Sudanic Africa, 15, 2004, 111-132
Obviously, a Salvaing's publication belongs here in webFuuta —or its sister and large outlet: webPulaaku. This author's works lend themselves to rich hyperlinking with other documents from like-minded scholars on those two websites. Hence, they make it possible to map gradually the vast area of Fulɓe civilization, with its innumerable pieces and invaluable components. Hence Salvaing joins and enhances the efforts of hundreds of authors who have contributed to the research, documentation, and study of Fulɓe history and culture.
In this paper, Salvaing examines the interaction between the French colonial rule and Ajami writers in the 20th century. However, such a broad and complex topic can only receive a cursory treatment given the relative brievety of Salvaing's review. Indeed, additional and broader research is much needed to gain a better understanding of Muslim scholarship under colonial rule in the Fuuta-Jalon.
This article brings us closer to that goal, based on the author's comments on previous publications and his field research. The titles range from the earliest (Gaden, Marty, Tauxier —whose first name is Louis, not Gilbert) to later and more recent (Ousmane Poreko Diallo, A.I. Sow, Ibrahima Kaba, I. Barry). Furthermore, the author focuses on the Labe, historically the largest, strongest and —intellectually— most productive of the nine provinces (diiwe, sing. diiwal) of the Fuuta-Jalon islamic theocracy. It was the center of the ‘Haut-Fuuta’ (Dow-Pelle) (Sow) and the “Citadel of the Karamokos, Learned Men” (Richard-Molard). The 8 other provinces (Timbo, the capital, Fugumba, Ɓuriya, Fooduyee-Hajji, Keebaali, Kollaaɗe, Koyin, Timbi) are not mentioned, or only erroneously so; for instance, Salvaing mistakenly states that Karamoko Dalen was from Timbo. In reality, and as his name suggests, this disciple of Cerno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan and Cerno Aliyyu Gomba, was from the same Dalen parish or misiide of Labe, as the current political leader and former Prime minister, Cellou Dalen Diallo.
On a personal level, the emphasis on Labe is rather gratifying. Indeed, most of Salvaing's article reads like a who's who of my ancestry, family and allies thereof. Hence, on my mother's side, Cerno Aliyyu Bhuubha is my grand-mother, his sons Cerno Shayku Balde, Cerno Habib, Cerno Abdurahmane are my uncles and trusted counselors, Cerno Shayku Manda was my cousin ; whereas Karamoko Dalen, Cerno Jaawo Pellel counted among my grand-father's disciples… On my father's side, Cerno Mamadou Balde is my brother, the second-born to my father, Cerno Saiidu Kompanya. As for Alfâ I. Sow, he was a role model and an intellectual mentor. Eulogizing him, I remembered our last scholarly conversation in Conakry…
Back to Salvaing's article, it strays off-topic in a series of —grammatically— negative declarations compounded by inaccurate comparisons. Hence we read: « There is no major Fulɓe writer: the Guinean Camara Laye, the famous author of L'Enfant noir is not from Fuuta-Jalon. » True, but what's missing here is a discussion of life under the alienating colonial rule, the historical conditions, disenfranchizing social status and lifestyle of the colonized …. Laye began writing in the mid-1950s. Yet Salvaing insists that “At school, Guinean pupils read French books, such as Terre Noire by Oswald Durand…” without noticing that Durand published in 1930s. Laye and Osward are thus a generation apart. Then the paper suggests that “It does not seem anyway that we can find many texts written by Fulɓe people in French: see the scarcity of texts written by authors from Fuuta-Jalon in the Bulletin de l'IFAN.” Quantity doesn't mean quality… It's true that IFAN's publications remain a yardstick of colonial culture and intellect. However, they were not the only institutional references of that kind, obviously. On the contrary, they were preceded by such periodicals as BCAF (Bulletin du Comité de l'Afrique Française, 1891-1919), l'Education africaine, BCEHS-AOF, etc. Those publications paved the way for IFAN, which was founded by Theodore Monod in the mid-1940s. Furthermore, the article fails to link together Caba's Bappa Shayku and Chaikou Baldé, the pioneer Pullo researcher and author of numerous articles; they are the same person. And in his “Contribution à la sociologie des Fulɓe,” Vincent Monteil mentions the intellectual ties between G. Vieillard and Shayku Balde.
The conclusion of the article reads “The consequences of independence.” Given the perspective of the paper, the author could have avoided altogether this somewhat irrelevant closing, for at least two reasons.
First, Salvaing writes: “with the coming of independence, Sékou Touré decided that elementary schooling would take place in the local language.” Actually, that decision took place in july-august 1968, i.e. ten years after Guinea's independence, october 2nd, 1958. Worse, the measure was ill-prepared and it disrupted so profoundly the education system that the country has not recovered from it…
Second, the article adds: “So Guineans began to write Fulfulde in Roman script, with an effort to adapt Roman script to the specificity of their language.” Again, as legitimate as it was —and still is— the introduction of local languages in the school system was catastrophic due to the haste and demagogy of the country's leadership. There were no manuals and teachers had to improvise from one region or town to the next. Unfortunately, a quater of century after, the economic and cultural consequences of the whimsical language policy of Sekou Toure have not been fully studied…
For instance, — Salvaing points out correctly— “the specific sounds which are written in the international alphabet since the Conference de Bamako with crossed letters [ɓ, ɗ, ƴ, ŋ], are in Guinea written as bh, dh, yh, nh.” That fact stemmed from Guinea's refusal to comply with the recommendations of the 1966 Unesco-sponsored Bamako conference. It was a counterproductive that resulted in the imposition of a non-standard alphabet on Guinean Fulɓe (educators, publishers, authors), who were thus at a disadvantage vis-à-vis their fellow Pular/Fulfulde speakers haal-pular throughout Africa…
Nonetheless, Salvaing's article offers an informative and useful summary of the Ajami literature in colonial Labe, Fuuta-Jalon.
