World History
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The Wolof People, their Culture & Crafts

Wolof woman, Khoudia Diop
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Originally from Mali, the Wolof people began migrating into what is now Senegal in the 1000s. By the 1200s, the Wolof set up an empire and conquered surrounding areas with their bourba (king) Ndiadiane N’diaye ruling during the 1300s. The empire was powerful from 1200 to 1550 and covered what is modern-day Senegal. They remained independent within this period despite the Portuguese attempts to conquer in the 1440s. 

The Wolof comprise of over 3 million people in Senegal but also reside in Gambia and Mauritania. Many work as peanut and cotton farmers or merchant traders. The Wolof had their own manufacturers who would turn raw materials into valuable goods. Wolof goldsmiths and filigree workers, who created delicate or ornamental work, had high reputations within West Africa. The major commodity that was traded among the Wolof people was in fact gold. The Wolof also have an international reputation mainly in their wood carvings, tailoring, and overall business acumen. The Wolof have traded with the Arabs for centuries and specialize in import-export trading.

For example, Wolof musicians have been the pioneers of traditional griot music. Today, griot rap, which tells stories about society, is performed in the Wolof language. Instruments such as the guitar and drums are played, which envelop the singing and dancing culture. Balante, a popular folk dance, is the dance of the warrior characterized by high kicks, powerful jumps, and turns.

The Wolof continue to have a large presence in West Africa, and their business savvy shines through in the artistry of their work. The influence of the Wolof spreads not only within Africa but worldwide. Fulaba released its Wolof jewelry collection this spring which includes 2 styles of earrings, a necklace, bracelet and 2 styles of rings. The style of the Wolof jewelry collection is called kayor and was worn by Ngonée Latir, the mother of the last king of Senegal. Each piece is handcrafted by talented artisans in Dakar, Senegal. Shop our Wolof jewelry collection.

Picture: Khoudia Diop


Encyclopaedia, Britannica Inc.. Britannica Student Encyclopedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Incorporated, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central

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