao by Insoll, and at Bentyia by Arazi.18 Also, isotopic correspondences suggest “that Kissi and Marandet (and later Marandet and Igbo-Ukwu) were connected through their metals and probably to Carthage and North Africa as well”.19

  • 20  Sonja Magnavita continues to be based at the DAI (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut , Bonn).
  • 21  See B. Gado, 1993; B. Gado, 2004.
  • 22  One might feel tempted to ask whether this Lollo could be the Lolo (Lūlu‘) that had a Qāḍī (“judge (...)
  • 23  S. Magnavita, personal communication. See also: http://www.dainst.org/en/project/eisenzeit-fr%C3%B (...)

19A new project by Sonja Magnavita, funded by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft),20 and in co-operation with Niger’s Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines and scholars from other institutions, has as one of its targets the investigation of possible evidence of trans-Saharan contacts earlier than the Islamic trade across the desert. The investigation of gold production south of Bentyia also falls within the project’s remit. The research is focused on four sites situated south of Bentyia and of the Mali–Niger border, in the area between Tilabeeri and Niamey. Two of the sites are in the hinterland of the west (right) bank of the Niger, close to the celebrated Bura sites (figure 5), where Gado’s pioneering work unearthed splendid terracotta figurines.21 Another one, the dune site of Lollo,22 on the right bank of the Niger, c. 60 km north-west of Niamey, has already yielded important preliminary results, including a radio-carbon date sometime in the 7th–9th centuries and presence of goods that suggest connection to trade networks. The fourth site, Garbey Kourou, is on the left bank of the gold-bearing Sirba water-course (figures 2, 5), close to the point where it joins the Niger. It is approximately 10 km north of Lollo and displays pottery similar to the latter’s. At Garbey Kourou, fragments of small clay crucibles have been found, suggesting that metal was smelted in the area.23

  • 24  See M. Cissé, 2010; M. Cissé et alii, 2007; and also: http://udini.proquest.com/view/archaeologica (...)
  • 25  See R. Mauny, 1950; 1951; 1952; 1961, p. 112-114, p. 492-493, p. 498-499; C. Flight, 1975a; 1975b; (...)
  • 26  See M. Cissé, 2010, p. 280: “Further work on the urban site of GaoAncien is already in production. (...)

20At Saney and Gao, new excavations were conducted in 2001–2009 by Malian archaeologists. They began under the direction of the late Téréba Togola, then head of Mali’s Direction Nationale du Patrimoine Culturel, in collaboration with MINPAKU (Japan’s National Museum of Ethnology, in Osaka). After Togola’s premature death in 2005, his close collaborator Mamadou Cissé continued to work in the area. The results of Cissé’s excavations at Saney are brought together in his PhD thesis, which was supervised at Rice University by Susan K. McIntosh, who, in recent years, has also brought her great archaeological insight and experience to bear upon Gao.24 Cissé has added important new evidence to that found by Insoll and, earlier, Flight and Mauny.25 He is well aware of the need for excavations at Bentyia/Kukyia.26

  • 27  See A. Haour et alii, 2006; O.A. I, 2000 ; O.A. I, 2009; O.A. I et alii, 2005.
  • 28  D. N’dah, 2009, p. 179-191.

21Further south, in the Niger–Bénin border zone, in the area of the Parcs Nationaux du ‘W’ du Niger, the “Projet Sahel 2004”, directed by Anne Haour and others, investigated archaeological sites in the valley of the Mékrou, a west-bank tributary of the Niger situated in the area where the borders of Burkina Faso, the Republic of Bénin, and the Republic of Niger meet (figure 5).27 And N’dah has conducted surveys from 1997 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2007, in the neighbouring Atakora region of the Republic of Bénin.28

22A five-year project funded by the European Research Council, “Crossroads of Empires: Archaeology, Material Culture and Socio-Political Relationships in West Africa”, has begun under the direction of Anne Haour, with the participation of Béninois scholars from the University of Abomey-Calavi (Cotonou) and other scholars. It targets the Karimama area of the Niger valley, near the confluence of the Alibori (figure 5) and the Niger, on the border between the Republic of Bénin and the Republic of Niger. Fieldwork in February–March 2011 and January–February 2012 at the Birnin Lafiya site (downstream from Karimama and upstream from Malanville) unearthed potsherd pavements. This is an important discovery, which may allow comparisons with similar pavements at other archaeological sites, in the Kainji-Dam Lake / Busa (Bussa) area crossed by the river Niger in Nigeria (figures 1, 5) and elsewhere in West Africa.29

23In the light of the available results of these various archaeological projects, it looks increasingly probable that Bentyia, given its strategic position on the Niger River just upstream from rapids (figure 3), was also for a long time a stage on the routes between the Sahel and North Africa on the one hand, and between the Sahel and the rain-forest areas of West Africa on the other.

  • 30  See Ibn al-Faqīh (290 H\903 CE) and Ibn Baṭṭūṭa (754 H/1353 CE) in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 54, p. 316- (...)

24It may have been also linked to the Təgiddit area and other regions east of the Niger valley. Medieval Arabic sources report that the north–south axis of communications along the eastern arc of the Niger Bend was crossed by another axis, which ran from Ghāna, and later from Mali, in the Western Sūdān towards the Ayəṛ region, and ultimately to the Nile valley (figure 1).30 Gao was the Niger Bend stage recorded by the Arabic sources along these west–east routes, but Bentyia may also played a role in the same west–east communications’ axis.

25Hence, the Bentyia sites appear, more and more, as a missing piece in the regional jigsaw puzzle offered by the archaeology of the eastern Niger Bend.

The Bentyia/Kukyia sites

  • 31  J. Rouch, 1953, p. 168; see also J.O. Hunwick, 1994, p. 257; J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xxxiii; R. Kub (...)
  • 32  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1998, p. 47; R. Kuba, 2009, p. 150. Old Busa was never systematically e (...)

26Jean Rouch knew the Niger better than most scholars, having travelled down the river on various local craft all the way from Guinea to the Atlantic, in 1946–1947. He insisted on the historical significance of Bentyia’s geographical position.31 Its sites are just upstream from the Fafa rapids, and the Labbezanga rapids are not far downstream, on the Mali–Niger border (figures 3, 5). In this, Bentyia is comparable to old Busa (or old Bussa) in Nigerian Borgu (figures 1, 5), which was also situated on the Niger near rapids and which is known to have been a political centre from not later than the early 16th century.32

  • 33  Vivid accounts of the perils of crossing the rapids are available—see Lieutenant De Vaisseau [E.A. (...)
  • 34  R. Mauny, 1961, p. 120, 385, was misled by the lack of unmistakable references to Kukyia in the me (...)

27Over the centuries, if traders travelled downstream on the Niger they would need (especially during the low-water season)33 to unload their canoes at Bentyia and arrange for the overland transportation of their goods beyond the rapids. Traders coming upstream would resume riverine transportation at Bentyia. Hence, contrary to what was assumed by Mauny, Bentyia’s importance as a stage along intra- and inter-regional routes almost certainly dates from well before the 14th century and from before the carving of the earliest (13th-century) Arabic inscriptions found there.34

  • 35  R. Kuba, 2009, p. 150.
  • 36  On the advantages of river transportation over transportation over land, see R. Kuba, 2009, p. 150 (...)

28Up to now, “there is disappointingly little direct evidence for a long-distance river trade” along the eastern arc of the Niger Bend.35 Given the advantages of the commercial use of waterways, most probably it was practised in the region.36 However, excavations at Bentyia/Kukyia are needed precisely to clarify this and other questions.

  • 37  Lieutenant L. Desplagnes, 1907, p. 75.
  • 38  N. Arazi, 1999.

29The Bentyia area was one of the first on the Niger Bend to be recognised as of archaeological interest by modern scholarship. We owe this to Desplagnes in 1907.37 But it was only almost ninety years later that the Bentyia sites were for the first time systematically surveyed by an archaeologist—in 1996, by Noémie Arazi (then of the Institute of Archaeology, University College London).38 They have not been systematically excavated yet.

  • 39  On the need for a “holistic archaeological research programme” in the region, see A. Haour, 2007, (...)
  • 40  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxx, clxxii, clxxiv, ccxi, ccxlii, p. 159, 169, 216-217. On Be (...)

30However, excavations there are an indispensable part of any holistic archaeological investigation of the eastern arc of the Niger from Gao to Busa.39 They will clarify the relationship between the local Arabic inscriptions and the Songhay (and Wangara) trade networks. Even more importantly, they will throw light on the long earlier history of the area—from well before the time covered by the inscriptions.40

  • 41  See A.B. Stahl, 1999, p. 47-48; S.K. McIntosh, 1999, p. 66-75.

31A holistic approach requires survey and excavation of sites of diverse types and ages across the whole region and systematic integration of the results obtained at these various locations. It aims to detect variability across time and space, and patterns of contact. It is particularly attentive to sites that represent settlement clusters.41

  • 42  N. Arazi, 1999, p. 36-41 and fig. 1-3, 5-7, 10-13. On urban clustering, see R.J. McIntosh, 1991.
  • 43  In the present paper, on figure 3, Egef-n-tăwăqqast is shown as the “3rd epigraphic site”, but it (...)
  • 44  In her classification, N. Arazi used as the standard the size of the Jenné-jeno site (33 ha) excav (...)

32According to Arazi, the sites at Bentyia display an “urban clustering” settlement pattern. “Central”, “urban” sites coexist with smaller “satellite” sites that are classifiable as “rural” or “intermediate”. This is a pattern characteristic of the early stages of urbanisation.42 She identified 16 sites in Bentyia, including habitation mounds, iron production sites, and three Islamic epigraphic sites (necropolises).43 In the absence of excavation data, she resorted to site size to establish a tentative site hierarchy. Sites above 30 hectares were classified as early “urban”, those between 10 and 25 ha as “intermediate” and those between 1 and 10 ha as “rural” villages and hamlets.44 Three Bentyia sites, measuring 80, 33 and 31 ha, were thus provisionally classified as “urban”.

33Arazi carefully reminds her readers that only systematic excavations will provide radiocarbon dates, and reliable ceramic sequences to be satisfactorily compared to those in other areas across the region. However, having analysed the pottery she assembled on the surface from the point of view of attribute seriation, and taking also into account the presence of lithic material, she tentatively assigned the Bentyia sites to five broad periods. According to this very provisional scheme, there has been continuous human occupation in the Bentyia area since the second millennium BC. But only one site, covering 2 ha and close to the lower part of the Kamgala intermittent water-course, belongs to Period 1 (second/first millennium BC). One of the two main sites assigned to Period 2 (late first millennium BC / early first millennium AD) covers 2 ha, and the other 25 ha. The latter may also have been occupied during subsequent periods. Six of the sixteen Bentyia sites belong to Period 3 (early first millennium AD to c. 1200 AD). They include the “urban” Bentyia-village site, which possibly was the central settlement in the period, and, as satellites of it, two large “intermediate” sites, and some “rural” sites. The Bentyia-village site is largely buried beneath Bentyia’s presently inhabited area. Its accessible part measures 33 ha, but Arazi suggests that its total extent may be at least twice this size and that it may have been already occupied prior to Period 3. Period 4 (c. 1200 AD to c. 1600 AD) includes the Islamic necropolises, the remaining two “urban” sites (80 and 31 ha)—which may have played simultaneous central roles in the cluster at the time—and smaller satellite sites. To Period 5 (from 1600 AD) belong the vestiges of a hamlet, said to have been abandoned in the 1950s, situated on a 3-ha Niger islet facing the present village. From Period 2, vestiges of iron working were found in some sites. Prestige goods like glass and “semi-precious stone beads as well as segmented ceramic clay beads”, suggestive of trade contacts, were collected by Arazi at Bentyia, in the 80 ha “urban” site assigned to Period 4. It needs to be reiterated that this periodisation remains very tentative in the absence of excavations.

  • 45  R. Mauny, 1961, p. 498.
  • 46  T. Insoll, 1996; T. Insoll, 1997, p. 11, p. 22-29.

34It is also relevant to consider certain similarities in spatial arrangement between the Bentyia sites (figure 3) and those in the better-known Gao–Saney area (figure 4). Mauny called attention to a pattern he detected at both Gao–Saney and Kabara–Timbuktu: “double” towns or villages, one of them close to the margin of the river, but the other well beyond the limits of the flood plain.45 Since then, Insoll’s work has shown that Gao and Saney were not merely two settlements, one royal and the other occupied by Muslim traders.46 Rather, they were part of a settlement cluster representing communities with overlapping or complementary specialisations, much like Bentyia now appears to be. However, there remains a clear positional distinction between the Saney and the Gao sites. The former are located approximately 10 km from the river, along an intermittent wadi, while the latter are close to the bank of a branch of the Niger.

  • 47  See N. Arazi, 1999, fig. 13.
  • 48  A small open-air oratory for the performance of the Islamic daily ritual prayers.
  • 49  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1990a, p. 105-107; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. 157-160. On Egef-n-t (...)

35Likewise, in Bentyia most visible sites are within 3 km of the river.47 But another site displaying pottery sherds is approximately 8 km from the Niger, close to the Kamgala intermittent water-course, and also close to Egef-n-tăwăqqast (Bentyia’s fourth epigraphic site, where Arabic inscriptions and a muṣallan,48 now no longer visible, were recorded by De Gironcourt during his second expedition to West Africa in 1911–1912).49 This site, which I have visited and photographed, is not included among those surveyed by Arazi. Other sites are said to exist along the Kamgala, further away from the Niger.

  • 50  R. Kuba, 2009, p. 152.
  • 51  Though the depth of the archaeological deposits at Lollo is still to be determined.

36As remarked by Kuba, “since Boubé Gado’s excavations of the Bura-Asinda-Sikka sites, it has become clear that we can expect rich, stratified, non-Islamic communities south of Gao around the 10th century”.50 S. Magnavita’s preliminary dating of Garbey Kourou and Lollo,51 and Haour’s preliminary results at Birnin Lafiya, reinforce this expectation. It is most likely that the Bentyia/Kukyia sites will reward archaeological investigation in a similar manner (but also add an Islamic dimension to the evidence).

Bentyia/Kukyia: a political capital, an area of coexistence of different ritual communities, and possibly a staging post in the transport of gold extracted from the Niger Valley—a testing ground for the archaeology of power and long-distance trade

37In the absence of excavation data, for the moment we must fall back on other kinds of data about Bentyia.

  • 52  See Lieutenant L. Desplagnes, 1907, p. 75; M. Delafosse, 1972, vol. I, p. 192; G.R. De Gironcourt, (...)
  • 53  In the word Sonyi, the digraph ny transcribes a nasal phoneme similar to that represented by gn in (...)
  • 54  See Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 45 / French transl., p. 85.
  • 55  On this see the classic studies by J. Rouch, 1953, p. 185 and A. Ba Konaré, 1977, p. 121-130.

38Desplagnes was the first to propose the still generally accepted identification of the local sites with Kukyia or Kotyia (spelt “Kūkiyā” in the Arabic of the 17th-century Timbuktu Chronicles).52 As we have already noted, Kukyia was the original seat of the 15th-century Sonyi (Soñi) or Sii rulers.53 The most famous of them, the conqueror Sonyi or Sii Ali Beeri (“Ali the Great”), reigned from 869 AH / 1464 AD to the end of 897 AH (or the beginning of 898 AH) / 1492 AD. He was the real founder of the Songhay Empire. Kukyia remained an official residence (dār sulana) of his, the others being Gao, Kabara (Timbuktu’s harbour), and Waraʿ (north of Lake Debo, in the Niger’s inner delta, to the south-west of Tindirma).54 He moved between these seats of government during his incessant military campaigns. He is widely perceived as a ruler who displayed considerable resistance to Islam, and his often cruel behaviour towards Timbuktu Muslims is highlighted by the chronicles written in Arabic by West African Muslim scholars in 17th-century Timbuktu.55 However, we will see that his attitude to Islam was ambiguous, rather than consistently negative.

  • 56  G.R. De Gironcourt, 1920, p. 27-39, 307-309, 329, 339, 341-353. On the Bentyia inscriptions, see P (...)

39The link with Sonyi political power in the 15th century, and with its ambiguous attitude towards Islam, has remained Bentyia’s main claim to fame. But this is far from exhausting the interest of the local sites. As early as 1909, De Gironcourt recorded Islamic Arabic inscriptions there, during his first expedition to West Africa.56 Actually, Bentyia is one of the three important medieval epigraphic sites along the Niger known so far, the others being Gao and Saney.

  • 57  ‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. ‘Abdullāh Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 4 / French transl., p. 6-7, English transl. i (...)
  • 58  G.R. De Gironcourt, 1920, p. 36-39.

40Timbuktu’s 17th-century historical literature did not know of the Muslims in the Bentyia/Kukyia area and is oblivious of the Arabic inscriptions there (as it is of the inscriptions at Ǝssuk in the Aḍagh, and at Gao and Saney). Actually, the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān makes a point of depicting Kukyia as traditionally a den of “pagan” sorcery, not a place associated with an outpost of Islamic culture.57 Songhay oral tradition is also mostly silent as regards the Muslims of Kukyia. The few, and short, oral stories told about the Arabic inscriptions in the cemeteries of Bentiya/Kukyia are anachronistic.58 They claim the inscriptions commemorate contemporaries of Prophet Muhammad (those called Ešahaba in Songhay and Essəkhabatăn in Tămašăq—from al-Ṣaḥāba, the Arabic generic name for the Companions of the Prophet). No connection is established between the inscribed tombstones and a trader community, or between them and the time of the Sonyi or Sii.

41Thus, epigraphy and (especially) archaeology remain the best ways of access to Bentyia/Kukyia’s past.

  • 59  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lvii.

42The presence of Islamic inscriptions is a strong indication of the juxtaposition and interaction at Bentyia/Kukyia of communities with distinct, but complementary, professional and ritual specialisations. During a certain historical period, the Islam practised by traders was one of these specialisations, added to those which had preceded it, and which must have included the economic and ritual practices of traders who were not Muslim. The inscriptions are also indirect evidence of the presence of smiths in Bentyia/Kukyia. In the absence of a social category of professional stonecutters along the Niger Bend, the task of engraving on stone was usually entrusted to those who worked on iron.59 In one way or another, all those communities must have been involved in the fostering of Songhay’s politico-economic expansionism.

  • 60  See T. Insoll, 1996, 1997, p. 11, p. 22-29; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clviii, clxxxviii-clxx (...)
  • 61  See S.K. McIntosh, 1999, p. 76.
  • 62  On the archaeological investigation of power in Africa, see the percipient studies by P. De Maret, (...)

43Bentyia’s sites are likely to represent something similar to the pattern of clustered settlements revealed by Insoll’s remarkable work at Gao and Saney.60 With their expected combination of evidence of different ritual roles (with the addition of Islamic ones in the case of 13th–15th-century Bentya), they may also prove somewhat reminiscent of Jenné-jeno with its combination of “founding families who controlled the spirits of both the land and the water”.61 This leads to questions about the way political power (and, eventually, the nucleus of the Songhay Empire) were constituted in the area, to be asked by those who eventually develop a (much needed) archaeology of power in the region.62

44The Bentyia corpus of Arabic inscriptions has a chronological depth that goes back well beyond the time of the Sonyi. Though some stelae were engraved in the 15th century and are thus contemporary with these rulers, most of the dates provided so far by Bentyia epigraphy belong to the 13th and 14th centuries. But the inscriptions cover only a comparatively short stretch of a local history which extends still further back in time and which is likely to have left behind archaeological signatures that need to be recognised and explored.

  • 63  S. Magnavita, 2009, p. 96.
  • 64  C. Pelzer et alii, 2009, p. 218-219. On the important building complex at Oursihu-beero (11th–12th(...)

45While discussing the Kissi excavations, Magnavita has pointed out the likelihood that the Bentyia sites might also yield exciting archaeological evidence of trans-Saharan contacts, and social complexity, prior to the plying of the Sahara by Muslim caravans.63 Concerning a later period (late first and early second millennium AD), Pelzer et alii have suggested that the site of Oursi hu-beero, situated like Kissi in the Oudalan province of Burkina Faso, is likely to have been part of a contact network including Gao and Bentyia.64

  • 65  See R. Vernet, 1996, p. 31, 324-325, 336, 342-345; and his paper in this Dossier of Afriques (R. V(...)