Tierno S. Bah
A very rich Fulfulde written literature, using Arabic ajami characters, existed in Fuuta-Jalon before the colonial conquest. It coexisted with a considerable literature in Arabic, and manuscripts in both languages can be found in the whole area corresponding to the ancient Muslim theocratic state of Fuuta-Jalon, which was founded during the initial jihaad of 1727.
This Fulfulde literature is the legacy of Cerno Samba Mombeya who, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was the first person to use the Fulfulde language in written religious literature. Before him the clerics limited themselves to oral commentaries of Arabic religious texts. Cerno Samba's purpose was explained in the famous first lines of his main work, Oogirde malal, a long religious poem in verses, dealing with various religious topics, and being a free translation of Arabic classical texts of fiqh.
I shall use the Fulfulde tongue to explain the dogma
In order to make their understanding easier:
when you hear them, accept them!
For only your own tongue will allow
you to understand what the Original texts say.
Among the Fulɓe, many people doubt what they read
in Arabic and so remain in a state of uncertainty 1.
The local tradition from Fuuta-Jalon emphasizes that Cerno Samba's ideas met much opposition. Al-hajj Umar Tall is said to have strongly fought Cerno Samba's program, insisting that Arabic ought to be the only written language for religious texts. It may be noticed, however, that in a later period, the growth of a written literature in Fulfulde happened at the same time as the progress of the Tijjani tariiqa.
Therefore, at the end of the nineteenth century, Fulfulde written literature was limited to religious texts. For instance Cerno Moawiyatu, born in about 1830 in Maasi, was the author of the poem Maasibo yanii yonii en, ee ko yurmi! (Misfortune has struck us. What sorrow! Alas!) 2. Cerno Mammadu Luudaa Dalaba belonged to a famous line of descent of wali literate people. He wrote a lot of Fulfulde poems, such as Tafsiiru al-Qur'an. This poem written in Fulfulde emphasized the necessity of using Fulfulde in teaching the Koran.
It is important to stress that a more popular literature, dealing with more varied themes, already existed at the time.
Examples of such literature can be found in La femme, la vache, la foi, and in Chroniques et récits du Fuuta Jaloo, published by Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow 3.
The arrival of the colonizers led to several transformations, and had an influence upon the content and the themes found in the literature written in Fulfulde. This influence was indirect, as there was no attempt from the colonial power to transform that literature, for instance by creating a Latin transliteration or by trying to use written Fulfulde for rural education and development. We can in fact distinguish twoperiods: first a transitional period in the decades following the colonial conquest when, according to Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow, writers remained in an intermediate position between two epochs 4, and then the time of the modern writers which begins in the 1940s and went on after independence. Born after the colonial conquest, the latter writers were too young to have known the ancient Futa society 5. It seems however that this evolution was much stronger among the literate and cultivated writers than in popular literature 6.
The bitterness of the earlier élites 7 is expressed in the Fulfulde fiajami texts written in the decades following the conquest. In cases where colonial rule destroyed the whole political and social order and the basis of the wealth of the ancient élites, it entailed violent hatred. Since their military resistance could not longer be active, it moved to other fields, and particularly to the religious sphere. So the clerics wrote texts in which they tried to answer the questions raised by the scandal of the conquest of part of the dar-al-Islam by Christian people 8. Those texts give an interesting insight into their state of mind: most of them were very hostile to colonisation, although occasionally some texts favourable to it can be found, such as Yarloden Faransi (‘Let us tolerate the French!') written by Cerno Mammadu Ludaa Dalabaa 9.
Here is a summary of the principal ideas dealt with in the texts written between the two World Wars that we know about. Most of them—if not all—were written in Fulfulde, by authors of course belonging to the religious spheres.
In 1937, Gilbert Vieillard explained why the French occupation seemed unbearable to Muslim literate people, giving us the main reasons: ‘the natives reproach us with as much bitterness the emancipation of women and of the slaves’ 10. Therefore the literature emphasized the bad behaviour and immorality of women, who disobeyed their husband, lost their ancient love for work, and were seduced by the gadgets introduced by European civilisation (‘They only dream of numerous servants, numerous milk cows, beautiful houses and beautiful beds pleasant to lay upon’) 11.
Our authors also bitterly regret the liberation of domestic slaves, and dismiss the new society as a place where everything has turned upside down: ‘The slaves have started disobeying and hiding themselves; they have stopped practising religion. They bring good people down, and give the first place to low-ranking people’ 12. At the same time the new and important role of money, symbolised by the development of local markets, especially in growing towns like Mamou, was considered blameworthy and condemned 13.
Another fundamental point is the threat colonial conquest posed for religion. The turmoil felt by religious literate people is clear from the following quotation:
Get rid from Futa those railways, and that work on the roads, ordered
by the evil people deprived of the Eternal happiness
For the red pagans, deemed to hell's fire where they will be
suffocated through torture as the tightening of a belt.
