The medieval history of the Serer people of Senegambia is partly characterised by resisting Islamization from perhaps the 11th century during the Almoravid movement (which would later result in the Serers of Takrur migration to the south), to the 19th century Marabout movement of Senegambia and continuation of the old Serer paternal dynasties.
According to Galvan (2004), "The oral historical record, written accounts by early Arab and European explorers, and physical anthropological evidence suggest that the various Serer peoples migrated south from the Fuuta Tooro region (Senegal River valley) beginning around the eleventh century, when Islam first came across the Sahara.":p.51 Over generations these people, possibly Pulaar speaking herders originally, migrated through Wolof areas and entered the Siin and Saluum river valleys. This lengthy period of Wolof-Serer contact has left us unsure of the origins of shared "terminology, institutions, political structures, and practices.":p.52
Professor Étienne Van de Walle gave a slightly later date, writing that "The formation of the Sereer ethnicity goes back to the thirteenth century, when a group came from the Senegal River valley in the north fleeing Islam, and near Niakhar met another group of Mandinka origin, called the Gelwar, who were coming from the southeast (Gravrand 1983). The actual Sereer ethnic group is a mixture of the two groups, and this may explain their complex bilinear kinship system".
The Serer earned their living from agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing, boat building (an ancient Serer tradition) and transporting people over the river.
The jihads that had affected Tekrur in the 11th century which led to the Serers of Tekrur exodus only affected those Serers living in Tekrur at the time. It did not apply to all Serer people. The Serer people are very diverse and spread throughout the Senegambia founding towns and villages, the Serer names of these towns and villages still remain today.
...the Serer traversed vast expanses of territory during pre-colonial times and saw the entire region [the Senegambia region] as their home, as their history of migration in the area clearly shows..
In the Senegambia region, the Serer people were ruled by Lamanes. The Serer who have migrated from Tekrur to join their distant Serer relatives created a southward migration for Mandinka migrants. Godfrey Mwakikagile proposed that the Mandinkas were either defeated in battle or incorporated into Serer society. The Serers ruled over the Wolof kingdom of Jolof. They were ruling Jolof before the Jaw, Ngom, Mengue (or Mbengue) and Njie dynasties (who were all Serers with the exeception of the Mengue dynasty who were Lebou – Mengue or Mbengue is a Lebou surname). However, these Serer and Lebou rulers of Jolof (predominantly a Wolof area) became assimilated into Wolof culture.
Migration from Kabuu to Sine
The actual foundation of the Kingdom of Sine is unclear, but in the late 14th century Mandinka migrants entered the area. They were led by a matrilineal clan known as the Gelwaar. Here they encountered the Serer, who had already established a system of lamanic authorities, and established a Gelwaar led state with its capital in or near a Serer lamanic estate centred at Mbissel.:p.54
Marriages between the Serer paternal clans such as Faye and Joof to the Guelwar women created the Serer paternal dynasties and a Guelowar maternal dynasty. According to Serer oral tradition a king named Maad a Sinig Maysa Wali Jaxateh Manneh (many variations in spelling: Maissa Wali, Maissa Wally also known as Maysa Wali Jon or Maysa Wali Dione) – (reigned 1350) was the first Guelowar king of Sine. Having served for several years as legal advisor to The Great Council of Lamans and assimilated into Serer culture, he was elected and crowned the firstking of Sine in (1350). His sisters and nieces were married off to the Serer nobility and the offspring of these unions where the kings of Sine and later Saloum (Maad a Sinig and Maad Saloum respectively).
Njaajan Njie (English spelling in Gambia, Ndiandiane Ndiaye or N'Diadian N'Diaye – French spelling in Senegal, or Njaajaan Njaay - in the Serer language, also known as Amudu Bubakar b. 'Umar, is the traditional founder of the Jolof Empire by the Wolof people. Traditional stories of the ancestry of this leader vary. One suggests that he was "the first and only son of a noble and saintly Arab father Abdu Darday and a "Tukuler" woman, Fatamatu Sail." This gives him an Almoravid lineage, ie a Berber and Islamic background, on his father's side, and a link on his mother's side to Takrur. James Searing adds that "In all versions of the myth, Njaajaan Njaay speaks his first words in Pulaar rather than Wolof, emphasizing once again his character as a stranger of noble origins." Njaajan Njie was the founder of the first Wolof kingdom and claimed by the Wolof as their ancestor.
John Donnelly Fage suggests although dates in the early 13th century (and others say 12th century) are usually ascribed to this king and the founding of the empire, a more likely scenario is "that the rise of the empire was associated with the growth of Wolof power at the expense of the ancient Sudanese state of Takrur, and that this was essentially a fourteenth-century development."
Maba Diakhou, a rather charismatic leader in the Marabout sect saw the propagation of Islam in Senegambia and an Islamic empire as his divine mission. Although he did not achieve an Islamic empire, he had managed to conquer several villages in Senegal and Gambia and his movement was responsible for the Islamization of many Senegambians.