46As regards the period when regular trans-Saharan trade in gold was already being conducted by Muslim traders, it is important to keep in mind that alluvial gold is found in the valleys of the Daargol (figure 2) and Sirba (figures 2, 5), two west-bank affluents that join the Niger south of Bentyia (downstream from Tilabeeri). In addition, gold has been mined elsewhere in the region from dates still to be precisely determined. Three radiocarbon datings were obtained from the village site that surrounds one of the mines, at Tóndì-Kwàaréỳ (“White Rock”), south of the Sirba and on the northern margin of the Gorubi, a west-bank affluent that joins the Niger downstream from Say (figure 5). They place its occupation between 545±40 BP and 395±80 BP, i.e. beginning in the late 14th century at the earliest, and ending in the late 16th, or early 17th, century.65 But there are other mines, and more archaeological work needs to be done before it is possible to date the beginnings of gold extraction in the region.

  • 66  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cxxxix-cxl, cxliv-cxlv.

47Gold from the Daargol and Sirba valleys, and neighbouring areas, may have been exported by river via Bentyia in the days of the Sonyi/Sii of Bentyia/Kukyia (15th century), and earlier, in the 13th and 14th centuries, when inscriptions were already being engraved in Bentyia/Kukyia, probably by a community of inter-regional traders. During the period when Ǝssuk in the Aḍagh was a centre of trans-Saharan trade (approximately from the 9th to the early or mid-14th century),66 conceivably, such gold may also have been transported on the river to Bentyia and then Gao, and thence overland to Ǝssuk, on its way to North Africa. In this connection, we must briefly return to the extremely important evidence excavated at Ǝssuk by Nixon.

  • 67  See Al-Bakrī, in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 107 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 85; also P.F. d (...)
  • 68  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ccxxxii-ccxxxv.
  • 69  See Al-Bakrī, in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 107 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 85.

48The identification of the Ǝssuk sites with medieval Tadmăkkăt, an important centre of trans-Saharan trade, had been confirmed by a local Arabic inscription that echoes a passage about Tadmăkkăt in al-Bakrī’s 11th-century text.67 Moreover, it had been shown that certain particularities in the lettering of Ǝssuk’s Arabic medieval inscriptions display the influence of the Arabic epigraphy of North African cities like Tarābulus (Tripoli) and Qayrawān (Kairouan), with which Tadmăkkăt is known to have been in regular contact.68 However, Nixon’s work at Ǝssuk has for the first time provided archaeological support for that identification (and much more). He found gold-coin moulds at a horizon that has the date range 850–950 AD and that is earlier than the deposits rich in North African luxury imports. This finding vindicates another al-Bakrī passage, which mentions the production of “bald” (stamp-less) dinars at Tadmăkkăt.69

49As we have already stated, this archaeological evidence that gold was indeed locally processed into coins is also significant in another way. It draws renewed attention to the hypothesis that Ǝssuk/Tadmăkkăt had access to gold supplies coming from the Daargol and Sirba valleys and neighbouring areas, rather than (or not only) from more distant western sources like Bambuk (Bambuhu) and Bure (figure 1).

  • 70  S. Magnavita, personal communication.

50Archaeometallurgical analysis of the chemical composition of the gold droplets found in the Ǝssuk gold-coin moulds could in the future indicate the place of origin of this metal sample. In the meantime, gold samples from south of Bentyia were collected by Sonja Magnavita in the Daargol and Sirba valleys in March–April 2008 and March 2009. The analysis of their chemical composition and their comparison with gold samples from North Africa and elsewhere could also throw new light on these questions.70

  • 71  See T. Insoll, 1995.

51But it is not only in the trans-Saharan trade in gold that Bentyia may have played a role. Hippopotamuses are still found in the Bentyia area, which may have been the source of some of the hippopotamus ivory shipped across the Sahara to North Africa. Evidence of this trade dating to the 10th–12th century period was found by Insoll at Gao.71

  • 72  T. Insoll, T. Shaw, 1997, p. 19. See also T. Shaw, 1970b, p. 280; M. Last, 1985, p. 181; T. Insoll(...)

52As to trade along the Niger River between the Sahel and the rain-forest areas of West Africa, Insoll and Shaw have argued—on the basis of the comparison of bead evidence from Gao and from Igbo-Ukwu in southern Nigeria, east of the Niger and within the rain-forest areas (figure 5)—that goods imported from outside West Africa were already travelling southwards along that route in the late first millennium AD. They see Bentyia as a likely stage on the route.72

Bentyia/Kukyia: the Muslims and the Political Chiefs

  • 73  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. 157-210, inscriptions 188-250.

53Of the 63 Arabic inscriptions from Bentyia known up to now, 42 bear legible dates. In the two main cemeteries, the dates range from 670 AH / 1272 AD to 894 AH / 1489 AD. Elsewhere in the Bentyia area, at Egef-n-tăwăqqast, an inscription engraved in unpointed Arabic yielded a date that may be read as either 578 AH / 1182 AD or 598 AH / 1201 AD.73

  • 74  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, inscriptions n. 222-234, 244, 247.
  • 75  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, inscriptions n. 232 and n. 233.

54Only fifteen of the inscriptions known so far bear dates belonging to the 9th century H / 15th century AD.74 Two of them date respectively from 881 AH / 1476 AD and 894 AH / 1489 AD.75 Hence they are contemporary with the conqueror Sonyi or Sii Ali Beeri. The other thirteen inscriptions dating from the 15th century were engraved during the time of his Sonyi or Sii predecessors at Kukyia.

  • 76  The Sonyi/Sii may well have followed non-Islamised burial rites. No inscriptions commemorating Ask (...)

55The inscriptions found so far do not record any Sonyi/Sii (or any other chiefly lineage or royal dynasty, Songhay or otherwise, Islamised or not).76 But it would be an oversimplification to see the Bentyia epigraphic corpus as nothing but a witness to the local presence of an “Islamised elite” of traders. In fact, two of the stelae direct attention not only to Islamic cultural identities, but also to the local existence of two offices (those of Wazīr, “minister” and Khaṭīb, “Friday preacher”) clearly linked to institutionalised relations between the local Muslims and local political authorities outside the Muslim–trader community.

  • 77  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cxix-cxxii, p. 214-215.
  • 78  See R.J. McIntosh, 1998, p. 14-18, p. 306. See also (in the light of archaeological and ethnograph (...)
  • 79  The ṣālat al-istisqā’ (“prayer for rain”) is a ritual performed on a Friday, during the night unti (...)

56The Bentyia/Kukyia stelae functioned in the context of the coexistence of Islam with other cultural practices. Most of the still legible inscriptions are epitaphs bearing the names of the deceased. But Muslim cemeteries functioned as more than burial places. In Bentyia, as in other parts of West Africa, Muslims established themselves in areas where the landscape was already inscribed, and given meaning, by earth and river rituals older than the local presence of the religion of the Qurʾān. Muslims cemeteries, with their tombs oriented towards Mecca, and their dates according to the Hijra calendar, were means of constructing local space and time according to alternative, Islamic paradigms.77 They helped to introduce, and maintain, an additional way of reading the landscape that was meaningful and comforting to Muslims. They participated in the creation, combination, and modification of the African “symbolic reservoirs” that archaeologists now regard as within their sphere of investigation.78 They advertised the presence of the Qurʾānic Allāh in a region also claimed by local gods and goddesses. At the same time, they were reminders of the powers conferred on Muslims by their particular cultic identity—their links with faraway places, their written amulets and their books, their specific healing techniques, and their specific mode of praying for rain (ṣālat al-istisqā’).79

  • 80  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clxxxvii-clxxxix, 170-173, 191-192, 199-200, inscriptions n. 202, (...)

57Some of the cemetery inscriptions at Bentyia are not epitaphs at all. They are compilations of Qurʾānic passages and implicitly prompt those who read them to recite these texts. One of the inscriptions encourages the readers to utter the name of Allāh like the Prophet himself used to do. These inscriptions were there to present texts and activate them into oral performance. They defined a space for Islamic practices and clearly distinguished it from landmarks associated with other rites. But they also issued a message about Muslim skills and about their usefulness to local society as a whole, the gist of which could be grasped by the locals who neither prayed towards Mecca nor read Arabic.80

The political role of the Khaṭīb office in Bentyia/Kukyia and Gao, and Bentyia/Kukyia’s congregational mosque (possibly detectable by archaeology)

58The Khaṭīb is the Islamic officer who pronounces the khuṭba, i.e. the sermon preached at the Friday public prayer-service in the masjid jāmiʿ (congregational mosque). He has a crucial political role because, in the khuṭba, the legitimacy of the local political ruler must always be formally acknowledged. Through the khuṭba, the Bentyia/Kukyia Muslim community must have paid allegiance to the Sii/Sonyi who ruled the area.

  • 81  According to the inscription, the Wazīr was “iniquitously killed” by people it does not clearly id (...)

59The Khaṭīb inscription (dated 815 AH / 1412 AD) also shows that there was at the time a major central mosque in Bentyia, not only smaller local mosques for the performance of the daily ṣalawāt (singular ṣalā, “ritual prayer”). Archaeology may yet detect the vestiges of that large mosque. The Wazīr inscription is dated [8]24 AH / 1421 AD. The name of the office of Wazīr (“minister”, “helper”, in Arabic) also points to political functions, probably of mediation between the Muslim trader community and the local ruler. At the time of both inscriptions, this ruler was one of the Sonyi/Sii who preceded Sonyi Ali Beeri.81 Both the Khaṭīb and the Wazīr commemorated in Bentyia bear Songhay-language appellations as part of their Arabic-Muslim names.

  • 82  On the office of Timbuktu-koy, see the editors’ notes to Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, transl. p. 82, footn (...)
  • 83  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 18, 19, 72, 73, 99, 108, 119, 132, 141-142, 151 / French transl., p. 32-3 (...)

60In addition to pronouncing the khuṭba, the Khaṭīb of Bentyia/Kukyia must have performed other functions, including those of Qāḍī (“judge”), as it was the custom in many areas of the Niger valley upstream from Bentyia (though not in Timbuktu). Among the Sūdān (“black populations”) of those areas, following a practice still widespread at the time the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān was written in the 17th century, the Islamic officer in charge of judicial matters was the Khaṭīb, while the Bīḍān (“whites”, such as north-African traders) would have a Qāḍī of their own to settle their disputes. Askyia Muhammad I, who had overthrown the Sonyi/Sii dynasty in 1493, changed that practice in Jenne after his return from Mecca in 1498, by appointing the first Qāḍī of that city. However, it remained possible for the offices of Khaṭīb, Qāḍī, and Imām of the congregational mosque to be concurrently held in Jenne by the same person. In Gao, the office of Khaṭīb is the only Islamic office known to have existed during the reign of Sonyi Ali Beeri. Political prisoners like the Timbuktu-koy (“Timbuktu’s Chief”)82 were kept by Sonyi Ali Beeri in Gao, under the control of the Khaṭīb. Moreover, Sonyi Ali Beeri entrusted part of his treasure to the guardianship of Gao’s Khaṭīb (it was with those funds that Askyia Muḥammad I later financed his pilgrimage to Mecca). Throughout the Askyia dynasty’s period of independent rule (1493–1591), the Khaṭīb and Qāḍī functions remained systematically combined in Gao. During the reign of Askyia Dāwūd (1549 to 1582 or 1583), the Khaṭīb-Qāḍī was at least once asked to administer the largesse the ruler dispensed to the poor. When, in 1591, the conquering army sent from Morocco reached Gao, their commander Jawdar was welcomed by the Khaṭīb Maḥmūd Darāmī together with those traders and Islamic clerics who had been unable or unwilling to flee the city.83

61Thus, as regards the Khaṭīb’s remit, the Askyia rulers seem to have preserved in Gao the essence of what they had inherited from the Sonyi dynasty’s practices. In the light of the epigraphic evidence we are discussing, it is possible to surmise that Sonyi Ali Beeri had simply continued in Gao the custom he had known at Bentya/Kukyia.

  • 84  See Ibn Khaldūn, in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 348-349 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 336. Als (...)

62As to the separate office of Qāḍī of the Bīḍān (“whites”), it is to be remembered that Ibn Khaldūn mentions an informant he had met in 776 AH / 1374–1375 AD, Abū ‘Abd Allāḥ Muḥammad b. Wāsūl of Sijilmāsa, who had been Qāḍī in Gao.84

  • 85  M. Tymowski, 2009, p. 166.

63The evidence in Bentyia’s Khaṭīb and Wazīr inscriptions reinforces the view advanced by Michał Tymowski as to the importance, in some Sahelian state-building processes, of the emergence of Muslim judges and other Muslim notables, both “affiliated with the courts” of the (often non-Muslim) rulers and capable of “resolving disputes among the merchants”.85

The Mande–Songhay encounter in Bentyia/Kukyia

  • 86  On the Soninke Geseru, oral specialists attached to the warrior aristocracy, see M. Diawara, 1990, (...)

64Through the west–east West African routes intersecting the north–south axis constituted by the eastern arc of the Niger Bend, both traders and warriors on horseback came to Bentyia/Kukyia from the Manding-speaking countries in the west. Also, the oral traditionists who came from the Soninke-speaking country in the west and are now found in regions downstream from Bentyia/Kukyia, and as far south as Borgu in the Bénin Republic, must have passed through Bentyia/Kukyia (of these oral traditionists—the Soninke Geseru—we shall talk in a later section of this paper).86

  • 87  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 38 / transl., p. 65.

65The parallel operations of Mande traders and Mande warriors in the Niger valley are indirectly mentioned by one of the 17th-century Timbuktu chroniclers. Without providing geographical or chronological details, the author of the Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh felt compelled to explain that they were all people of the same origin, but “Malinke” was the name given to those who were warriors, while those in charge of the trade from country to country were called “Wangara”.87

  • 88  See G. Brooks, 1993, p. 46.
  • 89  For a discussion of the reasons why medieval Islamic epigraphy took root in the eastern, but not t (...)

66At Bentyia/Kukyia, traders from the Manding-speaking countries may have arrived first, to be followed later by Manding-speaking cavalry warriors, as often happened in such processes of expansion: “Mandekalu warriors and their retinues followed the caravan routes pioneered by Mande traders and smiths to plunder and to found conquest states”.88 Both groups must have found at Bentyia/Kukyia an already-established community of traders linked to the north–south trade between Gao and the forest areas of West Africa and other regions in earlier centuries. This Songhay-speaking earlier community had adopted Islam, probably under the influence of itinerant clerics coming from Gao or other areas, and had imported the medieval Gao tradition of Islamic funerary epigraphy, which had no counterpart in the Soninke and Mande lands—hence it is hardly imaginable that the engraving of inscriptions at Bentyia/Kukyia was initiated by Wangara Muslims.89 Songhay was probably also used by them as a lingua franca along their trade routes.

  • 90  Y. Person, 1968, p. 96-97; B.M. Perinbam, 1974, p. 680; P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 176; P.E. Lovejoy, (...)
  • 91  See I. Wilks, 1963, p.I. 410-411; M.A. al-Hajj, 1968; B.M. Perinbam, 1974, B.M. Perinbam, 1980; P. (...)
  • 92  G. Brooks, 1993, p. 4, 46, 60.

67The dispersion of Muslim traders from the Mande heartlands was a crucial aspect of the development of West African internal networks of long-distance trade. Those traders were usually accompanied, or soon followed, by Muslim clerics dispensing Islamic teaching and other services (healing, amulet-making, praying for rain, etc.). The merchants were known by corporate names such as “Wangara” and “Juula” (“Dyuula”). Though they spoke Manding languages, many of them were of Soninke origin and historically linked to the Ghāna Empire—they had adopted Manding languages when Mali’s power and influence overtook Ghāna’s.90 Their dispersal in various directions across West Africa is usually dated by historians from the 8th and 9th centuries AH / 14th and 15th centuries AD,91 though it may have happened earlier in the regions to the south and the west of the Manden.92 In some regions of West Africa, Wangara presence was a forerunner of the political advance of the Mali Empire, while in other regions Wangara traders reached much farther than the power of Mali’s emperors ever did. But, obviously, Mali’s imperial expansion facilitated the spread of the Wangara networks.

  • 93  For a detailed discussion of this chronology, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cvi-cxii, clxxii (...)
  • 94  For a different approach to the history of Mande–Songhay links, see D. Lange, 2004.

68Mali’s permanent, or intermittent, hegemony over Gao and neighbouring areas may be tentatively assigned to the period extending from c. 700 AH / 1300 AD to c. 833 AH / 1429–1430 AD. In other words, it seems to have lasted from after the end of the line of Zuwa (or Juwa) officeholders in Gao to a little before Mali’s loss of Timbuktu to the Tuareg in 837 AH / 1433–1434 AD.93 Sometime during this period, Bentyia/Kukyia must have become an eastern outpost of the Wangara western networks of trade.94

  • 95  Ibn BaṬṬūa, 1966, p. 48-49; Ibn BaṬṬūa, 1968, II, p. 192-193 and IV, p. 395; Ibn BaṬṬūa, 1994, (...)

69Manding-speaking Wangara traders must have reached Bentyia/Kukyia not later than the mid-8th century AH / mid-14th century AD, when Gao was firmly under the control of the Mali empire. Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, with reference to 752–753 AH / 1352–1353 AD, states that Mali’s hegemony extended a certain distance downstream from Gao, to a place called Mūlī, in the country of the Līmiyyūn (i.e. the “Līmis”), “which is the last ‘amāla [“district”, or “province”] of the Mali Empire”, and from which the Niger flowed to Yūfī [possibly a distortion of the name “Nupe”]”.95

70However, it is possible that the Wangara reached Bentyia/Kukyia earlier than that, attracted by the commercial opportunities it offered, which, as we have seen above, may have included trade in gold extracted from areas further downstream.

  • 96  P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 174-182.

71The Manding-speaking traders who established themselves in Bentya/Kukyia appear to have later adopted the Songhay language. This language shift performed by those eastern Wangara is comparable to the earlier one, when the western Wangara, under the aegis of the Mali Empire, substituted Manding languages for the Soninke practised by earlier traders under the patronage of the Ghāna Empire. Hence it has been suggested that the shift from Manding to Songhay occurred in the 9th century AH / 15th century AD, in connection with the weakening of Mali and the establishment and expansion of the Songhay Empire.96 However, it is highly possible that the eastern Wangara adopted Songhay earlier, as an acknowledgment of the fact that this was already the established language of a well-developed eastern trade network, which they were now joining. Conversely, in those early days it may have been expedient to the other long-distance traders on the eastern arc of the Niger to adopt the “Wangara” tag so as to identify themselves with the prestigious Mali Empire.

72Bentyia/Kukyia’s medieval and early-modern Arabic inscriptions, like the medieval Arabic inscriptions in the Aḍagh and at Saney and Gao, rarely record appellations and kinship terms belonging exclusively to African languages. Hence, in most cases it is impossible to assign the people they commemorate to particular African linguistic, and ethnic, communities.

  • 97  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ccxi, and inscriptions n. 196, 198, 200.
  • 98  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ccxi, and inscription n. 209.
  • 99  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ccx, and inscription n. 224. Some Berber (Tuareg) names are also r (...)

73The presence of Manding-speaking Wangara is almost invisible in Bentya/Kukyia’s epigraphic record. However, three of the earliest Arabic inscriptions there, dating from the 670s AH / 1270s AD to 699 AH / 1300 AD, bear names following patterns that appear to belong to the Manding languages and include elements apparently of Manding origin such as the suffix wa, a variant of ba (“great”, “big”).97 No typical patronymic-group name from the Manding-speaking and Soninke-speaking countries is recorded by any known inscription, with only one possible exception (the earliest inscription attested so far from the two main cemeteries at Bentya/Kukyia, which dates from 670 AH / 1272 AD), in which the expression “Ku-mba” (literally “Big Head”) may represent a Manding patronymic-group name or a Manding male nickname.98 Also, another inscription, dated from 806 AH / 1403 AD, may record a name in the Moore language of Moogo (the country of the Moose or Mossi), the speakers of which include craftspeople and Muslim traders of Soninke origin (known as the Yarse, singular Yarga).99

  • 100  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ccxi-ccxv and inscriptions n. 207, 211, 218, 226, 228, 229, 234, 2 (...)