Don't let the believers be a victim of the insults inflicted upon
them by those damned kafirs that you will burn 14.
To respond to the scandal of kaafir domination, Fulfulde literature tried to adopt an appropriate position. In fact, this literature is quite similar to the general Muslim attitude towards European conquest, very clearly described by Jean-Louis Triaud:
for the Muslims, the European conquest is the work of kaafir, that is the fundamental reason why they opposed it as rule. … The transfer of whole regions of dar al-Islam to the rule of kaafir is in fact an unbearable scandal. The rule of a ‘kaafir’ power draws serious legal problems: several solutions, advocated in the Islamic tradition, have been used to various degrees by the Muslim communities in Africa south of the Sahara. The jihaad, first, a solution that soon showed itself impossible because of the unfavourable balance of powers; then the ‘hijra' towards external countries in order to safeguard the existence of the community of the believers; and eventually the taqiya (literally, the fear), allowing the faithful if he feels his safety threatened, to cooperate with the occupier by the tongue but not by the heart 15.
Most texts call for resistance (which could in fact rather be called passive rather than active resistance against colonial rule). There are many texts written against taxation, or against compulsory labour. They get very violent against railways or roads, ‘that ploughing without seeding which is nothing but an insanity’ 16. The colonisers are seen as heeferɓe, sing. keefeero, and from arabic, kuffaar, their African auxiliaries are called ‘baboons’ or ‘chimpanzees 17:
One big chimpanzee falls upon us, pushes in front of him a herd of porters.
The whip never leaves him, the big beast without fail fulfils the orders of those who deny God.
The following text gives an idea of all the grievances which were accumulated against the conquerors:
Make us happy by showing us the opposite of this wretched time of
the French people. O Merciful!
Take away the Red people's rule, expel them from Futa. O Almighty!
Stop the reign of the uncircumcised people, who neglect the religion and refuse to get circumcised.
Take haste quickly, O my Lord, dismiss those little evil red baboons, O God!
Let them go through torture, my Lord, expel them for ever, O Almighty!
Destroy the European in the whole Futa, Take him away from the Futa, O helpful God! 18
It should also be emphasized that one important idea found in those texts was to lead later to a sort of ‘accommodation’ with French rule: the religious writers thought that the world had in fact been divided in two parts, al-dunya, the terrestrial world, where the conquerors had wealth and power, but which could not last longer that human life (or than the life of all empires), and al-akhira, the celestial world, the world of religious life, much more important, and eternal, which was given to African people. This division could lead to ways of coexistence, that remind us of the famous words of Jesus Christ: ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's!’
To explain this submissive attitude, a witness of this time quoted the two following Fulɓe proverbs:
Si a yi'ii mo cippirɓaa woo a liɓay, a suɓu mo cippiraa (‘He who likes to be always victorious in his fights, must know how to choose his opponents')
Ko jemma juuti woo weetay (‘However long the night will last, the day will eventually come’) 19.
It is interesting to note that the Fulɓe authors of that period insisted on the idea that French rule will be short and temporary, at the very time when most European colonizers thought they would rule Africa for centuries 20.
This world is a camp, and a camp is not a residence.
Many [conquerors] camped, and passed before the French 21.
Several texts recommend to accept French domination.
However, let us emphasize with Ismaël Barry that this submissive attitude is felt more as the submission to an unavoidable fatality than to a positive evolution 22.
We have the duty to accept all divine decision,
either sweet or bitter. Let us tolerate the French!
This world's house is the smallest of God's houses
God showed us that he had given this one to the French 23.
The conservative tendency of many Islamic notables probably also appears here. They were convinced that the new state of things was the will of God, and preferred to preserve the position of Islam rather than to risk losing everything in a hopeless resistance. They thought, according to an old Islamic tradition, that people had to accept the sultan, whatever that government might be. Moreover, it was said that French rule was a divine punishment for the sins of the ancient rulers, and that it had been prophesied.
But we must remember that through those texts literate people first speak to other literate people, and that there is among ‘clerics’ in Fuuta-Jalon an old tradition of protest against the abuse of power and the bad behaviour of the ‘rulers’.
Both social and religious strategies explain the attitude of some Tijjani marabouts. In fact, while playing their part in the French colonial system, they tried to save some of their ancient positions 24. In Labé, Cerno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan, who was, even before the conquest, one of the most popular walis and who was a great writer, author of many religious texts, was a judge in the Labé colonial tribunal. Like Karamoko Dalen from Timbo, he was appointed a member of the ‘Comité consultatif des affaires musulmanes’, which was created in 1916 to give advice to the Gouverneur Général. Karamoko Dalen of Timbo first became Governor Ballay's Arabic secretary and intelligence agent, and Paul Marty says that in Timbo ‘from 1900 to 1905, he significantly aided the peaceful establishment of French rule. Later, during the First World War, he convinced young people of aristocratic origin to join the French army as tirailleurs sénégalais.’ 25 This two-faced behaviour that can be observed among two religious leaders, is not an isolated attitude. Although the existing powers were rejected by colonial power, it seems that the new chefs de canton had connections with the older military and religious aristocracy.
Even if they were loyal to the colonizers, they had at the same time their own strategies: chiefs married chiefs' children and helped each other. They were sometimes sufficiently influential to advice the colonial administration to appoint their friends and allies 26.
