Bainouk, Gunyaamolo in Senegal

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People Name: Bainouk, Gunyaamolo
Country: Senegal
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 37,000
World Population: 72,000
Primary Language: Bainouk-Gunyaamolo
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 16.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.29 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Atlantic
Affinity Bloc: Sub-Saharan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Bainouk are a West African Forest people present in Guinea-Bissau, Casamance (southern Senegal) and Gambia.

They are few in number in Guinea-Bissau and occupy a few villages or neighborhood. Like other communities in the North of the country, they are often farmers (rice, millet, etc.) and breeders. They are as often Catholic as Muslim. The most common Bainunk family name is Diandy. It seems that they are the oldest ethnic group in Casamance. According to scientists, the Baïnunks are the oldest population in Senegal.

In the time of the Mali empire, the Bainuk lived much further north, in the Sine and Saloum for example. According to their oral tradition, they originated in the east, and were brought to occupy the southwestern regions of the Gambia and western Casamance, following the massive influx of Malinke conquerors. They arrived in the regions they populate today, under the bainunk king Gana Sira Bana. According to a bainunk legend, Gana Sira Bana put a curse on his bainunk people, following his assassination by his subjects. He promised the Bainunks a dark future and their disappearance over the centuries.

They were also pushed further south by the Serer migrations. The Bainouks created numerous powerful chiefdoms, which constituted the bainunk kingdom of Kassanla, formed of vast provinces that stretched from the south of the Gambia River to Casamance, with the city of Mampating as its capital. The kingdom with its fertile lands lived from a flourishing agriculture. Later, the Bainunks came under the domination of the Malinke, who created the kingdom of Kaabu from the provinces dominated by the Bainunks, but also by the Diolas, Bassaris, Manjaques and Balantes. It was by subduing the great bainunk king, Kikikor, that the Malinke, led by Tiramakan Traoré, general of Soundiata Keita, founder of the Mali Empire, imposed themselves.

The Malinke mingled with the bainunk families who dominated the region before their arrival, but also with the Diolas. This interbreeding gave rise to the Nanko nobility (Ñaanco), the reigning dynasty of Kaabu, initially with the surnames Traoré and Keita, who later took on the surnames Sané and Mané, names of bainunk or Diola origin. The Bainunks were also integrated into Malinke society. The Mandingos who ruled southern Senegal protected the forest ethnic groups. The bainunk kingdom, vassal of the Kaabu, fell definitively in the 1830s, when their capital Birikama was destroyed by fire, orchestrated by the Balantes. The kingdom was also subject to the exactions of the Diolas and the Mandingos. The Bainunks traditionally cohabit with the Diolas, Mancagnes, Balantes, Coniaguis, Peuls and Mandingues.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Reputed to be a peaceful and tolerant people, the Baïnunks preceded and welcomed all other ethnic groups in Casamance. Their presence in this region dates back to the 6th century AD.

What is constant is that the Baïnunks remain a peaceful people. However, they avoid merging with other ethnic groups. Somewhat like the Fulani, when others settle alongside them, they move on and make way for newcomers.

The Baïnunks have cousinship links with the Peuls, the Lebous and the Sereres. Moreover, in the legend of Aguène and Diambone, the latter would be Baïnunk and not Diola as is often reported. This is at least the version supported by the Baïnunks. As for the Fulani, the Baïnunks are grateful to them for having saved them from extermination. According to legend, the Bainuk king, Ganasiraba Biaye, on the advice of his fetishist, had to kill, by way of sacrifice, one hundred men and as many women among his subjects. A Fulani would have given them a subterfuge (to trap him to make him fall into a well) to eliminate the bloodthirsty king and thus escape extermination. From there, the pact started. But a tenacious prejudice says that the one who marries a Baïnunk will not succeed in life. Does this explain the lack of intermarriage with other ethnic groups?

Traditionally, Bainunk society is hierarchical in terms of age groups, the power of the elders and initiation rites. Bainunk society is matrilineal. It was the sons of maternal aunts who inherited royal power. As in almost all African societies, women have a lot of power. The Bainunk are as often Muslim as they are Christian. Certain rites of their original religion still exist.

What Are Their Beliefs?

he Kumpo is a traditional mythological figure of the Bainunk Manding people of Casamance and Gambia whose exact origin is difficult to say. It is both a mask and a moonlight dance to call upon this spirit which then comes out of the forest where it dwells.
The exact etymology of the name cannot be given with certainty: it would be a deformation of the Wolof word Kumpa which means that which is secret because it arouses curiosity; or else that which is reserved for initiates and therefore cannot be deciphered by a layman.

This cult of secrecy explains the fact that in order to get dressed, the kumpo must retire to the forest accompanied by initiated men and no woman must be present at the scene. All these aspects are found in the kumpo, giving him a phantasmagorical dimension.

Prayer Points

- Pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will free the Bainouk from their false beliefs.
- Pray that the church of Jesus Christ will be planted in every Bainunker village.
- Pray that God will continue to use the planters (Pastor TAYE & Pastor Dembo).
- Let us pray for the salvation of Chief Firmin DIATTA of Guérina village.
- Let us pray for the salvation of the parents (Georges COLY and Suzanne DIATTA) of Pastor Jean Pierre COLY.
- Let us pray for the total completion of the work of the health hut in the village which is a means to evangelize the Bainunks through health.
- Let us pray for the means of motorcycle transportation for the planters.

Text Source:   Erik Laursen, New Covenant Missions