74Songhay appellations and kinship terms occur in extant Bentyia/Kukyia inscriptions from 696 AH / 1296 AD. They are present in nine of the legible inscriptions known so far.100 These include the two inscriptions commemorating office holders (the Wazīr and the Khaṭīb), which both date from the first quarter of the 9th century AH / 15th century AD, a time when the Songhay Empire had not yet been established.

  • 101  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clxxxiii-clxxxiv, ccxv, and inscriptions n. 194, 202, 238, 240.

75It is interesting that, in some cases, the Bentyia/Kukyia inscriptions record genealogies that are either entirely matrilineal or mixed (matri-patrilineal). It may reflect the fact that this was a community that, through marriage, was assimilating people of different origins. It must have been sometimes important to refer to female ancestry, as a reminder of kinship ties beyond the patrilineage.101 Intermarriage probably also helped to spread within the Bentyia/Kukyia trader population the Manding and Soninke patronymic-group names carried by the Wangara.

76As we will see in a later section of this paper, this process of assimilation of Manding-speaking (probably Juula-speaking) Wangara traders from the west into a pre-existing community of Songhay-speaking traders may have been the initial reason why Manding, and Soninke, patronymic-group names were transmitted to the Songhay-speaking trader-communities of Borgu, and the name “Wangara” was applied to the areas where they still live.

The Bentyia/Kukyia Sonyi or Sii rulers as a branch of a Mande diaspora of military specialists, and the link between their power and long-distance trade and Islam

  • 102  On such complex but “horizontal”, ”heterarchical” arrangements, see R.J. McIntosh, 1998, p. 6-10, (...)

77Bentyia/Kukyia must have been commercially important for many centuries before the Sonyi/Sii period in the 15th century, and ritual authorities must have existed there from long before local traders adopted Islam and engraved inscriptions (from the 13th century onwards). And non-Islamic ritual authorities must have continued to exist after that within other local communities. But there is no firm evidence that the area had ever been a seat of political chiefs before the arrival of the Sonyi/Sii from the Mande. Of course, this does not at all mean that complex social arrangements did not exist before the Sonyi/Sii period between the communities established in the region, and it is hoped that archaeology will eventually throw light on this topic.102

  • 103  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 4-5 / French transl., p. 6-9; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 5 (...)
  • 104  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxxxix, clxx-clxxi, clxiv-clxx, and especially inscription n. 14.

78The three 17th-century Timbuktu chronicles offer contradictory statements in respect of the emergence of political chiefs at Bentyia/Kukyia. The author of the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān assumed that the Zuwa or Juwa (described by this writer as the first dynasty of Gao) had initially ruled at Kukyia—a city which, according to him, dated back to the Pharaonic era. However, the Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh moves the beginning of the Zuwa/Juwa to Gao itself, while the third of Timbuktu’s 17th-century chronicles (the anonymous and untitled text sometimes referred to as Notice historique) has two different tales of origin, one placing the earliest Zuwa/Juwa in Gao, the other placing them in Kukyia, which is described by this source as “the oldest town in the Sudan”.103 However, epigraphic evidence suggests that the Zuwa/Juwa line began in the Gao–Saney area in the 6th century AH / 12th century AD, not at Bentyia.104

79Indeed, the earliest clear data about chiefly institutions at Bentyia/Kukyia is associated with the presence of the Sonyi/Sii, who would later establish the Songhay Empire.

80Although insufficient attention has been paid to the link between the creation of political institutions in Bentyia/Kukyia and the wider process of expansion of warrior horsemen from the Mande, the evidence for this link is overwhelming.

  • 105  G. Brooks, 1993, p. 41, 44, 46, 97, 102.
  • 106  See I. Wilks, N. Levtzion, B.M. Haight, 1986, p. 14-15.

81Brooks dates the age of expansion of Mande horse-warrior elites to “the latter part of the c. 1100–c. 1500 dry period”, and calls attention to the fact that these horsemen raiders had craftspeople (blacksmiths, leatherworkers, praise-singers) attached to them to cater for their needs.105 During the era of the Mali Empire, Mande cavalry bands may be seen as a diaspora of war specialists, who sometimes created tributary polities subordinated to Mali’s ruler, but at other times operated independently of Mali’s imperial projects and established chiefdoms of their own in faraway places. The best-known example of this is the Gonja polity, in what is now the Republic of Ghana. It was created in the second half of the 16th century, in the region around the confluence of the White Volta and Black Volta rivers, by a cavalry force which defected from Mali’s army and was assisted in the polity-establishing enterprise by Wangara traders who had already been operating in neighbouring areas.106 The establishment of the Sonyi/Sii in Bentyia/Kukyia must be acknowledged as an earlier example of the same phenomenon. They must have established themselves on the eastern Niger in the early 1400s, or at the end of the previous century, as a military party operating in the name of the Mali Empire (or claiming to do so).

  • 107  On this and similar motifs, and their use, see J. Rouch, 1960, p. 41, 43, 123; P. Stoller, 1989, p (...)
  • 108  See Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 43-44 / French transl., p. 82-83; Anonymous, 1981, p. 337. For a (...)
  • 109  J. Rouch, 1953, p. 187-188, p. 244; J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 330, p. 335.
  • 110  See J. Rouch, 1953, p. 183-184, and, in fine, Plate VI-Fig. 1, 3; J. Rouch, 1960, p. 52; P. Stolle (...)
  • 111  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxxxvii-lxxxix, ciii.

82Let us consider the titles and praise-names borne by the Sonyi/Sii. As often happens with rulers of alien origin, they sought to appropriate images of power from local tradition. Sonyi Ali Beeri imported into his praise-names the awesome motif about “ripping open pregnant women”, associated, in non-Islamised Songhay mythology, with certain spirit entities and ancestral figures.107 The Timbuktu literature gives the impression that it was not a praise-name motif but simply information about awesome cruelties actually performed by him. However, any careful reading of the relevant passages in the light of ethnographic evidence brings out the mythical character of the theme, which also includes horses that are strangely carnivorous.108 Also, in the period following the overthrow of the Sonyi/Sii dynasty by Askyia Muḥammad I, those who claim to be Sii haama (“Sii descendants”) seem to have generally adopted the specialised role of “master sorcerers” (Sohance or Sohantye) instead of seeking to regain imperial power.109 Henceforth, the figure ofthe conqueror Sonyi/Sii Ali Beeri was retrospectively transformed into the mythical ancestor Sii, represented in oral tradition above all as a figure celebrated as the greatest of all sorcerers, able to transform himself into a vulture and fly over long distances, largely detached from chronology but rooted in the deepest past.110 Under the influence of these late representations of him, Sonyi Ali Beeri came to be romanticised, in our own era, not as a political ruler of foreign ancestry but, on the contrary, as the incarnation, and champion, of Songhay’s oldest and most authentic tradition against late alien intrusions such as Islam.111

  • 112  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 43 / transl., p. 82; M. Delafosse, 1955, p. 577, p. 664-665; J.O. Hu (...)
  • 113  See Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 44-45 / transl., p. 84; compare S.M. Cissoko, K. Sambou, 1974, p (...)

83However, this metamorphosis that nearly removes the Sonyi/Sii from history and assigns them to myth is undermined by the very nature of their titles. Sonyi/Sii is not a Songhay term. The author of the Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh translates it into Songhay as koy banandi (“king’s substitute”) and into Arabic as “khalīfa of the sulṭān” (“representative of the sulṭān”, “viceroy”). The chronicler does not explicitly say which sulṭān the Sonyi or Sii were supposed to deputise for, but it is clear he was referring to the Mansa, i.e. the Emperor of Mali. Besides, it is in the Manding languages that one finds the likeliest etymologies for the word Sonyi or Sii, namely sõ-nyi (“close associate of a prince”) and sone or sõe (“subject”, “supporter”).112 Also, the title of Dāli (Daali), given to Sonyi Ali Beeri and much criticised by the Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh, which says it meant “The Most High” and hence claimed God-like attributes, also occurs in Manding.113

  • 114  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 3-6 / French transl., p. 5-12; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p.  (...)
  • 115  For a critical discussion of this claim, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxix-lxx, cix-cx, clx (...)
  • 116  Anonymous, 1981, p. 333-334.
  • 117  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 48 / transl., p. 93-94.

84Actually, in one way or another, all the three 17th-century Timbuktu chronicles endow the Sonyi or Sii with a Manding or Soninke connection. According to the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān, they came to Songhay from Mali. Admittedly, this source claims that the earliest Sonyi were in fact of Songhay origin, were descended from Gao’s Zuwa or Juwa, and had been kept in the court of the Mansa of Mali as hostages—eventually they escape, return to Songhay, and free it from Mali’s domination.114 However, this claim was part of an ideological project of the chronicler, which aimed at retrospectively providing Songhay royal institutions with uninterrupted historical continuity.115 Moreover, the meaning of the title Sonyi or Sii fits chiefs claiming at first to rule in the name of Mali’s Mansa, and possibly paying tribute to Mali, rather than leaders who first came to power through a rebellion against Mali. As to the other two 17th-century Timbuktu chronicles, the anonymous Notice historique states that the founders of the Sii dynasty were born and brought up in Mali and explicitly denies that they were descendants of the Songhay Zuwa.116 And the Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh says that the Sii were from the western areas of either the Wangara [Mande] or the Wa‘kuray [Waakore, i.e. Soninke] countries.117

  • 118  Arabic text and English transl. in I. Wilks, N. Levtzion, B.M. Haight, 1986, p. 152, p. 158; see a (...)

85Nothing suggests that the Sonyi/Sii had claimed a Muslim identity before their arrival at Bentyia/Kukyia. Their 16th-century counterparts in Gonja were not Islamised, though they soon associated themselves with Muslim Wangara traders, clerics and amulet makers—as stated by the Ta’rīkh Ghunjā (“Chronicle of Gonja”), “actually, if you want to wage war and you don’t find an ˁālim [Islamic cleric/scholar, plural ˁulamā’], then it is impossible for you to do so”.118 In a similar way, the Sonyi/Sii of Bentyia/Kukyia must have seen the traders’ and clerics’ crafts as valuable economic, military, and supernatural resources.

  • 119  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 43-44, p. 47 / transl., p. 82-84, p. 87; Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 65 (...)

86The Timbuktu chronicles tell us that Sonyi Ali Beeri insisted on performing the Islamic prayers incorrectly, without ritual prostrations (sujūd). In addition, they state that on many occasions he inflicted humiliation and brutality on Muslims, especially those of Timbuktu. But they also relate that he was well informed about Islam, uttered the Muslim confession of faith, acknowledged the importance of the ˁulamā’, and showed much favour to some of them (including some in Timbuktu). He also employed a Muslim secretary (kātib) of Moroccan origin and asked that al-Qayrawānī’s Risāla be read to him when a copy of this 10th-century Sunnite manual of Islamic law was brought to his court.119

  • 120  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999b, p. 156 and our interview n. 2 (with Bààbu Adamu, a senior Parako (...)

87His refusal to perform sujūd simply reflected the clash, in many West African cultures and at different historical periods, between royal ceremonial and the bodily rites of Islamic prayer. Subjects were required to prostrate before the king, but it was unthinkable that the king himself should prostrate before anyone. This was unbecoming of a king—it would infringe the kingship invested in his body. Therefore, some kings who had come to accept other rules of Islamic behaviour would nevertheless baulk at the idea of prostrating in prayer. Thus, King Sero Kpera Wε͂ε͂ragii, who reigned at Nikki (Nìkì) in Béninois Borgu (figure 5) in the 1960s, when once asked why he did not pray, is said to have replied: “Is there still anybody left above me?! It is for you to prostrate before me”.120

  • 121  See A. Ba Konaré, 1977, p. 123-128.

88Sonyi Ali Beeri distorted Islamic rites and treated Muslims with brutal cruelty, whenever he perceived Islam to threaten his own ritual prerogatives and political projects. In other contexts, he saw Islam and Islamic clerics as one of kingship’s sources of power.121 There can be no doubt that the Muslim community at Bentyia/Kukyia, the initial seat of his political power, was the source of his acquaintance with Islamic culture and his understanding of the relationship between political rulers and Muslims. However, epigraphy is the only source that allows historians to realise that.

  • 122  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 45 / transl., p. 85.

89After the Mali Empire lost control of Timbuktu and Gao, the Sonyi/Sii, until then mere chieftains of Bentyia/Kukyia,122 ceased to pay even nominal allegiance to the Mansa of Mali. Boldly, and very rapidly, they expanded their power to build an empire of their own.

  • 123  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 42-43 / transl., p. 80-81.
  • 124  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 44 / transl., p. 83; Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 64, p. 71 / French tra (...)
  • 125  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 48 / transl., p. 93; Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 22, p. 65 / French tra (...)

90Sonyi Sulaymān Dāma (or Dāndi) launched a military expedition against Mīma (Meema), a far-away former province of the Mali Empire situated to the west of the Niger’s inland delta, and conquered it.123 Though the precise date of this expedition is not on record, it took place sometime before 869 AH / 1464 AD, the year in which Sulaymān Dāma was succeeded by Sonyi Ali Beeri, who would reign until his death at the end of 897 AH or the beginning of 898 AH (1492 AD).124 Ali Beeri was both the real founder of the Songhay Empire and the last powerful Sonyi ruler. Less than one year after his death, his dynasty was overthrown and replaced by the Askyia dynasty, which attracted support from the Muslim traders and jurists of Timbuktu (a city which had been violently added by Ali Beeri to his empire in 873 AH / 1469 AD,125 and to which the Askyia granted considerable autonomy).

  • 126  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 43, p. 45 / transl., p. 81-82, p. 85; Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 64 / (...)
  • 127  P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 176.
  • 128  P.P. Rey, 1989; P.P. Rey, 1993.
  • 129  Besides, the Ibadites did not engrave tombstones—see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cxxii-cxxiii, (...)
  • 130  See Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 6, p. 323 / French transl., p. 12, p. 488; English transl. of the fir (...)

91Timbuktu’s 17th-century historical literature suggests that the creation of the Songhay Empire was fundamentally a military enterprise, which achieved success simply thanks to the military skills of Sonyi Ali Beeri.126 But a different story is told by the much older evidence provided by epigraphy, and especially by the Wazīr and Khaṭīb inscriptions we have discussed. It attests to the links between Sonyi/Sii power and the Muslims of Bentyia/Kukyia, i.e. between trade and empire-building. It vindicates the insights of Lovejoy, who stated that long-distance traders were “the financiers and brokers of Songhay’s imperial economy” but—in the absence of sufficient epigraphic evidence—emphasised their role in Timbuktu, Jenne, and Gao, rather than at Bentyia/Kukyia.127 It also vindicates the central idea advanced by Rey about an alliance between the Sonyi/Sii and a long-distance trade network, which—also without the benefit of detailed analyses of the epigraphic evidence at Bentyia/Kukyia—Rey perceived as Ibāḍī (Ibadite), i.e. Khārijī (Kharijite).128 However, the Bentyia/Kukyia inscriptions bear no sign of the Ibadite branch of Islam.129 Besides, though the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān calls Sonyi Ali Beeri a Kharijite, it is clear from at least one other passage in the same source that this epithet was used by the chronicler simply to mean “nefarious”, “guilty of unlawful behaviour”.130

  • 131  See M. Tymowski, 2009, p. 34-35; 1970; 1973; 1974; 1987; 1990; 1995.

92In his investigations of state institutions in Africa, the economic context of political life in the West African Sahel, and the legitimisation of power in Songhay, Michał Tymowski has perceptively examined the ways in which income from trade often “supplied the means for organisational, state-forming activity”, and the availability of expensive imported goods, and the desire to acquire them, were incentives for warrior groups to appropriate local wealth produced by others and to establish state institutions in order to legitimise that appropriation.131 The case of Bentyia/Kukyia gives further support to his arguments, and it is fitting to underline this here, in homage to him and his work.

Trade in horses and slaves; and western routes the epigraphic evidence at Bentyia/Kukyia hints at, possibly used for importing Maghribian horses

93An important ingredient of Sonyi Sulaymān Dāma’s and Sonyi Ali Beeri’s military success was the great mobility of their armies.

  • 132  On the Sorko (and the historically related, but distinct, Sorkawa), see P.G. Harris, 1942; J. Rouc (...)
  • 133  N. Levtzion, 1973, p. 84-85; J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xliii, xliv, l, 127-footnote 44, 341.

94This was ensured on the one hand by their river-craft fleet, manned by the Sorko—skilled boatmen traditionally specialising in hippopotamus-hunting and spear-fishing, and “masters of the water” with cultic practices of their own.132 The fleet was under the command of the Hi-Koy (“Chief of Boats”, i.e. Chief of River Transportation), one of the highest officers in the court of both Sonyi Ali Beeri and the Askyia rulers. The Hi-Koy also participated in overland military expeditions. The fleet he headed ferried provisions for the army over long distances, and probably foot-soldiers as well.133

  • 134  J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xxxv. See also N. Levtzion, 1973, p. 178; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. c (...)

95On the other hand, mounted warriors provided the army with a striking force of great mobility and impact. Hunwick has suggested that long-distance traders (like those linked to Bentyia/Kukyia) may have brought to Songhay “the larger Barbary horses which could be cross-bred with local horses to produce a breed that was both stronger and better adapted to local conditions”.134 As we will see later in this paper, exchanges of horses for slaves conducted by Songhay-speaking traders played a role further south, in Borgu, in the creation of the Wasángàrí—the local ruling estate of cavalrymen. It is an interesting working hypothesis that the same trade network helped to build up Sonyi military power through the procurement of large horses from the north, to be used not only as prestige mounts by the ruler and a few officeholders at the top of the political hierarchy, but also to provide a breed of stronger horses for a larger cavalry force.

  • 135  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clxxii, cxciv, cxcvii, ccxxx-ccxxxi, ccxlii-ccxliv.
  • 136  Al-‘Umarī in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 270 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 266.

96Certain aspects of the lettering and vocabulary of the Arabic inscriptions at Bentyia/Kukyia suggest contacts with the Sahara and the Maghrib conducted not via Gao and Ǝssuk/Tadmăkkăt, but through other routes (including western routes across the Mali empire). Along these routes, Barbary horses may have reached the eastern Niger valley in the 15th and 16th centuries.135 In the 14th century, Al-‘Umarī recorded that “Arab horses” were imported at high prices by the Mali emperors.136

  • 137  See the critical remarks by Anne Haour (A. Haour, 2007, p. 78-81) on assumptions about the horse t (...)

97Archaeological recovery of faunal remains such as horse bones is common. Excavations at Bentyia/Kukyia may throw some light on how the trade in horses helped the development of the Songhay Empire and fostered slave-trade through Bentyia/Kukyia. However, it is important not to assume a priori either that long-distance trade in luxury horses obtained directly from trans-Saharan merchants, or via the Mali Empire, was more important than trade in horses from within West Africa, or that Barbary horses were used not only for status-building but also for wider military purposes.137

Borgu and the Songhay-speaking trade diaspora

  • 138  Ibn al-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 39 / transl., p. 67.

98The Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh refers to “Barku”, i.e. Borgu (figure 5), as a source of kola nuts and gold.138 As kola trees are not grown in Borgu itself, and gold is not extracted in the region, the passage seems to refer to the fact that kola nuts and gold were available in the Borgu markets and that traders coming from Songhay had access to these goods there. Unfortunately, no precise chronological framework is provided for the reference.

  • 139  Bààtɔ̀núm, a Gur or Voltaic language, is the majority idiom of Béninois Borgu.
  • 140  See the traditions referred to by O.B. Bagodo, 1978, p. 28-29, 34, 39, 52. Also, P.F. de Moraes Fa (...)
  • 141  R. Kuba, 1996, p. 149-150; R. Kuba, 1998, p. 95; see also J.-P. Olivierde Sardan, 1982, p. 383-389 (...)