As in other West African colonies, some great karamoko managed to keep their Islamic influence, and even increase it. Cerno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan's family provided a typical example. In spite of the mistrust held by some of its members towards the new society 27, it capitalised on the prestige given by the Tijjani silsila (through al-hajj Umar Tall), and managed to keep pace with the ‘ways of the world' or the various political regimes. This family has nowadays a prominent position in the religious life of Labé:
Cerno Habib was imam of the first mosque of the town, and after his death his prestigious brother Cerno Abdourahmane Bah succeeded him.
Cerno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan sent several of his sons to the French school in order that they learn to speak and write French. This modern education did not prevent them from acquiring a deep knowledge of Arabic and Islamic culture.
This appears in Ibrahîma Caba's biography of Cerno Abdourahmane, where he lists the sons of the wali, their studies and activities. For instance, we can see that ‘Bappa Chaïkou is a schoolmaster in Timbo … He enjoys reading the beautiful texts. He had been the Arabic secretary of Cerno Aliyyu when the latter was a judge at Labé's court. Bappa Chaïkou is a calligraphist, in Arabic as well as in French. He mastered both language equally’ 28.
This strategy is in fact summed up in 1947, by Cerno Abdourahmane Bah in Fuuta hettii Ɓuttu (‘Hymn to Fuuta-Jalon'), where he shows the possibility of a Renaissance, a Revival of Fuuta-Jalon upon new bases including modernity:
Teach the Qur'an to your children:
help them know how to know the acts of devotion.
Teach them French; so that they understand
how to handle their common affairs successfully. (v. 78-79)
Our country will be more awake
when educated people will be numerous,
it will find again its prominent role.
Lawyers and engineers,
doctors and school teachers, as well,
and People like them, when they will be numerous in our country,
it will recover its sovereignty, and will be prominent again. (v. 83-85) 29
It does not seem that the colonizers were able to influence Fulɓe literature significantly. They did not show any great interest in it, except for a few administrateurs-ethnologues who specialized in Fulɓe studies: Louis Tauxier, Henri Labouret, Henri Gaden, and Gilbert Vieillard, who collected a lot of Fulfulde ajami manuscripts (now in Dakar, at the IFAN). Although those French administrateurs were often non-conformist (especially Gilbert Vieillard) and that there was not in the French system a systematic use of specialized ethnologists as in the English colonial system, it would be false to think that their passion was dismissed as politically incorrect by the official administration. Gaden and Labouret became governors, and Gilbert Vieillard's scientific studies—if not his administrative activities—were highly appreciated by the Gouverneur Général, who even wrote about him, ‘C'est un véritable génie en matière de travaux ethnographiques. Il observe remarquablement et transcrit magistralement. Il doit être maintenu dans cette spécialité où il est irremplaçable’ 30. After having worked as a classical District Officer, especially in Fuuta-Jalon, Gilbert Vieillard was discharged from any administrative work, and in fact employed as a researcher. As he said, ‘Autrefois j'avais toujours un motif de service. Aujourd'hui j'ai simplement l'ordre d'ouvrir les yeux et les oreilles et d'aller où bon me semble.’ 31.
So we must not ignore the influence of people like Vieillard, Théodore Monod (in fact a biologist, not a District Officer) and a few others, who were pioneers in the collecting of data, oral and written texts, and strongly supported men like Amadou Hampâté-Bâ. The connection between this trend of mind and the foundation of the IFAN is here quite visible.
Those authorities played no part in trying to appropriate Fulfulde, such as replacing the Arabic script with Roman script, and encouraging new and more secularized literature in Fulfulde. That can be easily explained, if we recall that the French colonial system wanted to introduce the use of French language, not only at school but also among the chiefs, who were chosen not only for their loyalty but also to their knowledge of French language.
While in the English colonies vernacular languages were taught in the first years of the elementary school, it is well known that in the French system, French language was compulsory as well at school as in the administration. The keystone of this policy is the ‘Circulaire William Ponty’ in 1910 prescribing the compulsory use of French at school and in the administration. ‘Il faut essayer de donner au plus grand nombre possible de nos sujets sinon l'assimilation, du moins l'empreinte française. Il n'est pas, je crois, trop osé de vouloir que notre langue soit parlée aussi loin que s'étendent nos conquêtes coloniales’ 32.
African languages were strictly forbidden at school, and every transgression to that regulation was immediately punished by wearing the symbol, for instance a dunce's cap. So strict was that regulation that the school teachers ignored their pupils' language. For instance Bokar Cissé, who was a teacher during the 1950s in the écoles nomades in the north of the Soudan français, says that in ten years he could not learn Tamachek language, while his whole family became quite fluent in it 33.
That is the reason why we meet no attempt to replace Arabic letters by a Latin transliteration, the old religious texts being only a matter for scientific investigations of a few District Officers interested in local history and literature.
Indeed, to westernize and modernize Fulfulde literature would have been giving it a new life, a new impetus and a new respectability. This would have been the opposite of the constant will and aim of the French: to destroy the ancient culture—dismissed as féodale, obscurantiste and so on— and to create a linguistic and cultural assimilation of the new élites, the educated people who had to write in French.
Comparable policies to that of Germans and British in Tanganyika (with Swahili) or British in Nigeria (with Fulfulde) cannot be found.
