The Keita dynasty ruled pre-imperial and imperial Mali from the 12th century into the early 17th century. It was a Muslim Dynasty, and its rulers claimed descent from Bilal Keita (later named Bilal ibn Ribah Bilal).

Bilal Keita was a freed slave who accepted Islam and became one of the Sahabahs of the prophet Muhammad. Bilal Keita bears the distinction of being the first muezzin in Islam. According to Mandinka/Bambara accounts invented after their conversion to Islam and passed down by djelis (Muslim chroniclers), Bilal had seven sons, one of whom settled in Manden (Mandinka traditional territory). This son, Lawalo Keita, had a son named Latal Kalabi Keita, who later sired Damul Kalabi Keita. It was common in most royal dynasties to try to link their origins to some divine or religious personalities and was common across cultures and religions. Damul Kalabi Keita's son was Lahilatoul Keita and the first faama of the city of Niani. It is through Lahilatoul that the Keita clan becomes a ruling dynasty, though only over the small area around Niani.

There would be nine faamas of Niani prior to the founding of the Mali Empire. Its first mansa would be Sundiata Keita. This is when Mari Jata is crowned and Keita becomes a clan name. A couple of generations after him, his great-nephew, Mansa Musa Keita I of Mali, made a celebrated pilgrimage to Mecca which established his reputation as the richest man of his day.[1] The dynasty he belonged to remained a major power in West Africa from 1235 until the breakup of the Mali Empire around 1610. Rivals from within the clan founded smaller kingdoms within contemporary Mali and Guinea. Today the surname Keita belongs only to one royal family in Africa. Of the members of these modern "daughter dynasties", the late politician Modibo Keita and the musician Salif Keita are arguably the most famous.


Time period Person Notes
b. 580—d. 640 Bilali Bounama Ancestor of the Keitas, сompanion (sahabah) of the prophet Muhammad
Lawalo Keita Oldest of 7 sons of Bilali Bounama. Left Mecca and emigrated to Manden (Mali).
Latal Kalabi Son of Lawalo Keita
Damul Kalabi Son of Latal Kalabi

List of royal faamas of Manden (capital — Kangaba)

Tenure Incumbent Notes
Lahilatoul Kalabi Son of Damul Kalabi. First sub-Saharan African prince to perform a hajj; robbed in the desert, returned after 7 years.
Kalabi Bomba Son of Lahilatoul Kalabi
Kalabi Dauman Younger son of Lahilatoul Kalabi. Preferred fortune, ancestor of traders.
c. 1050 Mamadi Kani Son of Kalabi Bomba. Hunter king, inventor of the hunter‘s whistle, communicated with the jinn of the bush, loved by Kondolon Ni Sané.
Sané Kani Simbon, Kamignogo Simbon, Kabala Simbon and Bamari Tagnogokelin Simbon together The four sons of Mamadi Kani.
Bamari Tagnogokelin
1175—? M’Bali Nene Son of Bamari Tagnogokelin
Bello Son of Bamari Tagnogokelin

List of royal faamas of Manden (capital — Dodugu)

Tenure Incumbent Notes
?—1200s Bello Bakon Son of Bello
1200s—1218 Maghan Kon Fatta Son of Bello Bakon
1218—c.1230 Dankaran Touman Son of Maghan Kon Fatta. Niani conquered by the Sosso Empire under king Soumaoro Kanté.

List of imperial mansas of Mali (capital — Niani)

Reign Incumbent Notes
1235—1255 Mari Djata I

(later named Sundiata Keita I)

1255—1270 Uli Keita I
1270—1274 Wati Keita
1274—1275 Khalifa Keita
1275—1285 Abubakari Keita I
1285—1300 Sakoura Keita
1300—1305 Gao Keita
1305—1310 Mohammed ibn Gao Keita
1310—1312 Abubakari Keita II
1312—1337 Mansa Musa Keita I
1337—1341 Maghan Keita I
1341—1360 Souleyman Keita
1360 Camba Keita
1360—1374 Mari Djata Keita II
1374—1387 Musa Keita II
1387—1389 Maghan Keita II
1389—1390 Sandaki Keita
1390—1404 Maghan Keita III

(also known as Mahmud Keita I)

1404—c. 1440 Musa Keita III
c.1460—1480/1481 Uli Keita II
1480/1481—1496 Mahmud Keita II

(also known as Mamadou Keita)

1496—1559 Mahmud Keita III
1559—c.1590 Unknown mansa or vacancy
c.1590—c.1610 Mahmud Keita IV Empire collapses after death of Mahmud Keita IV.

List of post-imperial mansas of Mali (capital — Kangaba)

Reign Incumbent Notes
c.1610—c.1660 Unknown number of mansas
c.1660—c.1670 Mama Maghan Capital moved from Niani to Kangaba after botched attack on Segou.

See also



  • Cooley, William Desborough (1966). The Negroland of the Arabs Examined and Explained. London: Routledge. p. 143 Pages. ISBN 0-7146-1799-7. 
  • Stewart, John (1989). African States and Rulers: An Encyclopedia of Native, Colonial, and Independent States and Rulers Past and Present. Jefferson: McFarland & Company. p. 395 Pages. ISBN 0-89950-390-X.