99Trade connections with Songhay are also mentioned in the Borgu oral traditions. In the Béninois part of Borgu, Bààtɔ̀núm-language139 traditional accounts credit Songhay traders with creating the necessary conditions for the emergence of the Wasángàrí or Wāhāngārì (plural Wasángàríbà or Wāhāngārìbà), the old-established ruling estate in Béninois Borgu. Those oral accounts state that the Wasángàrí “arrived” in Borgu as hunters, but later obtained horses from traders in exchange for slaves, and thus developed a cavalrymen ethos and secured political power as a cavalry estate. Muslim traders bearing the patronymic-group names Tārūwε̄rε̄ (Traore) and Tūrē are said to have eventually made Nikki their permanent home and to have established there the Kpãgu Yɔbu (“Kpãgu Market”—from yobu/hebu, Songhay words for “market”).140 As pointed out by Kuba, the Bààtɔ̀núm name Wasángàrí or Wāhāngārì itself is derived from the Songhay Wangaari (“warrior”, from wangu, “war”).141

  • 142  The Boko (or Bo’o) language is one of the eastern Mande languages—see the diagram of the Mande-lan (...)
  • 143  On the linguistic and ethnic groups of Borgu, see R. Jones, 1998, p. 71-89 and the maps in R. Kuba(...)
  • 144  See also the maps in R. Kuba, 1996, p. 54-55; E. Boesen et alii, 1998, p. 22-23.

100Borgu seems never to have been subjected to unified political rule in the precolonial era and is now divided between Bénin and Nigeria. However, it is held together as a cultural space by traditions of migration, and of common origin of traditional rulers, and also by the way its larger linguistic groups (Bààtɔ̀núm-speakers, Fulfulde-speakers, and Boko-speakers)142 are distributed across the international border.143 On the Nigerian side, Borgu’s precolonial polities (figure 5) include, from north to south, Ilo, Busa (Bussa), Wawa, Kaiama (Kããma), Yashikera (Yààsìkìru) and, south of the Moshi river, Òkúta (the Yorùbá name for the town known as Sε͂̀ε͂̀ru-Kpèrù in Bààtɔ̀núm and as Dutse in Hausa), and Iléṣà Ibàrìbà (the Yorùbá name for the town known as Deesa, or Leesa, in Bààtɔ̀núm). On the Béninois side, the traditional polities (figure 5) include (also from north to south) Kandi (Kãni), Kouandé (Kpãne, or Kpande), Nikki, and Parakou (Kpááràkú / Kpārāgū / Kɔ̀rɔ̀kú).144

  • 145 Ki or Kia means “chief” or “king” in the Busa dialect of the Boko language—see R. Jones, 1994, p. 5 (...)
  • 146  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1992, p. 128; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1993b, p. 123.

101Busa is widely regarded as the senior centre of all Borgu. In the late 1960s, the inhabitants of Busa resettled at New Busa before their older town was submerged by the Kainji Dam lake. Ki Jibirin Kwandara, or Kpandara,145 was the first Busa ruler to convert to Islam. He reigned from 1916 to 1924 (after 1917 with the title of Emir of Busa). This local title was replaced by the umbrella title of Emir of Borgu in 1954, during the reign (1935–1967) of Emir Al-Haji Mahamman Sani, also known as Woru Babaki.146 However, claims and counterclaims about the geographical extent of the authority of different traditional rulers, and about the way their putative ancestors were genealogically related, divide the various precolonial polities in both Nigerian and Béninois Borgu.

  • 147  On Nikki’s polity, see O.B. Bagodo, 1978, 1993; K. Bio Guéné, 1978.
  • 148  See O.B. Bagodo, 1978, p. 28; Ọ. Akínwùmí, 1998, p. 122-124; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 236; (...)

102Nikki is the senior traditional political centre in Béninois Borgu.147 Nikki’s traditions link the genealogy of its rulers to that of the rulers of Busa. In other traditional polities in Béninois Borgu, traditions stating their rulers were descended from Nikki’s royal lineages are often combined with other traditions that emphasise political independence from Nikki. Busa’s political authority does not appear to have ever encompassed Nikki, and Nikki’s political authority does not appear to have ever encompassed Busa and Wawa (though it reached other parts of Nigerian Borgu such as Òkúta and Iléṣà Ibàrìbà).148

  • 149  See J. Lombard, 1965, p. 136-141; N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 174; M.B. Idris, 1972; M.B. Idris, 1973, (...)
  • 150  On these clerical diasporas see L. Sanneh, 1976; L. Sanneh, 1990; T.C. Hunter, 1977. On tajdīd in (...)

103As we have already mentioned, there are in Borgu old communities endowed with a history of participation in inter-regional trade, and of identification with Islam.149 As is common in West Africa, the maintenance and regular renewal (tajdīd) of their Islamic identity must have been performed with some periodic assistance of itinerant teachers of Islam, i.e. of the diasporas of clerics well known in West African history.150

  • 151  See N. Tersis, 1972b, p. 1-2; R. Nicolaï, 1978; P. Zima, 1992; P. Zima, 1994; N. Bako-Arifari, 199 (...)
  • 152  Père A. Prost, 1956, p. 323; N. Tersis, 1972b, p. 62; J.M. Ducroz, M.C. Charles, 1978, p. 68; J. H(...)
  • 153  For oral material collected among the Dendi of the Niger valley in the first decade of the 20th ce (...)

104The vernacular language of these old-established trader communities of Borgu is Dèndí tyínè or Dèndí cínè (“the Dèndí language”), a southern dialect of Songhay.151 In the various dialects of Songhay spoken along the eastern Niger, the broad meanings of the word dendi or dandi are “to go downstream”, “south”, “southern regions”, “meridional”.152 It is basically a geographical expression. Historically, the limits of the area to which it has been applied have varied. As an ethnic name, “Dendi” is currently applied to two different groups. One is constituted by the Dèndí or Dàndí who live in the Niger valley, on the border between Niger and Bénin (the area which includes Karimama) and also a little across the Nigerian border.153 The other is formed by the Dèndí who live further south, away from the Niger valley, in certain urban areas of Béninois Borgu—mainly in Kandi, Parakou, and Djougou, but also at Nikki, and at Pèrere (south-west of Nikki).

  • 154  P. Zima, 1994, p. 4. See also J. Rouch, 1954, p. 12; R. Nicolaï, 1981, p. 21, p. 105; N. Bako-Arif (...)

105The Dèndí spoken on the Niger–Bénin border is seen by linguists as very similar to the Zarma (or Zerma) Songhay spoken to the north and north-west of its own area, whereas the Songhay dialects spoken by the Dèndí of Borgu have distinctive characteristics. They “display significant typological and lexical traces of pidginisation and creolisation, probably generated […] by the lingua-franca [langue véhiculaire] function these dialects fulfil for most of those who speak them”.154

  • 155  J. Rouch, 1954, p. 12-13; P. Zima, 1994: 4; P. Zima, 1990, p. 30.
  • 156  See R. Nicolaï, 1981, p. 54-56, 105-106, 258-260; R. Kuba, 1996, p. 249-250; R. Kuba, 2009, p. 149

106All Dèndí dialects spoken in Borgu and on the banks of the Niger may stem from the Songhay spoken much further upstream up to the end of the 16th century. The establishment of a Dèndí-speaking area on the border between Bénin and Niger may have happened only after 1591, as a consequence of the movement of populations down the Niger, provoked by the Moroccan invasion of the Songhay Empire in that year.155 It is likely that the Songhay of Borgu’s commercial centres was introduced into these towns much earlier than 1591, brought by long-distance traders from farther north-west than the area presently inhabited by the Dèndí of the river valley. Linguistic evidence shows that Dèndí cínè has undergone very considerable internal evolution in Borgu, under the influence of languages other than the various branches of Songhay, and particularly under the influence of Bààtɔ̀núm. But it also indicates that Dèndí cínè has preserved some very old features of Songhay, which have been dropped from most other dialects of this language. All this suggests that the Songhay spoken in urban Borgu has been established in the region for a very long time, during which it has been virtually cut off from other Songhay dialects.156 It is not a recent import from the Dèndí-speaking area of the Niger valley.

  • 157  For this definition, see B. Heine, 1970, p. 15-19.
  • 158  B. Heine, 1970, p. 161.
  • 159  P. Zima, 1994, p. 6.

107In Borgu, in addition to being the vernacular language of the old caravanserai areas in towns like Parakou, Djougou, and Kandi, Dèndí tyínè or Dèndí cínè continues to function as a lingua franca (langue véhiculaire / trade language), i.e. as a language “habitually used as a medium of communication between groups of people whose mother tongues are different”.157 It plays this vehicular role among the wider population of those towns.158 Historically, it has fulfilled the same lingua-franca function in places beyond both Béninois and Nigerian Borgu, like Argungu (figure 5) and Gwandu (in Nigerian Hausaland), and Salaga in Ghana (figure 5).159

  • 160  See J. Lombard, 1965, p. 137, p. 325; N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 21; M.B. Idris, 1972; M.B. Idris, 197 (...)
  • 161  See P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 189-190; P.E. Lovejoy, 1980, p. 32; R. Kuba, 2009, p. 148-149.
  • 162  See D. Brégand, 1998a, p. 251.

108The Borgu town-areas inhabited by those whose vernacular is the Dèndí cínè are called Wangara.160 As, in the period following Songhay’s collapse in 1591, the Songhay-oriented trade network was gradually supplanted by a Hausaland-oriented one,161 conceivably the name “Wangara” given to those Borgu town-areas could have been adopted only in this period, under the influence of Wangara traders coming from Hausaland, not Songhay.162 However, the evidence we have been examining in the present paper suggests the name may date from earlier centuries and may have first arrived in Borgu from Songhay, perhaps from Bentyia/Kukyia.

  • 163  See P. Zima, 1994, p. 128.
  • 164  See Père P. Marchand, 1989, p. 133; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998, p. 268.
  • 165  D. Brégand, 1998b, p. 81; and our interview n. 1 (with the Bàà-Wàràkpē of Nikki). On the Hausa ter (...)

109The Wangara town-wards of Borgu are also known, in Dèndí cínè, as Kpáártáágɔ̀, meaning “New Town”—from kpáárà (“village”, “town”) and táágɔ̀ (“new”), the equivalent of the well-known Hausa expression Saabon Gàrii.163 In Bààtɔ̀núm, the name for such areas is Mārō—as at Nikki.164 The Hausa name Zongo (“lodging place of traders”) is also sometimes used for these areas of habitation or, as in Nikki, for areas where arriving caravans of traders were allowed to establish their encampments.165

  • 166  See Père P. Marchand, 1989, p. 194; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1996, p. 261.
  • 167  See J. Lombard, 1965, p. 138; M.B. Idris, 1972; M.B. Idris, 1973, chapters 2, 7; N. Bako-Arifari, (...)
  • 168  See P. Zima, 1994, p. 69. Compare the word dumi (“seeds”, “kind”, “kin”, “lineage”, “ethnic group” (...)

110The members of the Dèndí-speaking Muslim communities are called sɔbū (“foreigners”, singular sɔ̄ɔ̄) in Bààtɔ̀núm, which underlines their external origin.166 They bear lineage names such as Silla, Siise (Cisse), Tārūwε̄rε̄ (Traore), Kūrūbārī, Fãfānā (Fofana), Kumate, and Tūrē. Many of these lineage names are unmistakably derived from well-known Mande (Soninke or Manding) jàmúw/dyàmúw, singular jàmú/dyàmú (“clan names”, “patronymic-group appellations”, in French also translated as devises).167 These lineage names are called dímì in Dèndí cínè.168

  • 169  See R. Kuba, 1996, p. 247-249; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998; D. Brégand, 1998a; D. Brégand, 1998b, p. 97- (...)

111However, it must be emphasised that no one-to-one correspondence can be established between the bearing of these dímì in Borgu and ethnic origins in the Mande-speaking regions of West Africa. In fact, the Silla or Borgu claim a Fulani/Pullo origin, and the Fãfānā say they are from the Gurma region of the Niger valley. Another group, which bears the Manne or Mande appellation, actually claims Kanuri origins.169

  • 170  See M.B. Idris, 1973, chapter 2, p. 26; P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 177-179; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998, p.  (...)
  • 171  See N. Bako-Arifari, 1998, p. 274; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999b, p. 151.

112Over the centuries, the Dèndí-speaking trader communities of Borgu have successively absorbed people of many origins, who adopted Dèndí cínè as their language and to whom Mande-derived dímì were granted.170 Besides, in Borgu even people not devoted to trade may bear such dímì, like earth-priests who are Kumate, or Ture, and Gɛsɛrɛ oral traditionists.171

  • 172  See P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 189-190; P.E. Lovejoy, 1980, p. 32; R. Kuba, 2009, p. 148-149.

113When the Songhay-oriented trade network was replaced by the Hausaland-oriented one, Hausa replaced Songhay, and also replaced Juula or Dyula (the Manding language of the western Wangara), as the lingua franca along the kola-nut trade routes to the east of Borgu, and also along the routes running to the west from Borgu to the Middle-Volta Basin. However, in Borgu itself, in spite of their participation in the new trade network, the speakers of Dèndí cínè maintained their own language.172

  • 173  On this and the following paragraphs, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 234-235; 1996, p. 267-27 (...)

114A clear linguistic marker of the historical expansion of Songhay, and of Juula, as lingua francas is the African-language name given to the celebration, by Muslims or others, of festivals associated with the date of the Mawlid an-Nabyyi in the Islamic calendar.173

  • 174  See N.J.G. Kaptein, 1993, p. 30, p. 44-45; J. Wolffe, 1993, p. 140.

115The Mawlid an-Nabyyi commemorates the birth of Prophet Muḥammad on Monday, the 12th of Rabīʾ al-ʾawwal (the third lunation of the year), c. 570 AD. But it is sometimes interpreted by Muslims as the anniversary of the Prophet’s death on Monday, the 12th (or 13th) of Rabīʾ al-ʾawwal, 11 AH / the 8th of June, 632 AD.174 In West Africa, the festival has a long tradition of being associated with drumming and joyful dancing and singing.

  • 175  See N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 98; N. Levtzion, 1968b, p. 733.
  • 176  On this point see S. Drucker-Brown, 1984, p. 79; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 235; 1996, p. 268 (...)
  • 177  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2006a, p. 230-236 and D. Casajus, 1987, p. 140-142, p. 372; M. Albaka, (...)

116While the Mawlid an-Nabyyi is part of the Muslim cultural heritage, in certain parts of West Africa like, in the Republic of Ghana, Mamprugu (the Mamprusi country), Gonja, and Dagbon (Dagomba), and, in Béninois Borgu, Nikki, Kouandé and—more recently—Banikoara (Bānīkpààrù \ Bɔ̄nīkpāārā \ Bānīkɔ̄ààrà, to the west of the Alibori river), its Hijra-calendar date has been appropriated by political rulers for festivals which celebrate kingship or chiefship only and which make no reference to Prophet Muḥammad. These are “national”, rather than Islamic, festivals.175 The reason for this appropriation is that, like other Islamic dates, the date of the Mawlid moves across the seasons of the solar year. Hence, royal and chiefly festivals that become linked to it are clearly distinguished from seasonal rites, and royal and chiefly authority is projected as clearly distinct from the authority of the earth priests, who have a strong association with seasonal rites.176 Non-Islamic considerations also largely govern the celebrations attached to the date of the Mawlid an-Nabyyi among the Tuareg of the Ayəṛ region, in the Republic of Niger.177

117For both the Islamic and the “national” celebrations on the date of the Mawlid, there are two sets of names that have spread across West African languages. One is Manding-derived; the other comes from the Songhay language.

  • 178  See M. Delafosse, 1955, p. 128-130.
  • 179  See R. Launay, 1982, p. 128-129; 1992, p. 55, 111-113, 145, 147, 235-note 5.
  • 180  See N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 55, 89, 98; N. Levtzion, 1968b, p. 733; P. Ferguson, 1972, p. 117-118; (...)

118In the Manding languages, the name for both the Rabīʾ al-ʾawwal lunation and the Mawlid festival that takes place on its 12th day is Dõmba/Donba (“Big Day [of festivities]”, or “Big Dance”).178 This is the name current among Manding-speakers in Guinea and Mali, and also among the Juula (Dyula, Dioula) of northern Ivory Coast.179 In northern Ghana, the Manding-derived name Damma is used by the Mamprusi, and the similar name Damba is used in Dagbon (Dagomba) and Gonja.180 The geographical distribution of these names records part of the west–east expansion of Manding-speaking Wangara traders, and their Islamic practices, across West Africa.

  • 181  See N. Tersis, 1972b, p. 81; Père A. Prost, 1977, p. 606; J.M. Ducroz, M.C. Charles, 1978, p. 96; (...)

119By contrast, in various dialects of Songhay the name for the Rabīʾ al-ʾawwal lunation and the Mawlid is Gààní (or Gáàní/Gàànì), the original meaning of which is “to dance”, “dance”.181 A constellation of lunation and festival names derived from these Songhay words occurs across languages other than Songhay.

  • 182  See Père R. Faurite, 1987, p. 151-155.

120At new Busa/Bussa, in Nigerian Borgu (figures 1, 5), the commemorations attached to the Mawlid are traditionally called Gaani in the Busa dialect of the Boko or Bo’o language. Gaani commemorations are now rather muted there, and in recent decades their Islamic aspect has been re-emphasised. But their traditional focus on the incumbent local ruler and the scions of the different royal lineages (rather than on Prophet Muḥammad) is still recognisable.182

  • 183  See A.R. Mohammed, 1991, p. 22. This information was left out of the printed version of the paper (...)

121Further downstream, in the area of the confluence of the Niger and Benue, at Lokoja (figure 5), Idah, and Okene, until c. 1952 the Mawlid was called Gani-Gani and was celebrated with drumming, singing, dancing, and masquerades. But since then, under the influence of the Shaykh Ibrāhīm Nyass’ branch of the Tijāniyya ṭarīqa, it has been purged of all those features.183

  • 184  See D. Casajus, 1987, p. 140-143, p. 372; M. Albaka, D. Casajus, 1992, p. 105-109, p. 275-286; H.  (...)
  • 185  See R.C. Abraham, 1962, p. 296, p. 771; P.E. Starratt, 1991, p. 95, p. 143-146.
  • 186  See A.W. Banfield, 1969, p. 144-353.
  • 187  See J.S. Trimingham, 1959, p. 78-footnote 1.

122If we move north, and east, from the Niger Bend, we also find the name Gaani. It is used for the commemorations that take place on the Mawlid date, and for the lunation in which they happen, in the Agădez region and, as already mentioned, among the Tuareg of Ayəṛ (figure 2) in the Republic of Niger, though the name Mawlid (in the local form Mawli) also occurs in local Muslim chants.184 In Nigeria, in Kano and other parts of Hausaland (figures 1, 5), Gàànéé or Gààníí is one of the names of the festival celebrated in Watan Gààníí (“the Gààníí Lunar-Month”, an alternative name for the Islamic month of Rabīʾ al-ʾawwal), either on the 12th day of the month (commemorating the Prophet’s birthday) or on the 19th (commemorating the Prophet’s naming day).185 And the name Etswa Gànì (“the Lunation of Gànì”) for the month of the Mawlid is also reported from Nupeland (figure 5).186 Trimingham called attention to the occurrence of Gaani as a name for the Mawlid in the Teda and Kanuri languages, though the name may no longer be current now in the Kanuri spoken in Bornu.187

  • 188  See L. Tauxier, 1917, p. 568; R.P. Alexandre, 1953, vol. 2, p. 129; P. Delmond, 1953, p. 97; N. Le (...)

123If one moves west and south of the eastern Niger Bend, the name Gaani for the Mawlid is found in Burkina Faso, among the Fulƃe (Fulani) of Doori (Dori, figures 2, 5) and other parts of the Liptaaku area, south of the Oudalan region. Also in Burkina Faso, in the Moogo—the country of the Moose (Mossi)—the Mawlid is called Gããne.188 In both cases, it is a festival celebrated by Muslims in honour of the Prophet, not a “national” or royal/chiefly commemoration.

  • 189  See P. Zima, 1994, p. 89.
  • 190  See J. Lombard, 1965, p. 330-340; M. Akognon, 1980; R. Orou Yorouba, 1982; K.B. Bandiri, 1989; L.B (...)

124In Béninois Borgu, the term Gáàní is used by the speakers of Dèndí cínè both to mean “dance” and as a lunar-month name.189 Altering its tones (into forms like Gāānī ), the Dèndí-cínè term has been borrowed by the Bààtɔ̀núm-language dialects for the lunation in which take place the already mentioned royal/chiefly, Mawlid-dated celebrations at Nikki, Kouandé, and Banikoara, and for the celebrations themselves.190

  • 191  See S. Drucker-Brown, 1984, p. 71.

