Fula (the language of the Fulɓe people) developed in several communities that spread from west to east, from Senegal to Nigeria and Cameroun, over the last millennium. Fula is closely associated with the “Islamic revolutions” that occurred in four areas of West Africa in the 18th and 19th century. One was the Sokoto Caliphate, in which Fulfulde was second only to Hausa as a vehicle for spreading the faith. A second was the more short-lived Caliphate of Hamdullahi (1818-1862), set in the Middle Niger Delta. This project will focus on two other Fulɓe communities whose “revolutions” developed earlier, in the 18th century, and further west. One was Fuuta Tooro, constituting the middle valley of the Senegal River and the presumed birthplace of Fula and the Fulɓe people. The other was Fuuta Jalon, set in the mountains of Guinea Conakry at the sources of the Niger, Senegal and Gambia Rivers. Both Fuutas called their rulers Almamy (from the Arabic word: al-imām) and their regimes went by the name of Almamates.

Fuuta Jalon, particularly the town of Labe, became a center for composition, instruction and dissemination in ʿAjamī and for the establishment of a certain Fulɓe pre-eminence in the wider region. Thanks to the work completed several decades ago by Alfa Ibrahima Sow, we are able to study the development, dissemination and some of the main texts composed by the Labe scholars, which include religious poetry, poems of moral guidance, chronicle and legal texts. Fuuta Tooro had a tradition of poetic chronicle around the jihad of al-Hajj Umar Taal (1797-1864), but did not develop ʿAjamī literature as much as Fuuta Jalon. Our research will explore the reasons why.


Our team is in the process of collecting and digitizing Fula Ajami text files with transcriptions, English and French translations and related video material, which will be published on this web page. Analysis of the material will follow in a separate section of the website.