The Seereer ethnic group

The Seereer people are a West African ethnoreligious group found in Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania. Historically, they have been an ethnoreligious group until quite recently in their history where many of them have been converted to Christianity or Islam. Other Seereer groups who still practice Seereer religion retains their historical "ethnoreligious status". 

As stated elsewhere on this website, the name Seereer is spelled in various ways. In Gambia and English speaking countries, it is spelled Serer, in Senegal, Mauritania and other French speaking countries, it is spelled Sérère, and in the Seereer-Siin language, it is spelled Seereer or Sereer following its pronunciation. Seereer scholars usually spell it as Seereer which reflects the actual pronunciation in Seereer-Siin, and on occasions, the spelling Sereer is used. 


The Seereer  people are very diverse and include various subgroups some of whom do not speak the Seereer  language (or Seereer-Siin) but one of the Cangin languages. The Cangin languages are not dialects of Seereer-Siin. They are more closely related to each other than to Seereer-Siin. As noted by  University of Ibadan et al. (p. 63) :


"[...] closest lexical similarities (at 84%) occur in two pairs of languages : Non-Lehar and Ndut-Palor. The Safen language falls between the two above groupings.  However, according to lexico- and phono-statistics combined, it is seen as being in closer relationship with Non and Lehar. Patterns of language use and stated language preference also indicate strong links between the Ndut and the Palor and between the Non and the Lehar (as well as between the Safen and the Palor)."


See the table and diagram below for details about the various Seereer  groups, their languages and accompanying notes. The population / number of speakers column in the table below is based on estimates and may not necessarily represent an accurate picture of the total Seereer population. The Gambia and Mauritania do not keep accurate or reliable records and Wolofization is a major issue in Senegal (Ngom et al.) and in the Gambia ( Mwakikagile, p. 84; Gregg & Trilloal., p. 246-7).


We have omitted the qualifier "Seereer" which precedes the name of the subgroup. However as stated elsewhere on this website, it is not uncommon to come across this qualifier, for example the Saafi people are sometimes called Seereer-Saafeen or Seereer-Saafi, the Ndut people sometimes called Seereer-Ndut, the Noon people are sometimes referred to as Seereer-Noon, and so on. Saafeen is a region inhabited by the Saafi people, and Lehar a region inhabited by the Laalaa people. This qualifier (Seereer) affirms the people's Seereer  heritage and connects them to their shared history, ethnicity and cultural identity, but also recognising the subgroup's distinct cultural heritage. 

"Serer people. A couple of things to know about them." From "Lutteuses 47". A documentary by Elena Dalmasso.


"Lutteuses 47″ is a documentary about Senegalese women, their place in society and their determination and commitment as women, mothers and Badjenu Gox [aunt]."   (February 2013)  


Official website :  www.lutteuses47.com/about/

English

This article is part of the Seereer culture series. For other culture related articles, click on the category button below:

Please cite this work as: "The Seereer ethnic group" (2015) [in] The Seereer Resource Centre, URL: 

http://www.seereer.com/seereer-ethnic-group















High priestesses (Saltigue) at the 2010 Xoy ceremony.


Picture courtesy of Serere.sine.name











Ndut initiates

Maad a Sinig Maye Koor Juuf


The last King of Siin. 


Reigned : 1924 to 3rd August 1969 (the date of his death). He died at Jaxaaw (Diakhao).

The people
Their respective languages
Population /  Number of speakers

(Estimates)
Remarks
1,876,812

All countries

National status (Senegal)
They are the most numerous of the Seereer group and speaks Seereer proper. They are found in Senegal, the Gambia, Mauritania and in the West. Their language is not a Cangin languge. The name for themselves is Seex or Seeh (or Seh) following its pronunciation. The name for their language is Singandum or Seereer Singandum which is the same as Seereer-Siin. Singandum is the Seereer precolonial Kingdom of Sine (Seereer proper: Siin). Seereer is one of the officially recognised local languages of Senegal written in the Latin alphabet. ISO 639-3 :srr. It has various dialects as you can see in the diagram below. Total population (for comparisons only) 1,840,712 in Senegal (source : Agence Nationale de Statistique et de la Démographie, 2007)  +  31,900 in Gambia (source : Ethnologue, 2006) +  4200 in Mauritania (source: Joshua Project, 2015 [1]).
200,000
(2012)