125In Mamprugu (the Mamprusi country, in northern Ghana), although—as we have seen—the Manding-derived term Damma is used for the Mawlid and its lunation, the term Gaani is not absent. It has been displaced into the names of the two lunations following that of Damma, which are called in the local language (Mampruli) Gaani-Bira (“Before Gaani”) and Gaani.191 There the influence of the Manding-speaking and Songhay-speaking trade networks converged, and their linguistic markers have persisted together. But the Manding-speaking network actually displaced its Songhay-speaking rival, in the same way as the name Damma displaced the name Gaani.

126In all these different places, the uses of the term Gaani reflect the reach of Songhay-speaking Muslim traders. In the 15th and 16th centuries, their trade network had the backing of Songhay’s military power. However, their success was not dependent on that.

  • 192  On Agădez andEmghedeshie, see S. Bernus, 1972, p. 75-footnote 2, 146, 177, drawing on Heinrich Bar (...)

127During the 16th century, the Songhay Empire launched military expeditions to Hausaland, and to Agădez (where, similarly to what has happened in Borgu, Emghedeshie, a Songhay dialect strongly influenced by the Berber language of the Tuareg, was spoken and used as lingua franca up to c. 1917).192 Expeditions to Borgu had begun in the previous century and were repeated in the 16th century.

  • 193  See Leo Africanus, 1956, vol. 2, p. 474; J.O. Hunwick, 1973, p. 37-38; J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xl-x (...)
  • 194  See Leo Africanus, 1956, vol. 2, p. 473, p. 476-479. Compare Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 78, p. 103 / (...)
  • 195  See J.O. Hunwick, 1973, p. 47-48; J.O. Hunwick, 1985b, p. 345-347; H.J. Fisher, 1978; R.A. Adélẹ̀y(...)

128Askyia Muḥammad I, who reigned over the Songhay Empire from 898 H / 1493 AD to 935 H / 1529 AD, made two military expeditions to Agădez, in 1500–1501 and 1513–1514, and Leo Africanus states that a large tribute, to be paid in gold, was imposed on the sultan of Agădez.193 In addition, Leo Africanus mentions conquests by the same Askyia in Hausaland, i.e. in Gobir, Katsina, Kano, Zaria, and Zamfara. However, the Timbuktu historical literature mentions only a raid against Kashina (Katsina) by Askyia Muḥammad I in 1513–1514 and a disastrous expedition by a small war party sent, from Kukyia to Katsina (figure 1), by Askyia Dāwūd in 1553–1554.194 Whatever military and political sway Songhay rulers may have held over Agădez and parts of Hausaland was contested, and short-lived.195

  • 196  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 64 / French transl., p. 105. The French translators read “the land of Kun (...)
  • 197  The populations of Borgu are still called “Ibàribá” in Yorùbá, and the name “Bariba”, used by the (...)
  • 198  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 76 / French transl., p. 125; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 10 (...)
  • 199  Songhay oral tradition also records this episode—see J. Rouch, 1953, p. 196-197); F. Ìrokò, 1974, (...)
  • 200  The title is spelt Kī/Ky (without insertion of short-vowel signs) in the Arabic text. Hence it can (...)
  • 201  See Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 76, p. 134 / French transl., p. 125, p. 212; English transl. in J.O.  (...)
  • 202  See Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 103 / French transl., p. 169, English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, (...)
  • 203  See Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 107 / French transl., p. 175; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, (...)
  • 204  See Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 119 / French transl., p. 192; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, (...)

129In Borgu too, Songhay military interventions failed to achieve conquest. Sonyi Ali Beeri, having established hegemony over “the land of Kanta”, i.e. Kebbi (figure 5), attempted to conquer Borgu (Barku, in the Arabic text) but failed, though the precise date of this is not on record.196 An attentive reading of the Timbuktu chronicles shows that Askyia Muḥammad I made at least two expeditions against Borgu, not only one as historians have generally assumed. In the first one, in 1505, he is said to have attacked Barku (also known as Baribū),197 and the Songhay army suffered heavy losses.198 It is not clear whether this expedition was directed against Busa (Buṣa, or Busu, in Timbuktu-chronicle Arabic) or against some other Borgu polity. In the second expedition, the date of which is not recorded, the Songhay ruler found himself surrounded by the warriors of the Sulṭān of Bargū and nearly lost his life.199 A Borgu woman seized by Askyia Muḥammad I during the first campaign, who had became the mother of the son who was his second successor (Askyia Mūsā), was now captured by the Busu Koy (or Busu Kī , or Busu Kīa),200 i.e. the ruler of Busa (Busu in the Arabic text), and eventually became the mother of a later Busa ruler.201 The personages described as Busu Koy by the Taʾrīkh as-Sūdān, and as Sulṭān of Bargū by the Taʾrīkh al-Fattāsh, are clearly one and the same. In 1555, Askyia Dāwūd sent an expedition against Busa (Buṣa in the Arabic text) “and laid it waste”.202 In 1563–1564, he sent another (apparently victorious) expedition, across “arid areas and wildernesses”, “to the land of Barka [Borgu?]”.203 However, by the reign of his son Askyia [Muḥammad] Al-Ḥājj (1582–1586), the Ṣāḥib (“lord”) of Busa (Buṣa) had again become a hindrance to Songhay power.204

130It is not the impact of Songhay’s “imperial” conquerors that has lasted in Borgu, but that of the Songhay-speaking traders who created the Dèndí-speaking communities in the region.

  • 205  J. Lombard, 1965, p. 139, 228, 324; N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 175-176; M.B. Idris, 1973, chapter 2; R (...)
  • 206  The shifts kp kw, and kp ko, occur between Songhay dialects, and the shifts kp kɔ, and kp (...)
  • 207  See Père A. Prost, 1953, p. 451, p. 452; N. Tersis, 1972b, p. 78; J.M. Ducroz, M.C. Charles, 1978, (...)
  • 208  See T.G.O. Gbadamosi, 1972, p. 230-231; T.G.O. Gbadamosi, 1978, p. 2, 6-7, 33, 37, 214; R.C.C. Law(...)
  • 209  On other words borrowed by the Yorùbá language from the Songhay language, see S. Reichmuth, 1988; (...)

131Linguistic evidence suggests that Songhay-speaking traders extended their activities from Borgu into Yorùbáland. To give one example: in Borgu the officer who traditionally plays the role of intermediary between political rulers and Muslim traders, and who exercises authority over market activities, is called Bàà-Kpàràkpē in Parakou and other towns, and Bàà-Wàràkpē in Nikki.205 In fact, these are identical expressions.206 They are derived from the Bààtɔ̀núm word Bàá (“elder”), and from the Dèndí-cínè words kpáárà (“town, village”) and kpé/kpéỳ (“chief”, “king”, “master”), which correspond respectively to kwáárá / kòyrà / kóárá, and to kóy, in other dialects of Songhay.207 The meaning of the expression is “Town Chief”, i.e. “Chief of the Wangara / Kpáártáágɔ̀ / Mārō town-ward”. With what seems to be a similar original meaning, the same expression re-emerges in the Yorùbá language as Pàràkòyí, the name of a Muslim-community office known from Ọ̀yọ́ and other Yorùbá towns (figure 5) like Ìgbòho, Ogbómọ̀ṣọ́, and Òṣogbo.208 This is a region never touched by Songhay’s military might, but the influence of the Songhay-speaking trade diaspora is nevertheless detectable in it.209

Another diaspora: Soninke-speaking oral specialists along the Gao–Bentyia/Kukyia–Borgu historical route

132We have already mentioned long-distance diasporas of traders, war specialists on horseback, and Islamic clerics. It is now the moment to add a fourth diaspora to our discussion.

  • 210  See M. Diawara, 1990, p. 42, 78, 80, 85, 90.

133This other long-distance diaspora is constituted by oral traditionists who use Soninke (or a Soninke-based idiom modified under the influence of other languages) as their main performance medium, and who are historically linked to the Geseru (singular Gesere) oral specialists who continue to exist in the Soninke core lands.210

  • 211  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999b, p. 142-143.

134There is no precise information about the date when they first reached the eastern arc of the Niger Bend. They may have migrated into the region on their own initiative, as highly skilled professionals in search of new patrons able to reward their services well—a particular form of skilled-labour migration, animated by its own demographic dynamics but also in response to changes in the politico-economic environment.211

  • 212  See J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 42-48, p. 225-227. Bonta explained the origin of the Jesere (...)

135Alternatively, as Geseru have a history of attachment to warrior aristocracies, it is possible that the Sonyi/Sii Mande warlords brought them as praise-singers to Bentyia/Kukyia together with other craftspeople (blacksmiths, leatherworkers) required by the military profession, and eventually took them to Gao and the other Sonyi capitals. Actually, this is suggested by oral material collected by Olivier de Sardan from the well-known Teera (figure 2) traditionist Sumeyla (or Sumalia) Hamadou (also known as “Bonta”, or “Benta”).212

136In Timbuktu historical literature, the references to their earliest presence in the region are associated with Gao and the Askyia dynasty, which replaced the Sonyi/Sii at the end of the 15th century.

  • 213 Gisari and Gasiri are alternative Arabic transcriptions of Gesere (Arabic has no sign to note the v (...)
  • 214  Presumably, the expression Gissiru Dunka designates the chief oral traditionist at the court. Alte (...)
  • 215  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 11, 94, 155 / French transl., p. 14, 177, 276. See also J.O. Hunwick(...)
  • 216  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 71 / French transl., p. 117; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 10 (...)

137The Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh, written in the 17th century, after the Moroccan invasion of Songhay, refers to Gisari Dunka Daku and Gasiri Dunka Bukāri,213 informants who were contemporaries of its author and of the “puppet” Askya princes subordinated to the administration created by the invaders. Those oral specialists personally provided the chronicler with information about the reigns of earlier Askyia rulers of the period of Songhay’s independence. The Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh states that at the court of Askyia Muḥammad I, the founder of the dynasty, only Gissiru Dunka214 enjoyed the privilege of calling the Askyia by his name.215 Askyia Muḥammad I, a military leader himself, appears to have been of Soninke origin on the paternal side216 and could have been the first Songhay ruler to attach Geseru to himself.

  • 217  J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 122, 225, 287-288.
  • 218  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 128 / French transl., p. 204; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 1 (...)

138The word Dunka recorded by the Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh is derived from the Soninke word Tunka (“king”, “chief”). The word Dunka is still used along the eastern arc of the Niger to designate those who display masterly competence in praise-singing (or in other activities), and it is locally acknowledged as a Mellence/Mallance word, i.e. as borrowed from Manding or Soninke.217 It is related to the expression Tunkara, which was a form of address used (with the approximate meaning of “Your Highness” / “Belonging to Royalty”) for two high officers of the Songhay Empire,218 and which probably was also introduced into the region by Soninke Geseru.

  • 219  J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 224-230, 310, 331, 353-354; F. Mounkaila, 1988, p. 1-49; T.A. Ha (...)

139Geseru are no longer found at Gao or Bentyia/Kukyia. However, under slightly different designations derived from their original name, they continue to be present further downstream along the Niger. Local informants trace back the ancestry of these oral specialists to the Wakaare, i.e. the Soninke, or to Maalli (the Mali Empire).219

  • 220  Père A. Prost, 1956, p. 384; N. Tersis, 1972b, p. 74; F. Ìrokò, 1974, p. 273, 278, 289-290, 293, 3 (...)
  • 221  J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1976, p. 18-19; J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 120, 225, 310, 330-331, (...)
  • 222  M. Diawara, 1990, p. 42, 97, 155.

140In the Tilabeeri and Teera areas (figures 2, 5), speakers of the Kaado dialect of Songhay call these oral traditionists Gyèsérè or Jèsérè (plural Jèsérèy). In the Zarma / Zerma / Djerma dialect of Songhay spoken further east and south, and in the Dèndí dialect of Songhay spoken on the Niger–Bénin border, they are called Jásárè or Jásárà.220 While these local names may be applied to any griot/praise-singer, the designation Jèsérè Dunka is reserved for the category of oral specialists regarded as possessors of higher knowledge, who perform in the Sillince (Soninke) idiom, and who are also known as Sillance or Sillence, Timme, and Nyamkaale.221 The name Sillance (i.e. Sillan-ce, “Silla people”) refers back to the Soninke patronymic-group name “Silla”, which continues to be borne by certain Gesere lineages in Soninke-speaking country,222 but which is also recorded as the clan-name of the father of Askyia Muḥammad I by Timbuktu historical literature. The alternative name Nyamkaale derives from Nyaxamala (in Soninke) and Nyamakala (in the Manding languages), the general names for the hereditary categories of craftspeople in the Mande. The Sillince language of the Jèsérè Dunka is not understood by other members of the local societies. Hence an accompanying translation into the local dialect of Songhay is provided every time by a co-performer.

  • 223  See J. Lombard, 1965, p. 208-footnote 1.

141Oral traditionists performing in a Soninke-derived language are also found south of the Niger valley, in Borgu. In Béninois Borgu they are called Gὲsὲrὲ or Gὲhὲrὲ (plural Gὲsὲrὲbà or Gὲhὲrὲbà) in Bààtɔ̀núm. Some traditional stories refer to an early Gὲsὲrὲ presence at Busa/Bussa (figures 1, 5) in Nigerian Borgu.223 And, in April 1993, my Béninois colleague Dr Obarè Bagodo and I met a Gὲsὲrὲ at the court of the Chief of Godebere (Gbere Bεrε), south of the Moshi river, in Nigerian Borgu. However, in general, it is in Béninois Borgu that the Gὲsὲrὲbà are now to be found, not only at Nikki and Bouay (Bwēē, north-west of Nikki, believed to be the place from which Nikki’s Gὲsὲrὲbà came from), but also at other locations like Kandi, Kouandé, Parakou, and Banikoara.

  • 224  M. Akognon, 1980, p. 89, p. 91; and our interviews n. 2 and n. 3 (with Bààbu Adamu, a senior Parak (...)

142The Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh’s expressions Gasiri Dunka and Gissiru Dunka, and their modern Niger-valley cognate Jèsérè Dunka, reappear in Béninois Borgu. Gὲsὲrὲ Dunga is the title borne by the head of the Gὲsὲrὲbà attached to the Bagana or Bãgana, the traditional ruler of Kouandé, and Bàà Dunga is reported to be a title given in the past to the head of the Gὲsὲrὲbà of Nikki.224

  • 225  For an analysis of this role, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 237-240. Together with my Bénino (...)
  • 226  In Bààtɔ̀núm, the title of the king of Nikki is Sīnà Bōkō (or Sìnàà Boko). His Wāākpārε̄m title Tu (...)

143The head of the Gὲsὲrὲbà plays a crucial role in the Gāānī festival celebrated by the king of Nikki.225 His performance is in the Wāākpārε̄m language, which is unintelligible to the king and the other non-Gὲsὲrὲ members of the audience. As he chants about Tunkara (“kingship”), and about Nikki’s Tunka (“king”),226 another performer—the Yããkpe—inserts a declamatory Bààtɔ̀núm translation in between the successive parts of the Wāākpārε̄m chant.

  • 227  See Père A. Prost, 1956, p. 553; J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 225-226, p. 377-378.
  • 228  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 9 / French transl., p. 18; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 14; (...)
  • 229  The derivation Waakore*Waakɔrε*WakpaarεWakpaarεm is proposed, and argued for, in P.F. de (...)
  • 230  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999b, p. 161, and the Wāākpārε̄m word list and sample of praise formulas o (...)

144The Wāākpārε̄m language is clearly a dialect of Soninke, the language of the old Ghāna Empire, though Wāākpārε̄m (like the Dèndí cínè of the Songhay trade diaspora in Borgu) bears the marks left by its long contact with the Bààtɔ̀núm language. The very name “Wāākpārε̄m” is related to the current Niger-valley Songhay expressions Wakarey and Wakaare/Waakaare,227 and to the expressions Wakuriyyūn, Wakuruy, and Wakurī (i.e. Wankure/Wakore) found in two Timbuktu chronicles,228 which all mean “Soninke”.229 In addition, Wāākpārε̄m phrases display “not only a Soninke-derived vocabulary, but also a word order that conforms to heartland-Soninke usage”.230

  • 231  Interview n. 2. (with Bààbu Adamu, a senior Parakou Gὲsὲrὲ).
  • 232  Interview n. 4 (with the Bàà Bwε̄ε̄).
  • 233  Interview n. 5 (with the GὲsὲrὲMāgāzī of Kandi).
  • 234  Interview n. 6 (with Wōrū Tōkūrā Bukari).
  • 235  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1992; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1993b, p. 121-132. The second of these pap (...)
  • 236  Interview n. 7 (with Wōrū Tōkūrā Bukari).
  • 237  Interview n. 8 (with Bààbà Damagii).

145Borgu’s Gὲsὲrὲbà are no longer aware of their historical long-distance connection with the Soninke-speaking lands. We heard from them that their ancestors came from Sɔ̄nrāī or Sɔ͂ɔ͂rāī (Songhay) with invading Songhay armies and remained there after the defeat of these armies,231 or came from Gūnūmā country (i.e. from Gurma—the right bank of the Niger and its hinterland),232 or simply “from Nīzε̄r (or Nīsε̄ε̄r)”, i.e. from the Republic of Niger.233 In an interview in April 1988, the late Wōrū Tōkūrā Bukari, the knowledgeable head of Nikki’s Gὲsὲrὲbà, told us that his ancestors had come from the other side of the Niger, which they had crossed at Ilo (in Nigeria, figure 5) with Kìsìrā.234 He was then using the stories of origin known as the “Kisra Legend” as the frame of reference for his narrative. The Kisra stories claim that the traditional rulers of Borgu are descended from a prince who had to flee from Arabia (or from somewhere else in the East) because he refused to accept Islam. They have been often mistaken for a charter of resistance to Islam. But, actually, they are a corpus of narratives which was created by Muslims to justify their cooperation with non-Muslim rulers, and which was incorporated into the royal traditions themselves.235 However, in another interview (January 1990), Wōrū Tōkūrā Bukari also mentioned the Sε̄rūmātēm, i.e. the Sε̄rūmā country (the area in the Republic of Niger inhabited by speakers of the Zarma/Zerma dialect of Songhay) as a Gὲsὲrὲ place of origin.236 Another (non-Gὲsὲrὲ, Bààtɔ̀núm-speaking) informant told us that the Gὲsὲrὲbà arrived in Parakou from the same country as the Dēnnīm-[Dèndí-]-speaking traders who bear patronymic-group names such as Tārūwε̄rε̄, Kūrūbārī, and Fãfānā. This informant perceived such Mande-derived appellations as having been first introduced into Parakou from Songhay-speaking countries, and saw the Songhay-speaking trade diaspora and the Wāākpārε̄m-speaking Gὲsὲrὲ diaspora as parallel historical phenomena.237

146In addition to having forgotten their remote origin in the distant Soninke land, the Gὲsὲrὲbà are no longer aware that Wāākpārε̄m is a Soninke-based language. Moreover, some of them do not even call their performance idiom Wāākpārε̄m. Thus, in the April 1988 interview, Wōrū Tōkūrā Bukari told us that the Gὲsὲrὲ praise-singing language is “the Sɔ͂ε͂m [Songhay] of the Sε̄rūmā [Zarma] country”. Yet, he listed words in that praise-singing idiom that are unmistakably Soninke words. It is possible that by saying they were Sɔ͂ε͂m he displayed a vague and distant awareness of Wāākpārε̄m’s kinship with Sillince, the Soninke-derived performance language used by the Jèsérè Dunka embedded in the Sɔ͂ε͂m-[Songhay­]-speaking societies of the eastern Niger valley. Also, Sɔ͂ε͂m must have been the language the ancestors of the Gὲsὲrὲbà spoke (in addition to the Sillince performance idiom) while living along the Niger in the Sɔ͂ε͂m-[Songhay-]-speaking countries—in the same way as now, in Béninois Borgu, the Gὲsὲrὲbà speak Bààtɔ̀núm in addition to Wāākpārε̄m.