Nevertheless there is an evolution in Fulfulde literature, for some French influence did exist, although not in a direct way. But before describing this evolution, let us insist on the fact that most of the old themes and ways of thinking persist in the great majority of the texts. Ajami Arabic letters are not replaced by Roman script. French educated people write in French, although there is no major Fulɓe writer: the Guinean Camara Laye, the famous author of L'Enfant noir is not from Fuuta-Jalon. At school, Guinean pupils read French books, such as Terre Noire by Oswald Durand—a book written by a French District Officer, about the introduction of the plough and modern agriculture in Futa, in spite of the resistance of old and conservative people. It does not seem anyway that we can find many texts written by Fulɓe people in French: see the scarcity of texts written by authors from Fuuta-Jalon in the Bulletin de l'IFAN.
In order to have an idea of the evolution of Fulfulde literature, we can have a look at the work of the major writer of that time, Cerno Abdourrahmane Bah (still alive in Labé), who is a great poet writing in Fulfulde. And it is even possible to compare his work to the writings of another great author, his father Cerno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan, who died in 1927 while his son was still a young [11-year old] boy.
In his poem Fuuta hettii Ɓuttu, written in 1947 (‘A hymn to peace and to Fuuta-Jalon'), he describes the suffering of people in Guinea during the Second World War and praises the Allies' generals who managed to destroy Hitler's power. This poem met a great success, the talibaaɓe made many copies of it and recited it weekly at the markets to crowds gathered in bunches to listen 34.
In this poems are described the sufferings endured during the war effort, as it can be seen from the following extracts:
Remember the rubber and these sufferings
that destroyed the family ties as well as those of couples.
If one had a cow, it was sold, a part of it
becoming rubber, the rest going to taxes. (v. 26 and 27)
Or remember Senegal, and how
they were compelling, forcing people to go to the death. (v. 35).
Besides this nationalist inspiration, poems dealing with the wonders of nature and with the rural life in Futa can also be found. Here Cerno Abdourahmane is comparable in his inspiration and his agrarian ideal to a sort of Guinean Virgil.
Those themes are particularly visible in his poems written in the 1970s 35 but were already expressed in Fuuta hettii Ɓuttu (1947) where he praises Futa and ‘those flowing rivers with waterfalls’, ‘those fruitful trees and their fruits made so sweet’, ‘the beauty of valleys and everlasting mountains’ 36.
In his poem Kaaweeji jamaanu hannde (The marvels of our time), written after independence, he celebrated modern innovations as marvels: planes, bridges, roads, new houses, and even the conquest of the moon.
Those new themes coexist with older ones, similar to those found in his father's poems: ‘Praise of Muhammadu, Madina wa-Makka' and so on 37.
That means a will to be open to the external world, to accept modern innovations such as radio and urban life. Those attitudes are also characteristic of other authors, and we can also notice a change in the language: the traditional metrics often disappear, new words are used even by ‘traditionals’ poets: for instance Cerno Jaawo Pellel uses persidan (from the French président) to name the president of Islamic judges in a region.
Nevertheless it is quite visible that the literature in Fulfulde was an instrument for the reassessment of Fulɓe identity and an expression of the increasing craving for freedom.
The connections existing between Fulɓe texts and the action of the Amicale Gilbert Vieillard can also be mentioned. It was a cultural association, that was created at the Sebikotane école normale just after the Second World War, by educated Fulɓe people, ‘pour la renaissance et le développement de la saine foulanité’ (for the rebirth and development of a healthy Fulɓe identity), as Ibrahîma Caba Bah, nephew of the poet, wrote in his biography. Cerno Abdourahmane Bah, who had great prestige as a poet, but also as the son of the great wali Cerno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan, was an active member of this association. He wrote for this amicale political poems, such as the already mentioned Fuuta hettii Ɓuttu. This poem created a great enthusiasm among young people, and conversely great indignation among elders and among the chefs de canton who tried to fight the amicale. Such a turmoil was certainly more the sign of a gap between two generations than of a split among two social groups.
Cerno Abdourahmane Bah wrote a poem ‘For the Amicale’ (Amicale ko faabo): as an introduction, he wrote those significant words: ‘It is not because I do not know Arabic that I compose poems in Fulfulde, but because Fulfulde is what everybody hears and understands. And because Fulfulde is the language I like better than any other language’ 38.
The following extract shows how Fulfulde poetry served a growing nationalism together with a deep religious feeling:
If the Amicale lived, it would have a beneficial effect upon our
country, beneficial for our people, beneficial for the believers,
much beyond their hopes …
The Amicale is a sun that rose thanks to God over our country
Let it illuminate us, let us come together and never more disperse!
The Fulɓe, alas! have been wiped out for many years
None of us was consulted about what he had to do.
They have been led as animals, exploited to satisfy every need, going
up and down, without knowing the reason why!
And now the Allmighty Lord comes to our help
through the Amicale and He answers in our name when we are called.
Among all the nations, so numerous in the world, we were chosen:
We are the black people, to work hard, and to supply contributions that cannot be known 39.
The authors also took a new interest in local history. This interest focused rather at the level of the whole Fuuta-Jalon area, whereas before its scope was limited to the family or the village level. The poem written by Cerno Jaawo Pellel, born in 1900, Waajorɗi jiyaaɓe wonɓe e rewde wurɗo mo maayataa 40 is equally famous. It was translated by Alfa Sow with the title Conseils aux sujets fidèles du Vivant qui ne meurt pas (‘Advice to the faithful subjects of the Living who does not die’). This is a poem of 410 verses, praising and commemorating saints, writers or chiefs of Fuuta-Jalon.
