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The Bassari et Bedik territories
Mis en ligne : Friday 7 March 2014, par Abdoulaye Kanté

Located in Guinea, in Guinea Bissau and in Senegal, among the Peuls of the Tenda clan, the Bassaris and the Bédiks have been able to preserve their identities.





The Bassaris probably came from Cantor in upper Casamance. These cave-dwellers fled the incursion of the Malinke army in the XIIth century and that of the Peul king Koli Tenguela in the XVth century to settle in the present Bassari territory.

In the XlXth century, the razzias of the Islamic Peuls of Alfa Yaya partially exterminated the Bassaris. In 1960, with the independence of Senegal and of Guinea, the Bassari population was split in two: the Bédyanangs in the high country in Guinée and the Banés on the plains in Senegal.

The territory of the Banés, concentrated around the sacred mountain Paté, includes 14 villages. The villages are dispersed among the agricultural fields. The village square, a key element of social life, is surrounded by the huts of the youth. The boys and girls, grouped by ages between six and fifteen years, come together there every evening. They receive an education from their next elder class which covers community life, morality and sexuality. In addition, the girls are received in the homes of the older boys for a platonic social education.

The Bediks occupy a territory to the east of the Gambia River, with the bend of the river near Kedougou. They are said to come from Mali. Their refusal of Islam and of colonisation, their search for new land, and tribal warfare were the causes of their implantation in the region. They remain gatherers but also farm.

The Bediks have been Catholics since 1950, but like the Bassaris they remain profoundly animist. They are, like the Bassaris, polygamist. Their territory includes 8 villages belonging to three sub-groups which differ in pronunciation and in customs. The initiation rites, conducted for young people between the ages of 15 and 22, begin by a stay in the sacred forest for a duration which varies according to the village. The rites are conducted by the adults and involve an education covering practical life, respect for elders, and rituals. Festivals take place to celebrate agricultural and social events; they are accompanied by the music of instruments specific to each festival.