147The Gὲsὲrὲbà’s long and successful immersion in Borgu history and society has made these specialists of the past turn their attention to local matters and to memories more recent than the memory of their own earlier past. A long-distance bond across West African history and space has been broken and forgotten. When the Gὲsὲrὲbà praise the Nikki king with the title Tunka, neither they nor their praisee realise this is the same title with which the rulers of the old Ghāna Empire, the Askyia of Gao, and perhaps the Sonyi/Sii of Bentyia/Kukyia, were also praised. This is one example of the fragmentation that has affected the record of the connections between West Africa’s various regional histories.

148Yet, even though the Gὲsὲrὲbà themselves no longer keep memories of their older heritage, it is largely possible to reconstruct their progress from the Soninke heartlands to the eastern Niger valley, then down the Niger (where the Jèsérè Dunka are still present), and finally into the Borgu hinterland. In some ways this Gὲsὲrὲ route is for the time being more clearly traceable than the routes followed by the Dèndí-cínè–speaking trade diaspora (or by the Sonyi and Askyia armies that in vain invaded Borgu). At the same time, Gὲsὲrὲ migration into Borgu appears to have been dependent on those two other movements of people. The Gὲsὲrὲbà may have come into Borgu as praise-singers attached to Songhay-Empire military leaders, or may have entered the country on their own initiative, in pursuit of placement. But, whichever was the case, the new Wasángàrí-class patrons the Gὲsὲrὲbà found in Borgu had emerged there only thanks to the horses made available, in exchange for slaves, by Songhay-speaking traders. Without the Wasángàrí (the very military class that must have led the resistance to the Songhay armies), there would have been no social place for Gὲsὲrὲbà in Borgu. Hence the Gὲsὲrὲ diaspora (like the spread of the name Gaani for Islamic and political festivals celebrated on the date of the Mawlid an-Nabyyi) marks out advances of the Songhay-speaking trade diaspora, making them more clearly visible to the historian in the case of Borgu.

Conclusions: West African mobility and linked histories. Bentyia/Kukyia’s role in this

  • 238  See for instance L. Sundström, 1972; K. Barber, 1991, p. 135-182.

149Mobility of people is the framework of West African history. The movements of fisherfolk and other waterfolk along the rivers and the sea coast, and the movements of herders, hunters, traders, enslaved men and women, cavalry warriors, praise-singers, blacksmiths and other craftspeople, clerics, pilgrims, farmers, and migrant workers weave together regions and centuries. Despite the harshness of so many of their landscapes, and the insecurity that continuously affected travelling, West African vast spaces have never proved an insurmountable obstacle to long–distance and short-distance displacements.238

  • 239  J. Collins, P. Richards, 1982, p. 131. See also C. Lefebvre, 2008, p. 65: “Si le Soudan central co (...)

150Writing on modern popular music and culture continuity and change, two astute observers have noted that “[t]he prolonged life of merchant capital as dominant force in West African development is reflected in the hyper-mobility which affects the lives of the great mass of the people”.239

151Modern cultural nationalisms are often geared to the construction of “historical” genealogies of states, each essentially built around, and to the glory of, one particular ethnic group, family of linguistic communities, “kingdom”, or “empire”. However, contrary to these claims, cultures have not developed in splendid purity and isolation from one another. As they traded goods (and people!), they also exchanged tales, rituals, and other means of self-construction and self-description. Central cultural features were built out of borrowings from other cultures modified to suit new purposes. Thus, Songhay oral stories about Askyia Muḥammad I were constructed out of re-elaborations of the Tuareg tales about Arigullan.

  • 240  B. Surugue, 1972, p. 4-5; P. Stoller, C. Olkes, 1987, p. 234; P. Stoller, 1989, p. 118, p. 231.
  • 241  D. Casajus, 1987, p. 140-142, p. 372; M. Albaka, D. Casajus, 1992, p. 15, 105-109, 275-286; H. Cla (...)

152In Songhay, the word “gáàní”, which at the non-cultic level simply means “dance” in general, is also still used for a particular genre of possession dance performed in the context of the cult of the Hólléy spirits.240 Nevertheless, for Songhay Muslims on the eastern arc of the Niger River, it also became the name of their Gààní (Mawlid) festival in honour of the Prophet. With this particular meaning it was brought into several West African cultures reached by Songhay-speaking Muslim traders. But it became in Nikki the Gāānī, the great “national” festival centred on kingship, not at all on Prophet Muḥammad. And, in the Ayəṛ, of two different modes (the “noble-warrior mode” and the “clerical-Muslim mode”) of the Tuareg way of life, it is mostly the former that is celebrated in the annual Gani (though the two modes of celebration coincide in time and interact to some extent).241

  • 242  P.E. Lovejoy, S. Baier, 1975; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2006a, p. 226-229; B. Rossi, 2010, p. 133-136

153Ethnic groups absorbed people from other ethnic groups. The sorcerer-hero Sii of deepest non-Islamised Songhay traditions turns out to be Sonyi Ali Beeri, the scion of a dynasty whose origin was “foreign” (Mande), but who Songhay-ised themselves to the point of becoming founders of the Songhay empire and securing a place among Songhay’s mythical ancestors. The Sonyi/Sii are a remarkable part of both Mande and Songhay histories—where would we draw the line? Overlapping, and changeable, ethnic identities are also part of West Africa’s historical framework.242

154From the archaeological findings at Kissi in Burkina Faso, and at Ǝssuk/Tadmăkkăt, Gao, and Saney, in Mali, to those at Birnin Lafiya and Pékinga on the Bénin–Niger border, and to those at Ilé-Ifẹ̀ and Igbo-Ukwu in Nigeria; from the inscriptions at Ǝssuk/Tadmăkkăt to those at Saney, Gao, and Bentyia/Kukyia; from the inscription-engraving trader community at Bentyia/Kukyia to the Wangara or Kpáártáágɔ̀ town-wards of Béninois Borgu; from the Mansa of the Mali Empire to his Sonyi/Sii “viceroy” at Bentyia/Kukyia; from the Bentyia/Kukyia of the Sonyi/Sii to the Busa (Bussa) of the Ki/Kia; from the praising of old Ghāna’s Tunkā to Gesere praise of the Gao Askyia, and to Gὲsὲrὲ praise of Nikki’s Sīnà Bōkō as Tunka; and from the Bàà-Kpàràkpē office in Béninois Borgu to the Pàràkòyí office in Yorùbáland—the connectivity of West Africa’s regional and ethnic histories is manifest, and much of it has manifested itself along the axis of the eastern Niger valley.

  • 243  J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 2-footnote 3; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2008, p. 104.
  • 244  See M. Diawara, 2006; B. Gardi, 2006, p. 192; M. Grosz-Ngaté, 2006, p. 139-143; A. Jones, 2006, p. (...)
  • 245  J. Jansen, 2000, p. 100-101.

155It is not always sufficiently acknowledged that the 17th-century Timbuktu chronicles were trailblazers in the outlining of this connectivity of historical spaces across West Africa. They attempted to grasp and depict it, from the lands and times of old Ghāna to those of old Mali, and those of early-modern Songhay. They took the expression Bilād al-Sūdān / Arḍ al-Sūdān (“Land of the Blacks”), which had been an instrument of Other-isation wielded by Arabic external sources, and turned it into a geo-political umbrella term deployed with pride by Sudanese-Muslim insiders.243 From this point of view, they anticipated by a few centuries Heinrich Barth’s attempts to conceptualise West Africa as he moved across it, successively added several of its languages to his intellectual kit, and conversed with Africans who were highly mobile themselves.244 The Timbuktu chroniclers also anticipated the attempts to conceptualise a pan-Sudanian cultural region made in the 1950s by the Mission Griaule, on the strength of that Mission’s ability to move across different areas of the region in motor vehicles—using the motor car as a “methodological tool”, as it has been pointed out by Jansen.245

156Such wide-angle overviews of entire vast regions are always liable to oversight. They are no substitute for sustained studies of locality and historical particularity. However, they add to the latter an equally indispensable dimension, without which cultural exchanges, movements of people, and other historical dynamics may never be fully grasped.

  • 246  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxix-lxxxv.

157The Timbuktu chroniclers harnessed the information they could muster on various regions and historical periods to a particular political project. They wanted a renegotiation of the power contract between, on the one hand, the second generation of the Arma, the dominant politico-military class installed on the Niger Bend by the 1591 Moroccan invasion, and, on the other hand, the Songhay elites that had enjoyed power before the invasion—the Askyia lineages and Timbuktu’s commercial and scholarly patriciate.246 They wanted to show that Askyia imperial kingship, at its better periods (identified by the chroniclers as the reigns of Askyia Al-Ḥājj Muḥammad I, 1493–1529, and Askyia Dāwūd, 1549–1582), had been the continuation, but also the religious (Islamic), political, and military culmination, and amelioration, of the kingships that had existed before in the Western Sudan (most notably, in the eyes of the ta’rīkh writers, those of old Ghāna, old Mali, and of the Zuwa and Sonyi/Sii, of Songhay itself). It was on this task that the chroniclers concentrated their intellectual energies and their methodological innovations.

158Timbuktu’s 17th-century historical literature contented itself with vague notions about trade in Borgu and did not explore the subject further. It concentrated instead on military expeditions to Borgu. Also, it ignored the Bentyia/Kukyia Muslims and their Arabic inscriptions—actually, the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān constructed the early history of the Bentyia/Kukyia area around a tale of Pharaonic, anti-Prophetic, thus anti-Qur’ānic, “sorcery”. The Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh talks about Gasiri Dunka and Gissiru Dunka, but without commenting upon their Soninke origin or disclosing the linguistic particularities of their performances. Though the Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh mentions the parallel presences of Malinke warriors and Wangara long-distance traders on the Niger valley, no Timbuktu chronicle discusses the relationship between the activities of these two groups.

159Moreover, even the sum total of written sources and oral tradition, and other oral information, available to the 17th-century chroniclers, or available to us now, did not then, and still does not, easily yield the full scope of the movements of people, goods, and ideas throughout the history and the vast spaces of West Africa. There are too many discontinuities, ruptures, and exclusions in those records of the past. No extant written or oral source, except epigraphy, tells us about the 13th–15th century Muslim traders of Bentyia/Kukyia, or throws light on the way Sonyi/Sii power was constructed there. The Gὲsὲrὲbà of Borgu have kept no memory of their distant origins in the Soninke-speaking countries or of their ancestors’ roles at the Gao court of the Askyia.

160To understand West Africa’s interconnected histories of mobility, we need a longue durée perspective, which takes in prehistory and ancient and medieval history as well as present ethnographies. A holistic geographical gaze that grasps together desert, savannah, and forest regions is also required. Many long-term, far-reaching, dynamics are still recoverable, once one connects into lines the scattered dots in the available data (taking care to subject our own reconstructions to relentless, collective critical scrutiny—the best, albeit never infallible, weapon in our professional arsenals).

161We need wide comparative ethnographies that take advantage of monographic studies of individual cultures to seize together, say, the Geseru of the Soninke core-lands, the Jèsérè Dunka of the Zarma-speaking country, and the Gὲsὲrὲbà of Borgu. We also need comparative histories that consider side by side the Sonyi/Sii of Bentyia/Kukyia and their Ngbanyia counterparts in Gonja.

162Above all, we need holistic programmes of pre-historic and historic archaeology, and their unrivalled ability to unveil inter-regional links, disclose intraregional connections and the interactions within clusters of sites, and bring to light aspects of successive historical phases at deeply stratified sites.

163In all this, the Bentyia/Kukyia sites still occupy an incongruous place. All the indications are that they played a strategic role in communications along, and possibly also across, the eastern stretch of the Niger River over many centuries—from well before the time the earliest Arabic inscriptions were engraved there in the 13th century. Later, in the 15th century, they were the fulcrum of an expansive “imperial” power associated with the history of various diasporas (of Songhay-speaking and Manding-speaking traders, Mande warriors on horseback, Islam specialists, blacksmiths, Soninke-speaking praise-singers, etc.). Arazi’s 1996 survey provides a tantalising glimpse of those sites’ promise. Yet the Bentyia/Kukyia area still remains unexcavated. Hence we cannot be sure that even the valuable epigraphic evidence they preserve has been fully brought to light and analysed.

164The present paper is an effort to expose the incongruity of this situation. No holistic archaeological investigation of the eastern Niger valley can afford to ignore Bentyia/Kukyia.

Figures

Figure 1: Trans-Saharan axes explored at different periods between the 9th and the 17th c. A.D.

Figure 1: Trans-Saharan axes explored at different periods between the 9th and the 17th c. A.D.

Reproduced from P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003.

Figure 2: The Aḍagh and its links with the Niger Valley

Figure 2: The Aḍagh and its links with the Niger Valley

Reproduced from P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003.

Figure 3: The Sites in the Bentyia Area

Figure 3: The Sites in the Bentyia Area

Reproduced from P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003.

Figure 4: The Gao-Saney Area

Figure 4: The Gao-Saney Area

Reproduced from P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003.

Figure 5: The eastern Niger

Figure 5: The eastern Niger

Reproduced by kind permission from R. Kuba, 2009, p. 151.

Haut de page

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Zima, P., 1994, Lexique Dendi (Songhay) (Djougou, Bénin), Cologne, Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

Zima, P., 1998, “Le dendi et le bariba entre les complexes songhay et hawsa”, in E. Boesen, C. Hardung, R. Kuba (eds), Regards sur le Borgou: Pouvoir et altérité dans une région ouest-africaine, Paris, L’Harmattan, p. 287-293.

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Annexe

Oral informants interviewed

Interview n. 1: 16-01-1990. The Bàà-Wàràkpē of Nikki, interviewed at his compound in that town’s Nìkì-Mārō ward.

Interview n. 2: 03-04-1988. Bààbu Adamu, also known as Sābī Maamaa, a senior Gὲsὲrὲ traditionist of the Bàà Mārō lineage, interviewed at his compound in Parakou’s Gàá ward.

Interview n. 3: 18-01-1990. Bààbu Adamu, interviewed at the same place.

Interview n. 4: 15-01-1990. Iburaima Bàà Gὲsὲrὲ the Bàà Bwε̄ε̄, i.e. the Head of the Gὲsὲrὲbà traditionists of Bouay (Bwε̄ε̄), interviewed at his compound in that town.

Interview n. 5: 15-01-1990. Abudu Gὲsὲrὲ Māgāzī, the Head of the Gὲsὲrὲbà of Kandi, interviewed at his compound in that town.

Interview n. 6: 04-04-1988. Wōrū Tōkūrā Bukari, the Head of the Gὲsὲrὲbà of Nikki, interviewed at his compound in that town’s Nìkì-Wɔ̄ɔ̄rē ward.

Interview n. 7: 17-01-1990. Wōrū Tōkūrā Bukari, interviewed at the same place.

Interview n. 8: 03-04-1988. Bààbà Dāmāgīī, a senior traditional officeholder in Parakou, interviewed at his compound in that town’s Sīnà Gúrū ward.

Interviews n. 1 and n. 2 were conducted by my colleague Dr Obarè Bouroubin Bagodo, of the Department of History and Archaeology, Université d’Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou, and myself. At interviews n. 3, n. 4, n. 5, and n. 7, the two of us were joined by another Béninois colleague, Dr Oumarou Banni-Guené. At interviews n. 6 and n. 8, Dr Bagodo and myself were joined by a Yorùbá colleague, the late Dr Solomon Oyèéwọlé Babáyẹmí, who was then a Senior Researcher at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ìbàdàn, and later became Ọba Akínrìnọ́lá I, the Olúfì of Gbọ̀ngán, in Ọ̀sun State, Nigeria.

All informants spoke in the Bààtɔ̀núm language. However, the Gὲsὲrὲ informants (interviews n. 2 to n. 7) also provided us with words and praise-formulas in the Wāākpārε̄m language and, in one case (interview n. 5), a Wāākpārε̄m praise-song.

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Notes

1  Professor Tymowski, former Director of the Centre de Civilisation Polonaise at the Sorbonne, and leading scholar of Songhay history, celebrated his professional jubilee at the Instytut Historyczny of the University of Warsaw on 25 October 2011.

2  See http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/152665/icode/, last consulted on 02-12-2012.

3  Amnesty International document, Index: AFR 37/001/2012 (see also our Bibliographic References).

4  According to John Ging, Director of the Operational Division at the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, quoted in a dispatch posted on 28-07-2012 at:
http://www.jeuneafrique.com/Article/ARTJAWEB20120728165219/

5  In Tămašăq (the Berber–Tuareg language of the Aḍagh), the initial vowel in the name “Essuk” is shorter than /a/ or /ă/. It is pronounced like the indistinct vowel sound in the second syllable of the English words common and comma. Linguists call this vowel sound a schwa and represent it by an /Ǝ/ or /ə/. The Tămašăq name “Ǝssuk” comes from the Arabic Al-sūq (pronounced As-sūq, and meaning “market”). On this see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, cxlii-cxliii.

6  On such modes of interaction between societies, see P. Mitchell, 2005, p. 24.

7  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, lxxxix-xcvii, c-cvi; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2006a, p. 236-260. The analysis of the terminology and the notions displayed by both the oral stories about Maamar and the Ta’rīkh al-Sūdān’s narrative of the origin of the Sony/Siishows, in my view, that they were directly borrowed from schemes in Tuareg folklore and then modified to suit new purposes. In other words, the similarities between the tales do not result from parallel, independent borrowings from universal schemes by Tuareg story-tellers, Songhay oral traditionists, and the Timbuktu chronicler. However, for a different view, see D. Casajus, 2011, p. 11-12.

8  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 234-238; 1996, p. 267-278; 1998, p. 61-66; 2006a, p. 230-236.

9  Contributions to the study of the past of those regions have also come in recent decades from research on rock engravings and Libyco–Berber/Tifinagh inscriptions (C. Dupuy, 1991; M. Aghali-Zakara, J. Drouin, 2007; and articles in La Lettre du Répertoire des inscriptions Libyco–Berbères, published by the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, under the direction of Lionel Galand, since 1995, and now available online at: http://www.ephe.sorbonne.fr/recherche/repertoire-des-inscriptions-libyco-berberes.html). Work has also been done on Arabic medieval inscriptions (P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1974a; 1990a; 1993a; 1999a; 2000; 2003; 2006b). On the contributions by archaeologists, see also R. Vernet, 1996; and his paper in this Dossier of Afriques (R. Vernet, J. Maley, 2013).

10  S. Nixon, 2009 and his paper in this Dossier of Afriques (S. Nixon, 2013); S. Nixon et alii, 2011a; S. Nixon et alii, 2011b.

11  “Găwgăw” is still the Tămašăq name of Gao (the Songhay name is “Gaawo”). “Kawkaw” is one of the Arabic transcriptions of “Găwgăw”.

12  See al-Yaʿqūbī in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 52 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 21.

13  See R.C.C. Law, 1967; D.F. McCall, 1999, p. 217.

14  See M. Liverani, 2000a; M. Liverani, 2000b; M. Liverani (ed.), 2005; D.J. Mattingly (ed.), 2003; 2007; 2010; D.J. Mattingly et alii (eds), 2006. Also: http://www.acacus.it/eng/missione.htm and http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/archaeology/research/projects/the-trans-sahara-project . Furthermore, the Italo–Libyan mission, with financial support from the British Library’s “Endangered Archives Programme”, recorded by means of digital photography the Tifinagh inscriptions in the Tadrārt Akākūs mountains (a little east of Ghāt)—see S. Biagetti et alii, 2012 and also: http://eap.bl.uk/database/overview_project.a4d?projID=EAP265;r=6270 . Following the recent events in Libya, the fieldwork of the Italo–Libyan and Anglo–Libyan missions has been suspended until security is fully restored in the country.

15  S.K. McIntosh, 2008, p. 362. See also the remarks on the subject by S. Magnavita, 2009, p. 94-95.

16  S. Magnavita, 2009, p. 79, 91, 92; on Kissi, see also S. Magnavita, 2003, and her paper in this Dossier of Afriques (S. Magnavita, 2013); S. Magnavita et alii, 2002; and P. Robertshaw et alii , 2009, p. 108-113. The Kissi area is in the Gurma region. “Gurma” is the Songhay name for the right bank of the Niger and its hinterland (see J.O. Hunwick 1999, p. xxvii, 92-footnote 11, p. 365.

17  See A. Ọbáy, 1979, p. 180; R. Horton, 1979, p. 100-103, p. 107.

18  S. Magnavita et alii, 2007a, p. 157; S. Magnavita et alii, 2007b. See also T. Insoll, 1996, p. 82; and N. Arazi, 1999, p. 38. On earlier work at Marandet, see D. Grébénart, 1993.