It is interesting to notice that in the 1970s, Cerno Abdourahmane wrote Ƴeewirde Fuuta (‘Consideration upon the Futa’), dealing with a similar subject.
The History of the Fulɓe in Fuuta Jallon, an important work written in Fulfulde by Moodi Amadu Laria of Labé (1920-1974) 41 and the historical note Fii Hubbu no feenyirnoo by Karamoko Dalen written at Saint Louis in 1916, 42 can also be mentioned among other examples 43.
It seems that those poems must be compared to the new interest for history shown at the beginning of the century, for instance the still unpublished but fundamental taarikh written by Cerno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan. We do not know whether he decided to write it on his own inspiration or whether he was encouraged by a French enlightened administrateur. (Musa Kamara was encouraged in his enterprise by Governor Henri Gaden and by Maurice Delafosse.) 44 Anyhow it seems that under colonial rule, and by reaction to it, there was a strong will to show to contemporaries the historical and cultural roots of the community, in order to reassert Fulɓe identity. Most of those texts were however not written in Fulfulde but in Arabic.
Is this tendency very different from what can be observed among some other historical works, for instance those written in Nigeria or Gold Coast by Christian educated people? Let us mention the History of the Yorubas by Samuel Johnson, the History of the Gold Coast and Asante, by C.C. Reindorf 45, and also the studies of Casely Hayford and so on.
The comparison needs to be enlarged. In his History, Samuel Johnson tried to explain the arrival of the Christian people as an expression of the will of God, that was foreseen by prophecies. In the same way, some of the manuscripts written in Fulfulde in the 1920s and 1930s emphasized that the coming of Christian people was the will of God and written from the beginning of the world.
To conclude, let us say that with the coming of independence, Sékou Touré decided that elementary schooling would take place in the local language. So Guineans began to write Fulfulde in Roman script, with an effort to adapt Roman script to the specificity of their language. For instance the specific sounds which are written in the international alphabet since the Conference de Bamako with crossed letters, are in Guinea written as bh, dh, yh, nh.
Therefore new books were produced for schools, and the government tried at the same time to secularize their themes, in order to use them in rural development, and also for Guinean nationalism and socialism.
After Sékou Touré's death and the collapse of the revolutionary regime, the Comité militaire de Redressement decided to suppress the teaching in vernacular languages, replacing them by French at all the levels of teaching.
Nowadays it can be said that Fulfulde texts written in Arabic script coexist with numerous booklets and texts written in Roman script.
* I wish to thank Jim Brennan, Alfa Mamadou Diallo-Lélouma, Jean Frémigacci, Henri Médard, and Tal Tamari for their help with this article.
1. Translation from Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow, Oogirde malal: Le filon du bonheur éternel, Paris: Classiques Africains 1971. About the religious teaching in Fuuta-Jalon and its evolution after Cerno Samba Mombeya, see also Roger Botte, ‘Pouvoir du Livre, pouvoir des hommes: la religion comme critère de distinction’, Journal des Africanistes, LX, 2, 1990, 37-51.
2. Poem quoted and translated by Christiane Seydou in ‘Panorama de la littérature peule’, Bulletin de l'IFAN, XXXV, série B, 1, 1973, 191. As Christiane Seydou wrote, it gives an exemple of a waynorde (or funeral anthem), with a concise and sophisticated style that is characteristic of Tijjani literature.
3. Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow, Chroniques et récits du Fuuta Jaloo, Paris 1968.
4. Alfâ Ibrâhîm Sow, La femme, la vache, la foi, Paris 1966, 77: ‘Continuateurs beaucoup plus que devanciers, les écrivains de cette deuxième période développent et diversifient les thèmes religieux des grands maîtres et restent en définitive des intermédiaires entre un siècle de conformisme religieux et politique et une époque de conquête coloniale et de grands bouleversements’.
5. ‘Nés avec le siècle, leurs auteurs appartiennent presque tous aux générations de la conquête coloniale qui n'ont pas connu l'ancien Foûta et n'ont donc pas goûté aux “douceurs aristocratiques” des temps jadis. Témoins de certains grands bouleversements du XXe siècle, tels que la deuxième guerre mondiale et la lutte de libération des peuples opprimés, ils essaient d'en rendre compte dans leurs oeuvres dont l'inspiration est devenue plus laïque et plus moderne, la forme plus libre et la langue plus populaire’; Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 235.
6. This popular literature is in fact badly known, we can have an idea of it in Sow's La Femme, la vache, la foi, 283-335.
7. By ancient élites, I mean the upper classes in a society where social hierarchy was congruent with the degree of Islamisation, i.e., the descendants of the people who launched the jihaad in 1727. They possessed land, cattle and slaves in abundance and could live on their income, devoting their energies to war or religion. So there existed a kind of aristocracy, divided into two social occupational groups: warriors (devoted to the jihaad) and religious people (devoted to the worship of God and to teaching and writing). That is what French authors call ‘l'aristocratie de la plume et de l'encrier’ and ‘l'aristocratie de la lance et de l'épée’.
8. For a study of those reactions, read: Ibrahima Kaba Bah and Bernard Salvaing, ‘A propos d'un poème en Peul du Fouta-Djalon provenant de la collection d'al Hadj Omar Diallo (Bambeto)’, ISSS, 8, 1994, 123-38, and Bernard Salvaing, ‘Regards d'Africains musulmans sur la colonisation: le cas du Fouta-Djalôn (Guinée) et du Macina (Soudan français / Mali)’, Mondes et culture, 2002.
