The Fulanis are one of the biggest ethnic groups that can be found widely distributed across the perimeters of West Africa.
Known by separate names across the planet, they are called the Fula people in Manding languages and is usually spelled as ‘Fulah’ or ‘Fullah’. They are called Peul in the French language. They are often called Fulani or Hilani, by the Hausa people; while they are called Wolof or Fula in the Portuguese language.
However, out of these names, ‘Fulbe’ is the most preferred name of these beautiful group of people. The Fulanis are predominantly located in an area that extends from Ouadai, a city which is situated at the east of Lake Chad, to the Atlantic shore of Senegal. More so, they are as far east, as the border of Ethiopia.
The Fulani people were said to have generally practice the Islam religion, on their way to and fro, from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, settled in some parts of eastern Sudan. As at today, they represent a community known by the name, “Fellata.”
What is the origin of the Fulani people?
The history of the Fulani people is quite debatable, and this is because several accounts about their ancestry have been hypothesized. Nonetheless, the main faith of the Fulani group is Islam and the adoption this religion became a boundary marker.
The people whom historians tagged as Fulani today, are believed to have Middle Eastern or North African origin, known as ‘white-rooted’ ethnic groups in West Africa. Much more, they have a significant lighter complexion than most other African groups.
The Fulani people are the largest nomadic pastoral ethnic group, and as pastoral people, they tend to travel in the eastern direction and spread over a large area of West Africa.
Initially, their migration was peaceful, but after few period of time, the Fulani people became infuriated and resentful at being ruled by people, which they deemed to be ‘imperfect Muslims’ or ‘pagans.’
Their fury was triggered further by the bigger relocation that occurred during the 17th century, and a significant percentage of the migrants were Muslims. By the beginning of the 18th century, a rebellion was developed against the local rulers which led to the holy wars, also known as jihads.
The atmosphere in Nigeria was quite different as they moved into a place that was much more evolved, and settled than other regions in West Africa.
It was during the 15th century epoch they moved into Nigeria. The Fulani group settled down in Hausa states such as Katsina, Kano, and Zaria as clerics. Later on, others settled among the local people during the 16th and 17th century. As at that time, the predominant Hausa state was Gobir, after it was able to earn its liberty from foreign rulers.
With time, the Fulanis started to forget their own customs, as the Fulani group adopted the ways of the Hausa people and began to occupy elite positions in Hausa states; but regardless of the influence of power, they still had close ties to their cattle or the bush Fulanis.
These ties which they maintained, became relevant when they allied with the jihads which persisted with brute force across the West African area.
Based on historical records, Shehu Usman Dan Fodio was an outstanding Fulani cleric. He commenced a jihad in 1804 and by 1810, almost all of the Hausa states had been taken over and defeated. The jihad took place because the Cattle Fulani were infuriated at what they saw as unfair cattle tax levy imposed on them by the so-called ‘imperfect Muslims’.
After the victorious outcome of the jihad, many Hausa elites such as Yakubu in Bauchi, and those in Adamawa joined hands with Usman Dan Fodio.
It is a common belief among the Fulani people that marriages are supposed to produce plenty children. As a result of this, they marry at younger ages without any regard for birth control. In sharp contrast to other African cultures, virginity is not placed with premium value. As a matter of fact, ladies are expected to bring s£xual experience to the marriage.
However, the Fulanis tend to display decency whenever the topic of marriage surfaces.
During their marriage ceremonies, the bride’s father usually transfer one of his herds to the new groom, as a sign of accepting their marriage.
After the transfer of herds, another ceremony called ‘Kabbal’ may take place, and none of the couple (bride or groom) is to be present. According to Fulani customs, the social status of the bride rises with each child she give brith, more especially if they are male.
It’s worthy of note that the Fulani people practice endogamy. It’s the tradition of marrying only within the boundaries of a local community, clan, or tribe.
It is not unusual to see Fulani women hawking milk products in beautifully decorated calabash, placed on their heads. Fresh milk is called ‘Kossam’ while yoghurt is called ‘Pendidan’. Other Fulani meals include Nyiri, which is an heavy grease made of flour and is eaten with soups — Takai and Haako — which is often made from peppers, tomatoes and other local vegetables.
Another popular Fulani delicacy is fermented milk with corn couscous, which is called ‘latchiiri’ or ‘dakkere.’ It can also be taken as a fluid called ‘gari,’ which is made with flour cereals.
On special occasions, the Fulanis eat meat. Futhermore, goat cheese, millet and milk with dates are pounded together to make a thick beverage.
The Fulanis are very interesting people to interact with. They’re friendly, accommodating and lively.
I hope you learnt something from this article? What other interesting things do you know about the famous Fulani ethnic group? Please, drop your contribtions in the comments section. Thanks for reading!
Oduse David is a Digital Journalist that writes content based on national and social issues.