19  See T.R. Fenn et alii, 2009, p. 133, see also p. 138. Igbo-Ukwu is in southern Nigeria, east of the Niger and within the rain-forest areas (figure 5)—see T. Shaw, 1970b.

20  Sonja Magnavita continues to be based at the DAI (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut , Bonn).

21  See B. Gado, 1993; B. Gado, 2004.

22  One might feel tempted to ask whether this Lollo could be the Lolo (Lūlu‘) that had a Qāḍī (“judge”) in the late 16th or early 17th century, or the Lūlu/Lawulu to which the 15th-century conqueror Sonyi Ali Beeri went by river transport in order to raise a numerous army—Ali Beeri entrusted the command of this army to the Dendi-fāri (the Governor of Dendi, i.e. of the Songhay domains downstream from Kukyia/Bentyia). On these place-names, see Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, p. 46, text, p. 118 / French transl., p. 89, p. 217 and J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xxxiii. However, similar place-names are also found elsewhere (for instance Lolo, much further downstream in the Niger valley, in the border area between Nigeria and Bénin, and Lolo, north-east of Kandi, in Béninois Borgu). Dendi seems to have been a fertile recruiting ground for Songhay’s military commanders. It was also an important source of grain (N.R. Laurent, 1965; P.E. Lovejoy, 1980, p. 34.

23  S. Magnavita, personal communication. See also: http://www.dainst.org/en/project/eisenzeit-fr%C3%BChgeschichte-sw-niger?ft=all

24  See M. Cissé, 2010; M. Cissé et alii, 2007; and also: http://udini.proquest.com/view/archaeological-investigations-of-pqid:2437687221/ and http://collections.si.edu/search/results.jsp?q=Togola+Te%CC%81re%CC%81ba. Susan K. McIntosh and Mamadou Cissé had planned to return to Gao to do mapping of buried stone foundations with ground-penetrating radar (Susan. K. McIntosh, personal communication). This project is now on hold owing to the situation in Gao. Also, the sites undergoing excavation at Gao have been damaged by the heavy hivernage rains of this year, and it is not possible at the moment to repair the structures that had been erected to protect them; and the now equally unprotected sites at Saney’s mound are again being attacked by pillagers, who destroy its stratigraphy as they dig for glass and beads to be sold (Mamadou Cissé and Susan K. McIntosh, personal communication, 06-11-2012). On this kind of looting at Saney, see T. Insoll, 1993.

25  See R. Mauny, 1950; 1951; 1952; 1961, p. 112-114, p. 492-493, p. 498-499; C. Flight, 1975a; 1975b; 1979; 1981; T. Insoll, 1995; 1996; 1997; 1998; T. Insoll (ed.), 2000. On Insoll’s work in Gao, see also: http://www.insoll.org/Field%20Projects.html

26  See M. Cissé, 2010, p. 280: “Further work on the urban site of GaoAncien is already in production. This work will generate further interest and future research at numerous sites within the Gao region in connection with the early Gao kingdom such as Gao Ancien, Gao Saney, Gadei, Gorongobo, Koukia/Bentia and other unexcavated sites including Tchado and Koima.
Large-scale excavations with rigorous stratigraphic control at these sites will help us to have a better understanding about the origin and the development of the Gao kingdom. Additionally, an expanded program of chemical analysis of trade goods from these sites will provide a robust comparative database for reconstructing trade connections with source areas and other trading centers.”

27  See A. Haour et alii, 2006; O.A. I, 2000 ; O.A. I, 2009; O.A. I et alii, 2005.

28  D. N’dah, 2009, p. 179-191.

29  A. Haour, personal communication; see also A. Haour et alii, 2011 and http://crossroadsofempires.wordpress.com, as well as Haour’s paper in this Dossier of Afriques (A. Haour, 2013).

30  See Ibn al-Faqīh (290 H\903 CE) and Ibn Baṭṭūṭa (754 H/1353 CE) in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 54, p. 316-321 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 27, p. 300-303.

31  J. Rouch, 1953, p. 168; see also J.O. Hunwick, 1994, p. 257; J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xxxiii; R. Kuba, 2009, p. 150.

32  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1998, p. 47; R. Kuba, 2009, p. 150. Old Busa was never systematically excavated and is now at the bottom of the Nigerian artificial lake created by the Kainji Dam. Its inhabitants moved to a new town also called Busa (New Busa). On the work done, under difficult circumstances, by the Kainji Rescue Archaeology Project, see B.A. Breternitz, 1968; B.A. Breternitz, 1975; T. Shaw, 1970a, p. 3-4; D.D. Hartle, 1970; D.D. Hartle, 1972; A.J. Priddy, 1970a; A.J. Priddy, 1970b.

33  Vivid accounts of the perils of crossing the rapids are available—see Lieutenant De Vaisseau [E.A.] Hourst, 1898, p. 239-252, p. 431-440, for the rapids at Fafa, Labbezanga, and Busa; and H. Lhote, 1946, p. 155-172, for Fafa and Labbezanga.

34  R. Mauny, 1961, p. 120, 385, was misled by the lack of unmistakable references to Kukyia in the medieval Arabic sources. But Bentyia/Kukyia was outside the limits of the West African areas those sources knew much about.

35  R. Kuba, 2009, p. 150.

36  On the advantages of river transportation over transportation over land, see R. Kuba, 2009, p. 150. On the difficulties faced over the centuries by overland caravans in West Africa, see also C. Lefebvre, 2008, p. 85ff.

37  Lieutenant L. Desplagnes, 1907, p. 75.

38  N. Arazi, 1999.

39  On the need for a “holistic archaeological research programme” in the region, see A. Haour, 2007, p. 42, 46.

40  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxx, clxxii, clxxiv, ccxi, ccxlii, p. 159, 169, 216-217. On Bentyia in the context of the Wangara networks, and of earlier trade, see also R. Kuba, 1996, p. 233-262; R. Kuba, 2009.

41  See A.B. Stahl, 1999, p. 47-48; S.K. McIntosh, 1999, p. 66-75.

42  N. Arazi, 1999, p. 36-41 and fig. 1-3, 5-7, 10-13. On urban clustering, see R.J. McIntosh, 1991.

43  In the present paper, on figure 3, Egef-n-tăwăqqast is shown as the “3rd epigraphic site”, but it is actually the fourth (see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. 157-158, using material kindly made available by N. Arazi).

44  In her classification, N. Arazi used as the standard the size of the Jenné-jeno site (33 ha) excavated by Susan K. McIntosh and Roderick J. McIntosh.

45  R. Mauny, 1961, p. 498.

46  T. Insoll, 1996; T. Insoll, 1997, p. 11, p. 22-29.

47  See N. Arazi, 1999, fig. 13.

48  A small open-air oratory for the performance of the Islamic daily ritual prayers.

49  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1990a, p. 105-107; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. 157-160. On Egef-n-tăwăqqast, see also G.R. De Gironcourt, 1920, p. 296, 330, 353 plate xviii-fig. 33.

50  R. Kuba, 2009, p. 152.

51  Though the depth of the archaeological deposits at Lollo is still to be determined.

52  See Lieutenant L. Desplagnes, 1907, p. 75; M. Delafosse, 1972, vol. I, p. 192; G.R. De Gironcourt, 1920, p. 307; R. Mauny, 1961, p. 120, 125; J.O. Hunwick, 1985a, p. 12. “Kukyia”, “Kuukyia”, “Kutyia”, and “Kotyia” are alternative Songhay forms of the name.

53  In the word Sonyi, the digraph ny transcribes a nasal phoneme similar to that represented by gn in the French word agneau and by ñ in the Spanish word año. Hence, the word could also be spelt as Soñi. Sii is a variant of the same word—see J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 333-334; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. xxiii-xxiv, clxxiv.

54  See Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 45 / French transl., p. 85.

55  On this see the classic studies by J. Rouch, 1953, p. 185 and A. Ba Konaré, 1977, p. 121-130.

56  G.R. De Gironcourt, 1920, p. 27-39, 307-309, 329, 339, 341-353. On the Bentyia inscriptions, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clxx-clxxvi, clxxxvii-clxxxix, cxc, cxciv, ccx-ccxi, ccxxxix-ccxl, ccxlii-ccxliv, 157-210, 270.

57  ‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. ‘Abdullāh Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 4 / French transl., p. 6-7, English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 6. See also P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clxxi-clxxii; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2010, p. 8.

58  G.R. De Gironcourt, 1920, p. 36-39.

59  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lvii.

60  See T. Insoll, 1996, 1997, p. 11, p. 22-29; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clviii, clxxxviii-clxxxix.

61  See S.K. McIntosh, 1999, p. 76.

62  On the archaeological investigation of power in Africa, see the percipient studies by P. De Maret, 1999; P. Robertshaw, 1999; D.L. Schoenbrun, 1999.

63  S. Magnavita, 2009, p. 96.

64  C. Pelzer et alii, 2009, p. 218-219. On the important building complex at Oursihu-beero (11th–12th century AD), see L.P. Petit, M. von Czerniewicz, C. Pelzer (eds), 2011. The excavations were conducted in the framework of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft “Man and Environment in the West African Savannah” project, which was based at Goethe-University, Frankfurt-am-Main.

65  See R. Vernet, 1996, p. 31, 324-325, 336, 342-345; and his paper in this Dossier of Afriques (R. Vernet, J. Maley, 2013). Also B. Gado, 1963, p. 373 and the pioneering publication by J. Devisse, 1993, p. 344-357, which includes information from R. Vernet, J.-M. Regnoult and D. Bory Kadey.

66  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cxxxix-cxl, cxliv-cxlv.

67  See Al-Bakrī, in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 107 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 85; also P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cxxxiv-cxxxv, cxli, cxc-cxcii, 87-88, 217. Though he wrote in the 11th century, some of Al-Bakrī’s information was borrowed from 10th-century writings (see T. Lewicki, 1969, p. 52-53).

68  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ccxxxii-ccxxxv.

69  See Al-Bakrī, in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 107 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 85.

70  S. Magnavita, personal communication.

71  See T. Insoll, 1995.

72  T. Insoll, T. Shaw, 1997, p. 19. See also T. Shaw, 1970b, p. 280; M. Last, 1985, p. 181; T. Insoll, 1996, p. 82. For a different view about the possible routes along which beads were imported into Igbo-Ukwu, see J.E.G. Sutton, 1991.

73  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. 157-210, inscriptions 188-250.

74  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, inscriptions n. 222-234, 244, 247.

75  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, inscriptions n. 232 and n. 233.

76  The Sonyi/Sii may well have followed non-Islamised burial rites. No inscriptions commemorating Askyia rulers (who presented themselves as orthodox and pious Muslims) have been found, in Gao or elsewhere, either.

77  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cxix-cxxii, p. 214-215.

78  See R.J. McIntosh, 1998, p. 14-18, p. 306. See also (in the light of archaeological and ethnographic evidence relating to Tallensi shrines in the north of the Republic of Ghana) the exploration of a possible “archaeology of destiny” by T. Insoll, 2008; also, B.W. Kankpeyeng, S.N. Nkumbaan, 2009.

79  The ṣālat al-istisqā’ (“prayer for rain”) is a ritual performed on a Friday, during the night until dawn. Jean Rouch (J. Rouch, 1960, p. 14-15) has shown how village chiefs could still alternate between the rain rites carried out by Islamic clerics and the sacrifices performed by traditional-religion specialists.

80  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clxxxvii-clxxxix, 170-173, 191-192, 199-200, inscriptions n. 202, 203, 226, 234.

81  According to the inscription, the Wazīr was “iniquitously killed” by people it does not clearly identify. We do not know whether these were simply criminals, or political agents operating in the context of some conflict internal to Bentyia/Kukyia society.

82  On the office of Timbuktu-koy, see the editors’ notes to Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, transl. p. 82, footnote 4, and J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 344.

83  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 18, 19, 72, 73, 99, 108, 119, 132, 141-142, 151 / French transl., p. 32-34, 119, 163, 176, 192, 210, 220-221, 234-235), English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 26-27, 103, 105, 141, 152, 165, 179, 191-192, 202; Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 65, 106, 149-150 / transl., p. 124-125, 197, 268; E.N. Saad, 1983, p. 36, 50, 54-55, 113-114, 127, 175, 296; J.O. Hunwick, 1985a, p. 13; C. Blum, H.[J.] Fisher, 1993, p. 70-71, footnote 3.

84  See Ibn Khaldūn, in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 348-349 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 336. Also with reference to the separate practices of the Bīḍān in Gao in the second half of the 14th century, Ibn Baṭṭūṭa mentions Muḥammad “al-Filālī” (i.e. from Morocco’s Tāfīlālt, Sijilmāsa’s region), who was “Imām of the Mosque of the Bīḍān”—see Ibn BaṬṬūa, 1966, p. 72; Ibn BaṬṬūa, 1968, IV, p. 436; Ibn BaṬṬūa, 1994, p. 971.

85  M. Tymowski, 2009, p. 166.

86  On the Soninke Geseru, oral specialists attached to the warrior aristocracy, see M. Diawara, 1990, p. 42, 78, 80, 85, 90; A. Bathily, 1989, p. 217-218.

87  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 38 / transl., p. 65.

88  See G. Brooks, 1993, p. 46.

89  For a discussion of the reasons why medieval Islamic epigraphy took root in the eastern, but not the western, regions of the Sahel, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cxxii-cxxvii.

90  Y. Person, 1968, p. 96-97; B.M. Perinbam, 1974, p. 680; P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 176; P.E. Lovejoy, 1985, p. 664-665.

91  See I. Wilks, 1963, p.I. 410-411; M.A. al-Hajj, 1968; B.M. Perinbam, 1974, B.M. Perinbam, 1980; P.E. Lovejoy, 1978; I. Wilks, N. Levtzion, B.M. Haight, 1986, p. 2-9.

92  G. Brooks, 1993, p. 4, 46, 60.

93  For a detailed discussion of this chronology, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cvi-cxii, clxxiii.

94  For a different approach to the history of Mande–Songhay links, see D. Lange, 2004.

95  Ibn BaṬṬūa, 1966, p. 48-49; Ibn BaṬṬūa, 1968, II, p. 192-193 and IV, p. 395; Ibn BaṬṬūa, 1994, p. 955. See also W.D. Cooley, 1966, p. 90-94. One of the Ibn Baṭṭūṭa’s passages situates “Yūfī” at a distance of just one-month’s march from Sofāla in East Africa, but this simply reflects the perception held by many pre-modern, and early-modern, sources that the African continent was much narrower than it actually is—see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1974b, p. 17-18; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1980, p. 121. “Mūlī” remains unidentified.

96  P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 174-182.

97  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ccxi, and inscriptions n. 196, 198, 200.

98  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ccxi, and inscription n. 209.

99  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ccx, and inscription n. 224. Some Berber (Tuareg) names are also recorded by Bentya/Kukyia inscriptions (P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cxc, cciv, ccx).

100  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ccxi-ccxv and inscriptions n. 207, 211, 218, 226, 228, 229, 234, 238, 240.

101  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clxxxiii-clxxxiv, ccxv, and inscriptions n. 194, 202, 238, 240.

102  On such complex but “horizontal”, ”heterarchical” arrangements, see R.J. McIntosh, 1998, p. 6-10, 173, 231, 298, 304; R.J. McIntosh, 2000, p. 169; R.J. McIntosh, J.A. Tainter, S.K. McIntosh, 2000, p. 13, p. 30.

103  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 4-5 / French transl., p. 6-9; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 5-6; Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 29-30 / French transl., p. 49-50; Anonymous, 1981, p. 326-327, p. 329-332.

104  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxxxix, clxx-clxxi, clxiv-clxx, and especially inscription n. 14.

105  G. Brooks, 1993, p. 41, 44, 46, 97, 102.

106  See I. Wilks, N. Levtzion, B.M. Haight, 1986, p. 14-15.

107  On this and similar motifs, and their use, see J. Rouch, 1960, p. 41, 43, 123; P. Stoller, 1989, p. 29.

108  See Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 43-44 / French transl., p. 82-83; Anonymous, 1981, p. 337. For a new analysis of these passages, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxxxvii-lxxxix.

109  J. Rouch, 1953, p. 187-188, p. 244; J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 330, p. 335.

110  See J. Rouch, 1953, p. 183-184, and, in fine, Plate VI-Fig. 1, 3; J. Rouch, 1960, p. 52; P. Stoller, 1989, p. 16, 23, 218; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. ciii, clxxii.

111  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxxxvii-lxxxix, ciii.

112  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 43 / transl., p. 82; M. Delafosse, 1955, p. 577, p. 664-665; J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 333-334; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clxxiv.

113  See Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 44-45 / transl., p. 84; compare S.M. Cissoko, K. Sambou, 1974, p. 90-91; S.M. Cissoko, 1975, p. 51; and also V. Vydrine, 1999, p. 237-238.

114  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 3-6 / French transl., p. 5-12; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 7-8.

115  For a critical discussion of this claim, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxix-lxx, cix-cx, clxxiii.

116  Anonymous, 1981, p. 333-334.

117  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 48 / transl., p. 93-94.

118  Arabic text and English transl. in I. Wilks, N. Levtzion, B.M. Haight, 1986, p. 152, p. 158; see also N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 51-55.

119  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 43-44, p. 47 / transl., p. 82-84, p. 87; Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 65-68 / French transl., p. 107-112; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 94-97; Anonymous, 1981, p. 337; see also J.O. Hunwick, 2002, p. 124.

120  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999b, p. 156 and our interview n. 2 (with Bààbu Adamu, a senior Parakou Gὲsὲrὲ). See also H.J. Fisher, 1993.

121  See A. Ba Konaré, 1977, p. 123-128.

122  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 45 / transl., p. 85.

123  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 42-43 / transl., p. 80-81.

124  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 44 / transl., p. 83; Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 64, p. 71 / French transl., p. 104, p. 116; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 91, p. 100; Anonymous, 1981, p. 337-338.

125  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 48 / transl., p. 93; Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 22, p. 65 / French transl., p. 38, p. 105; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 31, p. 93; Anonymous, 1981, p. 337.

126  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 43, p. 45 / transl., p. 81-82, p. 85; Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 64 / French transl., p. 103-104; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 91; Anonymous, 1981, p. 337. See also J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xxxviii-xxxix.

127  P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 176.

128  P.P. Rey, 1989; P.P. Rey, 1993.

129  Besides, the Ibadites did not engrave tombstones—see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cxxii-cxxiii, p. cxlv.

130  See Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 6, p. 323 / French transl., p. 12, p. 488; English transl. of the first passage in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 8.

131  See M. Tymowski, 2009, p. 34-35; 1970; 1973; 1974; 1987; 1990; 1995.

132  On the Sorko (and the historically related, but distinct, Sorkawa), see P.G. Harris, 1942; J. Rouch, 1950a; 1950b; 1954, p. 21-22; L. Sundström, 1972, p. 89-91, 105-112, 116; J.-P. Olivierde Sardan, 1982, p. 341-344; P. Stoller, C. Olkes, 1987, p. 32, p. 163-165; P. Stoller, 1989, p. 28, 83-87, 92-93; J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xxx-xxxi; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. cii-ciii.

133  N. Levtzion, 1973, p. 84-85; J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xliii, xliv, l, 127-footnote 44, 341.

134  J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xxxv. See also N. Levtzion, 1973, p. 178; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clxxiv.

135  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. clxxii, cxciv, cxcvii, ccxxx-ccxxxi, ccxlii-ccxliv.

136  Al-‘Umarī in J.M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 270 and J.F.P. Hopkins, N. Levtzion, 1981, p. 266.

137  See the critical remarks by Anne Haour (A. Haour, 2007, p. 78-81) on assumptions about the horse trade, and the bibliography she refers to.

138  Ibn al-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 39 / transl., p. 67.

139  Bààtɔ̀núm, a Gur or Voltaic language, is the majority idiom of Béninois Borgu.

140  See the traditions referred to by O.B. Bagodo, 1978, p. 28-29, 34, 39, 52. Also, P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1998, p. 48-49 and the oral materials referred to therein; M.B. Idris, 1973, chapters 6, 8. Yóbù is the word for “market” in Dèndí cínè (the Songhay dialect spoken in Borgu). In other Songhay dialects, one finds, with the same meaning, hébú, hábú, yóbú, yóóbú—see Père A. Prost, 1956, p. 568; J.M. Ducroz, M.C. Charles, 1978, p. 120; R. Nicolaï, 1981, p. 278; P. Zima, 1994, p. 183.