9. Published in Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 140-5. However, the author, Cerno Mammadu Ludaa Dalabaa, belonged to a family known for its early loyalty to French rule. It seems that he wrote this text at the request of Gilbert Vieillard (Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 140-5).
10. Gilbert Vieillard, ‘Poèmes peuls du Fouta-Djallon’, Bulletin du Comité d'Etudes Historiques et Scientifiques de l'Afrique Occidentale Française (BCEHS-AOF), xx, 1937, 268.
11. ‘Nge'el jamanel, Notre triste époque’, in Gilbert Vieillard, ‘Poèmes peuls du Fouta-Djallon’, 232-9 and in Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 110-17.
12. Ibid., v. 34, in Gilbert Vieillard, ‘Poèmes peuls du Fouta-Djallon’.
13. See Ismaël Barry, Le Fuuta-Jaloo face à la colonisation, Conquête et mise en place de l'administration coloniale en Guinée (1880-1920), 2 vols, Paris: L'Harmattan 1997. In fact there are other unpublished texts dealing with the same themes (cf. Cerno Amadu Poyé about ‘the French rule over Fuuta-Jalon’).
14. ‘A furore infidelium libera nos, Domine (Ittamen Porto e Futa Dyallo)’, v. 47-50, in Gilbert Vieillard, ‘Poèmes peuls du Fouta- Djallon’, 240-7.
15. Jean-Louis Triaud, L'Afrique occidentale au temps des Français, colonisateurs et et colonisés (c. 1860-1960), Paris: La Découverte 1992, 143-4.
16. ‘A furore infidelium libera nos’, v. 47-50, quoted by Barry, Fuuta-Jaloo, II, 532.
17. ‘Notre triste époque’, v. 36-37. The Fulɓe word used for ‘chimpanzee’ in the text is a very derogatory one. African auxiliaries are qualified as ‘beasts’ as well as ‘infidels’.
18. Vieillard, ‘Poèmes peuls du Fouta-Djallon’, 241 & 243, quoted by Barry, Fuuta-Jaloo, II, 532.
19. Quoted in Barry, Fuuta-Jaloo, II, 533.
20. It is difficult indeed to find in colonial literature definite indications about the date of a possible end of colonial rule. It is said that Lord Lugard was one of the rare colonizers to dare to envisage such an issue. But we know that for instance in the 1920s the colonists of the White Highlands in Kenya, who had received lands with a lease of 99 years, thought this alloted time too short, and in the end obtained a lease of 999 years.
21. ‘Yarloden Faransi, Tolérons les Français', v. 11, in Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 140, and in Vieillard, ‘Poèmes peuls du Fouta-Djallon', 259-65.
22. Barry (Fuuta-Jaloo, 704) gives the references of three of those texts, and writes: ‘Certains titres, bien qu'en faveur des Français, cachent à peine l'amertume de leurs auteurs qui appelaient, apparemment à contre-coeur, à la soumission aux nouveaux maîtres du pays. C'est le cas du poème intitulé Yarlodhen Faransi, “Acceptons les Français”, transcrit et traduit par G. Vieillard et A.I Sow. Indépendamment de son contenu peu flatteur à l'égard de Français—surtout en ce qui concerne les 14 premiers vers—le terme yarloden, qui signifie en pular “acceptons” a une connotation de fatalité. On l'utilise chez les Fulɓe à propos des événements dont le mécanisme échappe au genre humain, telle la mort. De ce fait, l'appel en faveur de la domination française ressemble ici à celui qu'un père adresserait à sa famille lorsque la mort frappe un de ses membres. La domination française fut donc généralement considérée comme un mal. Mais contre cette mauvaise fortune certains lettrés conseillèrent de faire bon coeur’.
23. ‘Yarloden Faransi’ (vv. 3 and 4), in Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 140, and in Vieillard, ‘Poèmes peuls du Fouta-Djallon', 259-65.
24. About the personal strategies of African élites in the French colonial system, read Bernard Salvaing (in collaboration with Jean Frémigacci), ‘Pour une relecture de la rencontre entre colonisés et colonisateurs, à travers les ‘histoires de vie africaines’, paper, Troisième rencontre des historiens africains, Bamako, September 2001.
25. Paul Marty, L'islam en Guinée, Paris 1921, 247-53.
26. Cf. Barry, Fuuta-Jaloo, II, 705: ‘De nombreux lettrés restèrent d'ailleurs liés aux chefs dont ils épousaient et défendaient les positions tout en aspirant à exercer des fonctions similaires (Président du tribunal de province, secrétaire arabe de l'administration)'. Among other examples, let us point to the following anecdote: Tierno Oumar Diogo Dalaba (a famous and powerful chef de canton in the town of Dalaba) played an important part in the appointment of his friend Tierno Saidou Baldé as chef de canton in Koubia (Fuuta-Jalon). Al-hajj Muhammadou Baldé, who is a son of Tierno Saidou Baldé, still possesses a copy of the letter of reference sent by Tierno Dalaba to the Governor of Guinea (interview in Companya with al-hajj Muhammadou Baldé (1995). Al-hajj Muhammadou Baldé's autobiography is shortly to be published, in collaboration with Bernard Salvaing).