The effects of Islam
Although by the end of the twentieth century most Serer had converted to Islam(about 85% by the 1990s), Serer people's medieval to 19th century history in resisting Islamization has created a division between "believers" of Islam and "non-believers" such as the orthodox Serers who adhere to Serer religion. Klein notes that :
"The most important factor dividing the peoples of Senegambia was the differential impact of Islam. In this, the Serer stood out as the one group that had undergone no conversion."(Martin A. Klein)
This division is not just religious but also has an ethnic dimension. As opponents of Islam for nearly a millennia, anti-Serer sentiments are not uncommon. However, the Serer countries, especially the Sine area of Senegal, is reported to be a true bastion of the anti-Islamic.
At present, the Serer population is estimated to be over 1.8 million based on population figures for Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania (2011) – excluding the Serers living in the West and elsewhere. They are more numerous in Senegal than in Gambia and Mauritania. Though traditionally mixed-farmers, boat builders and land owners, the Serers are found in all major professions including politics, medicine, literature, commerce, law, agriculture, etc.Polyculture and boat building is still practiced by some Serers. Due to their Lamanic land inheritance system, they tend to have valuable land. Recently however, President Abdoulaye Wade's land reform law has affected many Serer farming communities in Senegal and they've lost their properties.
^See Mwakikagile, Ethnic Diversity and Integration in the Gambia:, p224 & The Gambia and Its People:, p 138; Klein, Islam and Imperialism in Senegal Sine-Saloum, 1847–1914, pp 7 & 63, Gravrand, vol. 1. La Civilisation sereer, Cossan pp 115–18; & La civilisation Sereer, Pangool p 13
^Klein, Martin, Islam and Imperialism in Senegal, Sine-Saloum, 1847–914 pp 62–93
^Diouf, Mamadou, & Leichtman, Mara, "New perspectives on Islam in Senegal: conversion, migration, wealth, power, and femininity", Palgrave Macmillan (2009), the University of Michigan, ISBN0-230-60648-2
^Diouf, Mamadou, "History of Senegal: Islamo-Wolof model and its outskirts", Maisonneuve & Larose (2001), ISBN2-7068-1503-5
^Oliver, Roland Anthony, & Fage, J. D., "Journal of African History", Volume 10, Cambridge University Press (1969)
^Hopkins, J. F. P., & Levtzion, Nehemia, "Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History", pp 77–79, Cambridge University Press (1981) (Scholar)
^Trimingham, John Spencer, "A history of Islam in West Africa", pp 174, 176 & 234, Oxford University Press, USA (1970)
^For more information about Serer Lamanic lineage and class, see : Galvan, Dennis Charles, "The State Must Be Our Master of Fire:"
^Gregg, Emma, Trillo, Richard Rough guide to the Gambia, p 247, Rough Guides, 2003, ISBN1-84353-083-X
^Mwakikagile, Godfrey, The Gambia and its people, p 11; & Ethnic diversity p 97
^See : Gamble, David P. & Salmon, Linda K. (with Alhaji Hassan Njie); (in French) Becker, Charles, "Vestiges historiques, trémoins matériels du passé clans les pays sereer"', Dakar, 1993., CNRS – ORS TO M
^Mwakikagile, Godfrey, "Ethnic Diversity and Integration in the Gambia", p225
^Mwakikagile, Godfrey, "Ethnic Diversity and Integration in the Gambia", p 224
^Klein, Martin A. Islam and Imperialism in Senegal. Sine-Saloum, 1847-1914, Stanford: Stanford University Press.ISBN978-0-8047-0621-6 p.8
^ abSarr, Alioune, Histoire du Sine-Saloum (Sénégal) Introduction, bibliographie et notes par Charles Becker. 1986-87, p 19
^For Maysa Wali's reign, see : Sarr, Alioune, "Histoire du Sine-Saloum" (Sénégal), (introduction, bibliographie et notes par Charles Becker), in Bulletin de l'IFAN, tome 46, série B, nos 3–4, 1986–1987. p 19. See also : (in French) Éthiopiques, Volume 2, pp 100–101, Grande imprimerie africaine (1984)
^ abNgom, Biram,(Babacar Sédikh Diouf). "La question Gelwaar et l’histoire du Siin", Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1987, 69 p.
^ abSarr, Alioune, "Histoire du Sine-Saloum" (Sénégal), (introduction, bibliographie et notes par Charles Becker), in Bulletin de l'IFAN, tome 46, série B, nos 3-4, 1986–1987. p 19
^Gravrand, Henry, "Le Gabou dans les traditions orales du Ngabou", Éthiopiques 28 special issue No, socialist journal of Black African culture (1981)
^Hair, Paul Edward Hedley, "The Use of African Languages in Afro-European contacts in Guinea : 1440-1560", [in] "Sierra Leone Language Review", no. 5, 1966, p. 13 
^Hair, Paul Edward Hedley, "Africa encountered: European contacts and evidence, 1450-1700", Variorum, 1997, pp 213–15 & 248, ISBN0-86078-626-9
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^Diouf, Niokhobaye. "Chronique du royaume du Sine" Suivie de notes sur les traditions orales et les sources écrites concernant le royaume du Sine par Charles Becker et Victor Martin. (1972). Bulletin de l'Ifan, Tome 34, Série B, n° 4, (1972). (pp 727–729, pp 16–18)
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