The Info List - Bamana Empire

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The BAMANA EMPIRE (also BAMBARA EMPIRE or SéGOU EMPIRE) was a large West African state based at Ségou
, now in Mali
. This state was established after the fall of the Mali
Empire and the Keita dynasty , as a smaller Bambara Empire founded by other Bambara families related to the Keita clan. It was ruled by the Kulubali or Coulibaly dynasty established c. 1640 by Kaladian Coulibaly also known as Fa Sine or Biton-si-u. The empire existed as a centralized state from 1712 to the 1861 invasion of Toucouleur conqueror El Hadj Umar Tall .


* 1 The Coulibaly Dynasty * 2 The Ngolosi * 3 Economy and structure * 4 Literacy and the N\'ko alphabet * 5 Jihad and fall * 6 See also * 7 References * 8 Further reading * 9 External links


In around 1640, Fa Sine became the third Faama (Mande word for King) of a small kingdom of Bambara people
Bambara people
in the city of Ségou
in Mali. Though he made many successful conquests of neighboring tribes and kingdoms, he failed to set up a significant administrative framework, and the new kingdom disintegrated following his death (c. 1660).

In the early 18th century, Mamari Kulubali (sometimes cited as Mamari Bitòn) settled in Ségou
and joined an egalitarian youth organization known as a tòn. Mamari soon reorganized the tòn as a personal army, assumed the title of bitòn, and set about subduing rival chiefs. He established control over Ségou, making it the capital of a new Bambara Empire.

Fortifying the capital with Songhai techniques, Bitòn Kulubali built an army of several thousand men and a navy of war canoes to patrol the Niger . He then proceeded to launch successful assaults against his neighbors, the Fulani , the Soninke , and the Mossi . He also attacked Tomboctou , though he held the city only briefly. During this time he founded the city of Bla as an outpost and armory.

Mamari Coulubali was the last ruler to be called Bitòn. All future rulers were simply titled Faama. Bakari, the first Faama after Mamari reigned from (1710–1711). Faama De-Koro ascended in 1712 reigning until 1736. The kingdom had three more faamas with unstable 4-year reigns until falling into anarchy in 1748.


In 1750, a freed slave named Ngolo Diarra seized the throne and re-established stability, reigning for nearly forty years of relative prosperity. The Ngolosi, his descendants, would continue to rule the Empire until its fall. Ngolo's son Mansong Diarra took the throne following his father's 1795 death and began a series of successful conquests, including that of Tomboctou (c. 1800) and the Macina region.


The Bambara Empire was structured around traditional Bambara institutions, including the kòmò, a body to resolve theological concerns. The kòmò often consulted religious sculptures in their decisions, particularly the four state boliw, large altars designed to aid the acquisition of political power.

The economy of the Bambara Empire flourished through trade, especially that of the slaves captured in their many wars. The demand for slaves then led to further fighting, leaving the Bambara in a perpetual state of war with their neighbors.

Mungo Park , passing through the Bambara capital of Ségou
two years after Diarra's 1795 death, recorded a testament to the Empire's prosperity:

The view of this extensive city, the numerous canoes on the river, the crowded population, and the cultivated state of the surrounding countryside, formed altogether a prospect of civilization and magnificence that I little expected to find in the bosom of Africa.


A study on the Haitian Revolution
Haitian Revolution
led to the discovery that writing existed in the Ségou
Empire. The 1791 testimony of Tamerlan, a literate Bambara traditional priest sold into slavery in Saint-Domingue
( Haiti
), revealed that N\'Ko , the Bambara language writing system, was in use during Ngolo Diarra 's reign at the latest. In fact, Ngolo Diarra who studied in Timbuktu
in his youth, may have later invented the N'Ko alphabet
N'Ko alphabet
which was taught to many, including Tamerlan who became teacher to Prince Bambougou N'Dji, Ngolo Diarra's oldest son.


At the Battle of Noukouma in 1818, Bambara forces met and were defeated by Fula Muslim fighters rallied by the jihad of Cheikou Amadu (or Seku Amadu) of Massina. The Bambara Empire survived but was irreversibly weakened. Seku Amadu's forces decisively defeated the Bambara, taking Djenné
and much of the territory around Mopti and forming into a Massina Empire . Timbuktu
would fall as well in 1845.

The real end of the empire, however, came at the hands of El Hadj Umar Tall , a Toucouleur conqueror who swept across West Africa
West Africa
from Dinguiraye . Umar Tall's mujahideen readily defeated the Bambara, seizing Ségou
itself on March 10, 1861, and declaring an end to the Bambara Empire (which effectively became part of the Toucouleur Empire ).


* Bambara language : a Mande language, spoken by 6 million people in Mali. * Bambara people
Bambara people
: an ethnic group who represent 40% of Mali's population. * Kaarta , another Bambara kingdom of the same epoch


* ^ Quoted in Davidson, Basil (1995). Africa in History. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 245. ISBN 0-684-82667-4 . * ^ Malenfant, Colonel (1814). Des colonies et particulièrement de celle de Saint-Domingue
: mémoire historique. Paris: Audibert. p. 213. * ^ Traoré, Samba Lamine (2012). La Saga de la ville historique de Ségou
(L'Harmattan ed.). Paris. p. 43.


* Djata, Sundiata A. K. (1997). The Bamana Empire
Bamana Empire
by the Niger: Kingdom, Jihad and Colonization 1712–1920. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener. ISBN 1-55876-131-4 . * Condé, Maryse (1996). Segu. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-025949-X . * Roberts, Richard L. (1987). Warriors, merchants and slaves: the state and the economy in the Middle Niger Valley, 1700-1914. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1378-2 .


* Segu