27. For instance Shaykh Manda, a grand-son of Cerno Aliyyu Ɓuuɓa Ndiyan, and the author of texts in Arabic and Fulfulde, felt for a long time a deep mistrust towards Western schools and science. According to one of his children, he began to change his mind at the end of his life, in the 1980s, in particular after his first travel on an aeroplane between Labé and Conakry (interview in Conakry, 1985, with Shaykh Manda s'children).
28. Ibrahîma Caba Bah, Cerno Abdourahmane Bah: Eléments biographiques suivis de quelques poèmes avec une traduction en français, Labé: Defte Cernoya 1998, 26.
29. ‘Fuuta hettii Ɓuttu’, in Bah, Cerno Abdourahmane Bah, 86-95, and Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 250-61. In fact Cerno Abdourahmane Bah did not go to the French school, but he can speak French fluently.
30. Quoted by Robert Cornevin, ‘Pierre-Francis Lacroix et les foulanisants français', in Itinérances en pays peul et ailleurs, Mémoires de la société des Africanistes, Paris 1981, II, 395.
31. Ibid., 396. Those quotations are to be found in Patrick O'Reilly, Mon ami Gilbert l'Africain, Dijon 1942.
32. Quoted by Denise Bouche, L'Enseignement dans les territoires français de l'Afrique occidentale de 1817 à 1920: mission civilisatrice ou formation d'une élite? Paris 1975, 569. See also the Camille Guy's speech in 1902: ‘Mais il y a mieux, parler français, mes jeunes amis, c'est penser en français, et penser en français, qu'on me permette de le dire avec orgueil, c'est être quelque chose de plus qu'un homme ordinaire, c'est s'associer à la noblesse de la destinée de notre pays, c'est vivre de notre vie nationale. La pensée française a dominé vingt siècles qui viennent de tomber un à un dans l'abîme des temps. C'est elle qui a enseigné au monde que le droit est plus respectable que la force, que la justice est plus forte que les intérêts, et que les petits et les vaincus ont droit à plus de respect et d'égards que les triomphateurs et les conquérants' (in Bouche, ibid., 568). This firm policy is to be compared to the much more hesitant attitude of the French in Madagascar (see Faranirina V. Esoavelomandroso, ‘Langue, culture et colonisation à Madagascar: malgache et français dans l'enseignement officiel (1916-1940)', Omaly Sy Anio, 3/4, 1976, 105ff.). In fact, those differences can be explained by the history of European influence in Madagascar. In the nineteenth century, the London Missionary Society translated the Bible into the Merina language, written in Latin script. Although there were several dialectal differences, especially between the eastern and the western regions, only one language was spoken on the whole island.
The Catholic missionaries, who worked among the lower social classes, could not but apply the same policy. Much later, when the French colonizers came at the end of the same century, they decided to develop the French language. The first change occurred in 1916, when the colonizers feared that the French language might become a vehicle of nationalism (it was the epoch of the V.V.S. Malagasy nationalist association of educated people). They decided to use the Merina language, written in Roman script, for teaching as well as for administration. After 1929, a new shift occurred: the colonizers decided to use the Merina language for the first level of instruction in the écoles de village and the French language for more advanced studies, in the écoles régionales, écoles primaires supérieures, and in the École Normale Le Myre de Vilers (the equivalent, and in fact the model, of the École Normale William Ponty).
33. Interview with Bocar Cissé, Bamako, April 2002. (These interviews will be published as Bocar Cissé's autobiography, in collaboration with Albakaye Ousmane Kounta and Bernard Salvaing.)
34. ‘Fuuta hettii Ɓuttu’, in Bah, Cerno Abdourahmane Bah, 86ff., and in Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 256ff.
35. Bah, Cerno Abdourahmane Bah, 73-5.
36. Verse 62 to 68, in Bah, Cerno Abdourahmane Bah, 92 and Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 256 ff.
37. Some examples of those more modern tendancies of Fulɓe poetry are given in Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 235-8; in Bah, Cerno Abdourahmane Bah, 85-145, and in Boubacar Biro Diallo, Gimɓ'i Pular, 1974.
38. Translated from ‘Pour l'amicale, Amicale ko Fâbo’, in Bah, Cerno Abdourahmane Bah, 96.
39. ‘Amicale ko Fâbo', in Bah, Cerno Abdourahmane Bah, 97.
40. In Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 152-207. According to Sow (Femme, 77), ‘L'expression concentrée de toutes ces caractéristiques (celles de la littérature des “écrivains de la transition”) reste le dictionnaire biographique des saints et des hommes illustres du Labé, poème de 409 vers par Tierno Diâwo Pellel, dont la lecture attentive donnera, mieux que toute autre oeuvre de ce recueil, les renseignements les plus complets sur l'intelligentsia musulmane du Foûta-Djalon'.
41. Translated in French by his daughter Hadja Aminatou Diallo Bah, and now available at Guineenews.
42. Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 222-9; first published by Henri Gaden in Outre-mer, 1929.
43. Published with a French translation in Sow, La Femme, la vache, la foi, 209-21. We can find other historical texts in his chapter ‘Les chroniqueurs de l'aristocratie.
44. See Shaykh Muusa Kamara, Florilège au jardin de l'histoire des Noirs, Zuhür al-bastin (ed. J. Schmitz), Paris: CNRS 1998. The influence of H. Gaden and M. Delafosse upon the decision to compose this work is mentioned on p. 29.
45. Samuel Johnson, The History of the Yorubas, London 1921, written at the end of the nineteenth century, and C.C. Reindorf, History of the Gold Coast and Asante, Basle 1895.