Increasing
Their language is one of the Cangin languages. Saafi-Saafi is the principal Cangin language with the number of speakers growing steadily. The Cangin languages are not dialects of Seereer-Siin (or Seereer), but distinct from Seereer with a 22% intelligibility. Saafi-Saafi is also one of the officially recognised local languages of Senegal written in the Latin alphabet. ISO 639-3 : sav. It has various dialects as you can see in the diagram below. In 1977, the population was estimated to be 25,000 (Institut Géographique National (1977) [in]  University of Ibadan et al. p. 48). 
38,600 
(2007)
In French, it is spelled Ndoute. Their language is one of the Cangin languages. ISO 639-3 : ndvIn 1977, the population was estimated to be 15,000 (Institut Géographique National (1977) [in] University of Ibadan et al. p. 48).
32,900
(2007)
In French, it is spelled Non. Their language is one of the Cangin languages. ISO 639-3 : snfIn 1977, the population was estimated to be 15,000 (Institut Géographique National (1977) [in] University of Ibadan et al. p. 48).
Sili-sili (or Sili)
10,700 
(2007)

decreasing
They are sometimes referred to as Palor or Seereer-Palor, and their language as Palor. The name for themselves is Waro and the name for their language is Sili-Sili or Sili or Falor. Sili means Seereer in their language. Their language is one of the Cangin languages. ISO 639-3 : fapIn 1977, the population was estimated to be 5,000 (Institut Géographique National (1977) [in] University of Ibadan et al. p. 48). 
Laalaa (or Laal)
12,000 
(2007).
Their language is sometimes referred to Lehar which derives its name from the Lehar region in Senegal where they inhabit. Their language is one of the Cangin languages. ISO 639-3 : caeIn 1977, the population was estimated to be 2,500 (Institut Géographique National (1977) [in] University of Ibadan et al. p. 48)
They speak Seereer but with a dialect. See Seereer-Siin above.
 
Their name is sometimes spelled Niominka. In Seereer proper, their name is spelled Ñoominka ISO 639-3 : srr-nio
They speak Seereer but with a dialect. See Seereer-Siin above.
 
Other spelling variations include: Jegem, Njegem, Njegen or Gyegem. They speak Seereer with a Dyegueme (or Gyegem) dialect.  ISO 639-3 : srr-dye

Language diagram

The diagram below depicts the various Seereer groups, their languages and dialects.

Notes

[1] Joshua Project may not be 100% reliable but it is the best source we have to date concerning the Seereer population of Mauritania. Joshua Project has worked with some of the local Seereer community for many years and like the Gambia, Mauritania does not keep accurate or reliable records. 

Bibliography and external links

  1. Official recognition of Seereer in Senegal : Article 1 of Senegalese Constitution of 7th January 2001. Original  decree: Decree  No. 75.1025 of 10th October 1975. See "DECRET N° 2005-990 du 21 octobre 2005", Published: J.O. N° 6280 du Samedi 27 Mai 2006,  Secrétariat général du Gouvernement de la République du Sénégal [in] Journal officiel du Sénégal  (Saturday, 27th May 2006)  (last retrieved 24th August 2015)
  2. Official recognition of Saafi-Saafi in Senegal :  "DECRET n° 2005-989 du 21 octobre 2005" Published: J.O. N° 6280 du Samedi 27 Mai 2006, Secrétariat général du Gouvernement de la République du Sénégal [in] Journal officiel du Sénégal  (Saturday, 27th May 2006)  (last retrieved 24th August 2015)
  3. Seereer in Ethnologue  (last retrieved 24th August 2015) 
  4. "OLAC resources in and about the Serer language"  (last retrieved 24th August 2015)
  5. Saafi-Saafi in Ethnologue  (last retrieved 24th August 2015)
  6. Ndut in Ethnologue  (last retrieved 24th August 2015)
  7. Noon in Ethnologue  (last retrieved 24th August 2015)
  8. Palor (or ''Sili-Sili'') in Ethnologue  (last retrieved 24th August 2015)
  9. Laalaa in Ethnologue (last retrieved 24th August 2015)
  10. Agence Nationale de Statistique et de la Démographie - (2007)
  11. Seereer in Mauritania :  Joshua project  (last retrieved 24th August 2015)
  12. "Institut Géographique National (1977)" [in] University of Ibadan. Institute of African Studies; West African Languages Survey; West African Linguistic Society "The Journal of West African Languages", Volumes 24-25, Cambridge University Press (1994),   p. 48, 63. For other references to Seereer and Cangin languages, see p. 47-63.
  13. Ngom, Pierre; Gaye, Aliou; & Sarr, Ibrahima; "Ethnic Diversity and Assimilation in Senegal: Evidence from the 1988 Census" p. 1-7, 25,  [in] African  Census Analysis Project (ACAP). ACAP Working Paper No. 13th February 2000  (last retrieved 24th August 2015)
  14. Gregg, Emma; Trillo, Richard, "Rough Guide to the Gambia",  Rough Guides (2003), p.246-7, ISBN  9781843530831
  15. Mwakikagile, Godfrey "Ethnic Diversity and Integration in the Gambia : The Land, The People and The Culture", Continental Press (2010), p. 84, ISBN 9789987932221