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Toucouleur people

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Title: Toucouleur people  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Futa Tooro, El Hadj Umar Tall, Imamate of Futa Toro, Ethnic groups in Senegal, History of Mali
Collection: Ethnic Groups in Africa, Ethnic Groups in Mali, Ethnic Groups in Mauritania, Ethnic Groups in Senegal, Fula
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Toucouleur people

A Toucouleur interpreter called Alpha Sega with his sisters. Image taken in 1882.

The Toucouleurs or Tukulor (or Haalpulaar’en) are a group distinct from but related to the Fula. The difference between the Fulbe and the Tukulors is that the latter are a traditionally sedentary group, with farming and fishing as their main activities. Tukulors also live in West Africa, and Fulanis live in Central African countries as well, such as Chad and Cameroon.

The north of Senegal (where they constitute 15% of the population) in the Senegal River valley, and Mauritania is their background, but over the past three centuries some of them emigrated to Mali.


  • History 1
  • People and society 2
    • Marriage 2.1
    • Childbirth and naming 2.2
  • References 3


The name Toucouleur has a debatable origin, with some sources stating it as a French creation meaning "all colors", and other sources citing it as a deformation of tekruri a pre-colonial term meaning "people from Tekrur", considering them the descendants of the kingdom of Takrur, which would make the present French form a popular etymology. According to the oral traditions of the Toucouleurs and Serer people, the Toucouleurs claim descent from Serer and Fula ancestors.[1] This tradition is supported by many scholars including Foltz and Phillips.[1][2] A joking relationship exist to present between the Serers and Toucouleurs, albeit the historical the Battle of Fandane-Thiouthioune (1867) also known as the Battle of Somb.

Umar Tall founded a jihad state, the Toucouleur Empire, in present Mali in the nineteenth century.

People and society

The Toucouleurs speak the Fouta-Toro dialect of Pulaar (Fula). They call themselves Haapulaar’en, which means "those who speak Pulaar". They are Muslim. Culturally, the Toucouleur only differ from other Fulas by the sedentary nature of their society.

Toucouleur society is patriarchal and divided into strict hierarchies, with 12 castes subdivided into 3 classes.


While the bride-to-be celebrates with her friends, the groom goes to the mosque to validate the marriage. Later, the bride and her family go to the husband's house, where they will sit with elders and discuss the marriage. The next day, the bride's aunt will determine if the girl is a virgin, and then bathe and massage her. The bride greets the village and then her husband, and food is prepared, and eventually the celebration ends.

Childbirth and naming

One week after pémbougale (childbirth), the baby is named and a googo (sister of the father) cuts its hair. The father tells the marabout the name he has chosen, after which the marabout whispers the name in the infant's ear and prays. Following this, the marabout informs a griot or gawlo, of the name that has been chosen, and the griot announces the name to the village.


  1. ^ a b Foltz, William J., "From French West Africa to the Mali Federation", Volume 12 of Yale studies in political science, p 136, Yale University Press (1965)
  2. ^ Phillips, David J., "Peoples on the Move: Introducing the Nomads of the World", p 161, William Carey Library (2001), ISBN 0878083529 [2]
  • This article is based on a translation of the corresponding article from the French WorldHeritage, accessed July 5, 2005.
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