141  R. Kuba, 1996, p. 149-150; R. Kuba, 1998, p. 95; see also J.-P. Olivierde Sardan, 1982, p. 383-389. On the Wasángàrí, see also J. Lombard, 1965, p. 180-198, p. 291-329, whose pioneering work remains indispensable to all those who study Borgu, and E. Alber, 1968, p. 143-145.

142  The Boko (or Bo’o) language is one of the eastern Mande languages—see the diagram of the Mande-language family at the beginning of V. Vydrine, 1999).

143  On the linguistic and ethnic groups of Borgu, see R. Jones, 1998, p. 71-89 and the maps in R. Kuba, 1996, p. 72; E. Boesen et alii, 1998, p. 24.

144  See also the maps in R. Kuba, 1996, p. 54-55; E. Boesen et alii, 1998, p. 22-23.

145 Ki or Kia means “chief” or “king” in the Busa dialect of the Boko language—see R. Jones, 1994, p. 52. Its meaning overlaps the meaning of the Songhay word koy (“owner”, “master”, “chief”, “king”). In Arabic sources, the words Ki or Kia, and Koy, may be written in exactly the same way.

146  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1992, p. 128; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1993b, p. 123.

147  On Nikki’s polity, see O.B. Bagodo, 1978, 1993; K. Bio Guéné, 1978.

148  See O.B. Bagodo, 1978, p. 28; Ọ. Akínwùmí, 1998, p. 122-124; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 236; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1998, p. 45-46.

149  See J. Lombard, 1965, p. 136-141; N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 174; M.B. Idris, 1972; M.B. Idris, 1973, chapter 2; A. Bachabi, 1980; N. Bako-Arifari, 1989; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998; R. Kuba, 1996, p. 247-262; D. Brégand, 1998a; D. Brégand, 1998b.

150  On these clerical diasporas see L. Sanneh, 1976; L. Sanneh, 1990; T.C. Hunter, 1977. On tajdīd in West Africa, see I. Wilks, 1968; 1984; 1989, p. 93-100; U.M. Bugaje, 1991.

151  See N. Tersis, 1972b, p. 1-2; R. Nicolaï, 1978; P. Zima, 1992; P. Zima, 1994; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998, p. 266.

152  Père A. Prost, 1956, p. 323; N. Tersis, 1972b, p. 62; J.M. Ducroz, M.C. Charles, 1978, p. 68; J. Heath, 1998, p. 78.

153  For oral material collected among the Dendi of the Niger valley in the first decade of the 20th century, and containing elements of the Songhay traditions about the conflict between Maamar (Askyia Muḥammad I) and Sii or Tshi (Sonyi Ali Beeri), see M. Landeroin, 1910-1911.

154  P. Zima, 1994, p. 4. See also J. Rouch, 1954, p. 12; R. Nicolaï, 1981, p. 21, p. 105; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998, p. 268-269; P. Zima, 1998; and the maps at the beginning of N. Tersis, 1972a; 1972b and R. Nicolaï, 1981.

155  J. Rouch, 1954, p. 12-13; P. Zima, 1994: 4; P. Zima, 1990, p. 30.

156  See R. Nicolaï, 1981, p. 54-56, 105-106, 258-260; R. Kuba, 1996, p. 249-250; R. Kuba, 2009, p. 149.

157  For this definition, see B. Heine, 1970, p. 15-19.

158  B. Heine, 1970, p. 161.

159  P. Zima, 1994, p. 6.

160  See J. Lombard, 1965, p. 137, p. 325; N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 21; M.B. Idris, 1972; M.B. Idris, 1973, chapter 2; R. Kuba, 1996, p. 233-262; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998, p. 269-270; D. Brégand, 1998a; D. Brégand, 1998b, p. 81-92.

161  See P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 189-190; P.E. Lovejoy, 1980, p. 32; R. Kuba, 2009, p. 148-149.

162  See D. Brégand, 1998a, p. 251.

163  See P. Zima, 1994, p. 128.

164  See Père P. Marchand, 1989, p. 133; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998, p. 268.

165  D. Brégand, 1998b, p. 81; and our interview n. 1 (with the Bàà-Wàràkpē of Nikki). On the Hausa term Zongo or Zango, see R.C. Abraham, 1962, p. 967; on its use outside Hausaland, see E. Schildkrout, 1978, p. 67, p. 85-94.

166  See Père P. Marchand, 1989, p. 194; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1996, p. 261.

167  See J. Lombard, 1965, p. 138; M.B. Idris, 1972; M.B. Idris, 1973, chapters 2, 7; N. Bako-Arifari, 1989; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998; R. Kuba, 1996, p. 247-249; T. Tamari, 1997, p. 197; D. Brégand, 1998a; D. Brégand, 1998b, p. 81-96; V. Vydrine, 1999, p. 253-254.

168  See P. Zima, 1994, p. 69. Compare the word dumi (“seeds”, “kind”, “kin”, “lineage”, “ethnic group”) in other Songhay dialects—see Père A. Prost, 1956, p. 337; J.M. Ducroz, M.C. Charles, 1978, p. 77; J.-P. Olivierde Sardan, 1982, p. 120-122.

169  See R. Kuba, 1996, p. 247-249; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998; D. Brégand, 1998a; D. Brégand, 1998b, p. 97-125.

170  See M.B. Idris, 1973, chapter 2, p. 26; P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 177-179; N. Bako-Arifari, 1998, p. 269-277.

171  See N. Bako-Arifari, 1998, p. 274; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999b, p. 151.

172  See P.E. Lovejoy, 1978, p. 189-190; P.E. Lovejoy, 1980, p. 32; R. Kuba, 2009, p. 148-149.

173  On this and the following paragraphs, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 234-235; 1996, p. 267-278; 1998, p. 61-66; 2006a, p. 230-236.

174  See N.J.G. Kaptein, 1993, p. 30, p. 44-45; J. Wolffe, 1993, p. 140.

175  See N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 98; N. Levtzion, 1968b, p. 733.

176  On this point see S. Drucker-Brown, 1984, p. 79; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 235; 1996, p. 268; 1998, p. 62; R. Kuba, 1998, p. 114-116.

177  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2006a, p. 230-236 and D. Casajus, 1987, p. 140-142, p. 372; M. Albaka, D. Casajus, 1992, p. 15, 105-109, 275-286; H. Claudot-Hawad, 1993, p. 189-207; H. Claudot-Hawad, 2001, p. 85, 90, 92, 96.

178  See M. Delafosse, 1955, p. 128-130.

179  See R. Launay, 1982, p. 128-129; 1992, p. 55, 111-113, 145, 147, 235-note 5.

180  See N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 55, 89, 98; N. Levtzion, 1968b, p. 733; P. Ferguson, 1972, p. 117-118; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1996, p. 273; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1998, p. 64.

181  See N. Tersis, 1972b, p. 81; Père A. Prost, 1977, p. 606; J.M. Ducroz, M.C. Charles, 1978, p. 96; R. Nicolaï, 1981, p. 199, p. 277; P. Zima, 1994, p. 89; J. Heath, 1998, p. 123-124.

182  See Père R. Faurite, 1987, p. 151-155.

183  See A.R. Mohammed, 1991, p. 22. This information was left out of the printed version of the paper (A.R. Mohammed, 1993).

184  See D. Casajus, 1987, p. 140-143, p. 372; M. Albaka, D. Casajus, 1992, p. 105-109, p. 275-286; H. Claudot-Hawad, 1993, p. 189-207; H. Claudot-Hawad, 2001, p. 85, 90, 92, 96; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2006a, p. 234-236.

185  See R.C. Abraham, 1962, p. 296, p. 771; P.E. Starratt, 1991, p. 95, p. 143-146.

186  See A.W. Banfield, 1969, p. 144-353.

187  See J.S. Trimingham, 1959, p. 78-footnote 1.

188  See L. Tauxier, 1917, p. 568; R.P. Alexandre, 1953, vol. 2, p. 129; P. Delmond, 1953, p. 97; N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 98; A. Bokoum, 1970, p. 44.

189  See P. Zima, 1994, p. 89.

190  See J. Lombard, 1965, p. 330-340; M. Akognon, 1980; R. Orou Yorouba, 1982; K.B. Bandiri, 1989; L.B. Bio Bigou, 1990; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 234-238; 1996, p. 263-264, p. 267-278; 1998, p. 60-66; 2006, p. 233-236; R. Kuba, 1996, p. 178-195; E. Alber, 2000, p. 101-109.

191  See S. Drucker-Brown, 1984, p. 71.

192  On Agădez andEmghedeshie, see S. Bernus, 1972, p. 75-footnote 2, 146, 177, drawing on Heinrich Barth. See also J.O. Hunwick, 1973, p. 37-38; J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xxx; R. Nicolaï, 1981, p. 83.

193  See Leo Africanus, 1956, vol. 2, p. 474; J.O. Hunwick, 1973, p. 37-38; J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. xl-xli; Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 75, p. 78 / French transl., p. 124, p. 129; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 108, p. 113; Anonymous, 1981, p. 339; Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 70 / French transl., p. 135-136.

194  See Leo Africanus, 1956, vol. 2, p. 473, p. 476-479. Compare Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 78, p. 103 / French transl., p. 129, p. 168-169; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 113, p. 147; Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 77 / French transl., p. 147.

195  See J.O. Hunwick, 1973, p. 47-48; J.O. Hunwick, 1985b, p. 345-347; H.J. Fisher, 1978; R.A. Adélẹ̀y, 1985, p. 586-589; M. Last, 1985, p. 220.

196  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 64 / French transl., p. 105. The French translators read “the land of Kunta” in the text of as-Sa‘dī, but the correct reading (re-established in the translation by J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 92) surely is “land of Kanta” (Kanta being the title of the rulers of Kebbi).

197  The populations of Borgu are still called “Ibàribá” in Yorùbá, and the name “Bariba”, used by the French colonial administration, is still current in the Republic of Bénin, even in some official documents. See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1998, p. 41-footnote 6.

198  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 76 / French transl., p. 125; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 109; Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 71 / French transl., p.  137.

199  Songhay oral tradition also records this episode—see J. Rouch, 1953, p. 196-197); F. Ìrokò, 1974, p. 276-277.

200  The title is spelt Kī/Ky (without insertion of short-vowel signs) in the Arabic text. Hence it can be read either as the Songhay word koy or as the Busa-Boko word ki/kia, both translatable as “king”.

201  See Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 76, p. 134 / French transl., p. 125, p. 212; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 182; Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 69-70 / French transl., p. 133-134.

202  See Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 103 / French transl., p. 169, English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 148.

203  See Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 107 / French transl., p. 175; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 151. Richard Kuba (R. Kuba, 1996, p. 220) suggests that this obscure passage refers to an expedition not against Busa, but against a target in the Atakora region north of Borgu.

204  See Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 119 / French transl., p. 192; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 165.

205  J. Lombard, 1965, p. 139, 228, 324; N. Levtzion, 1968a, p. 175-176; M.B. Idris, 1973, chapter 2; R. Kuba, 1996, p. 254; D. Brégand, 1998b, p. 91, p. 93; and our interview n. 1 (with the Bàà-Wàràkpē of Nikki).

206  The shifts kp kw, and kp ko, occur between Songhay dialects, and the shifts kp kɔ, and kp w, take place in loanwords taken by Bààtɔ̀núm from Songhay-Dèndí (see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999, p. 162).

207  See Père A. Prost, 1953, p. 451, p. 452; N. Tersis, 1972b, p. 78; J.M. Ducroz, M.C. Charles, 1978, p. 159; R. Nicolaï, 1981, p. 283; Père P. Marchand, 1989, p. 8; P. Zima, 1994, p. 128-129.

208  See T.G.O. Gbadamosi, 1972, p. 230-231; T.G.O. Gbadamosi, 1978, p. 2, 6-7, 33, 37, 214; R.C.C. Law, 1977, p. 75, 109, 210; E.D. Adélọ́wọ̀, 1978, p. 61-62; S. Reichmuth, 1988, p. 286-287; R. Kuba, 1996, p. 254. In the Yorùbá word Pàràkòyí, the Dèndí-cínè final component kpé/kpéỳ (“chief”, “king”) of the office-title Bàà-Kpàràkpē becomes kòy as in the Songhay-Kaado word Írkòy (“Our Lord”, “God”), from kóy (“owner”, “master”, “chief”, “king”)—see J.M. Ducroz, M.C. Charles, 1978, p. 132, p. 159; S. Reichmuth, 1988, p. 287.

209  On other words borrowed by the Yorùbá language from the Songhay language, see S. Reichmuth, 1988; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1993, p. 127; R. Kuba, 2009, p. 150.

210  See M. Diawara, 1990, p. 42, 78, 80, 85, 90.

211  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999b, p. 142-143.

212  See J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 42-48, p. 225-227. Bonta explained the origin of the Jesere by invoking a baaso-tarey (a “joking-relationship”) between the sons fathered by a Sii with a Wakaare (Soninke) woman and the other sons of the same father (and/or the sons of the father’s sisters). However, compare the narrative of another Songhay traditionist, Nouhou Malio, who attributed the origin of the Jesere to a similar relationship between one of the sons of Sonyi Ali Beeri and Maamar (Askyia Muḥammad I), but without any explicit connection to a Wakaare mother—see T.A. Hale, 1990, p. 196-197.

213 Gisari and Gasiri are alternative Arabic transcriptions of Gesere (Arabic has no sign to note the vowel sound /e/).

214  Presumably, the expression Gissiru Dunka designates the chief oral traditionist at the court. Alternatively, it may transcribe the plural Geseru Dunka.

215  Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 11, 94, 155 / French transl., p. 14, 177, 276. See also J.O. Hunwick, 1970–1971, p. 69; T. Tamari, 1997, p. 84; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxxxv.

216  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 71 / French transl., p. 117; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 102; Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 59 / French transl., p. 114.

217  J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 122, 225, 287-288.

218  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 128 / French transl., p. 204; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 175; Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 23, p. 135 / French transl., p. 38, p. 246. However, the first of these passages in the Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh records the use of Tunkara as the designation of a low-status group of people who, nevertheless, were believed to be of Soninke origin. In this context, perhaps the word was used to mean “[servants] belonging to royalty”.

219  J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 224-230, 310, 331, 353-354; F. Mounkaila, 1988, p. 1-49; T.A. Hale, 1990, p. 64, p. 179; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999b, p. 141-169.

220  Père A. Prost, 1956, p. 384; N. Tersis, 1972b, p. 74; F. Ìrokò, 1974, p. 273, 278, 289-290, 293, 342-343, 352, 355, citing oral materials collected in the 1940s and 1950s by the French colonial officers Larue, Captain Buck, and Colonel René Dutel; J.M. Ducroz, M.C. Charles, 1978, p. 135; F. Mounkaila, 1988, p. 10-11, 44, 181.

221  J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1976, p. 18-19; J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 120, 225, 310, 330-331, 353-354; F. Mounkaila, 1988, p. 62.

222  M. Diawara, 1990, p. 42, 97, 155.

223  See J. Lombard, 1965, p. 208-footnote 1.

224  M. Akognon, 1980, p. 89, p. 91; and our interviews n. 2 and n. 3 (with Bààbu Adamu, a senior Parakou Gὲsὲrὲ).

225  For an analysis of this role, see P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1995, p. 237-240. Together with my Béninois colleague Dr Obarè Bagodo, I videoed aspects of Nikki’s Gāānī festival in October 1990.

226  In Bààtɔ̀núm, the title of the king of Nikki is Sīnà Bōkō (or Sìnàà Boko). His Wāākpārε̄m title Tunka is the same Soninke title given to the rulers of the old Ghāna Empire—see the references to Tunkā Manīn by Al-Bakrī, 1965, text, p. 174-175 / transl., p. 327-328.

227  See Père A. Prost, 1956, p. 553; J.-P. Olivier de Sardan, 1982, p. 225-226, p. 377-378.

228  Al-Sa‘dī, 1981, text, p. 9 / French transl., p. 18; English transl. in J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 14; Ibnal-Mukhtār, 1981, text, p. 24-26 / French transl., p. 40-42.

229  The derivation Waakore*Waakɔrε*WakpaarεWakpaarεm is proposed, and argued for, in P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999b, p. 162. The final /m/ is added under the influence of Bààtɔ̀núm—a language in which the names of languages usually have this ending, as in “Faransem” (“the French language”) and in the word “Bààtɔ̀núm” itself.

230  P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1999b, p. 161, and the Wāākpārε̄m word list and sample of praise formulas on pages 157-160. This linguistic material was mostly collected in field-interviews carried out together by some West African colleagues and myself (some of these interviews are listed at the end of the present paper). But it also borrows from the list of fourteen Wāākpārε̄m words collected by G. Tamou Bocko, 1983, p. 69.

231  Interview n. 2. (with Bààbu Adamu, a senior Parakou Gὲsὲrὲ).

232  Interview n. 4 (with the Bàà Bwε̄ε̄).

233  Interview n. 5 (with the GὲsὲrὲMāgāzī of Kandi).

234  Interview n. 6 (with Wōrū Tōkūrā Bukari).

235  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1992; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1993b, p. 121-132. The second of these papers also tackles the Yorùbá stories of origins about “Lamurudu” or “Namurudu” or “Nàmúdù”, which have much in common with the Kisra Legend—on those Yorùbá stories, see also P.F. de Moraes Farias, 1990b, p. 121-122, p. 139-142. On the Kisra legend, see also R. Kuba, 1996, p. 96-148 and the bibliographies of the works referred to in the present note.

236  Interview n. 7 (with Wōrū Tōkūrā Bukari).

237  Interview n. 8 (with Bààbà Damagii).

238  See for instance L. Sundström, 1972; K. Barber, 1991, p. 135-182.

239  J. Collins, P. Richards, 1982, p. 131. See also C. Lefebvre, 2008, p. 65: “Si le Soudan central connaît une unité certaine, c’est en grande partie aux mouvements des hommes qu’il le doit, mouvements qui n’ont jamais été interrompus”.

240  B. Surugue, 1972, p. 4-5; P. Stoller, C. Olkes, 1987, p. 234; P. Stoller, 1989, p. 118, p. 231.

241  D. Casajus, 1987, p. 140-142, p. 372; M. Albaka, D. Casajus, 1992, p. 15, 105-109, 275-286; H. Claudot-Hawad, 1993, p. 189-207; H. Claudot-Hawad, 2001, p. 85, 90, 92, 96; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2006a, p. 234-236.

242  P.E. Lovejoy, S. Baier, 1975; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2006a, p. 226-229; B. Rossi, 2010, p. 133-136.

243  J.O. Hunwick, 1999, p. 2-footnote 3; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2008, p. 104.

244  See M. Diawara, 2006; B. Gardi, 2006, p. 192; M. Grosz-Ngaté, 2006, p. 139-143; A. Jones, 2006, p. 243-246; G. Klute, 2006, p. 164-171; P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2006c, p. 21, p. 28; G. Spittler, 2006.

245  J. Jansen, 2000, p. 100-101.

246  See P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003, p. lxix-lxxxv.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Trans-Saharan axes explored at different periods between the 9th and the 17th c. A.D.
Crédits Reproduced from P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1174/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 226k
Titre Figure 2: The Aḍagh and its links with the Niger Valley
Crédits Reproduced from P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1174/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 250k
Titre Figure 3: The Sites in the Bentyia Area
Crédits Reproduced from P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1174/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 352k
Titre Figure 4: The Gao-Saney Area
Crédits Reproduced from P.F. de Moraes Farias, 2003.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1174/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 90k
Titre Figure 5: The eastern Niger
Crédits Reproduced by kind permission from R. Kuba, 2009, p. 151.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1174/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 117k
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Référence électronique

Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias, « Bentyia (Kukyia): a Songhay–Mande meeting point, and a “missing link” in the archaeology of the West African diasporas of traders, warriors, praise-singers, and clerics », Afriques [En ligne], 04 | 2013, mis en ligne le 27 mai 2013, consulté le 24 octobre 2017. URL : http://afriques.revues.org/1174 ; DOI : 10.4000/afriques.1174

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Auteur

Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias

Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

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