A Diversity of Clans in Northern Togo

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There are dozens of Fulani clans in West Africa, each with it’s own territory and identity. Northern Togo acts as cultural melting pot, as clans from Burkina Faso, Mali, and Cote d’Ivoire have settled here. Traveling from camp to camp in northern Togo is like traveling through several West African countries.

Watch the video from our visit with the Djelgobge:

With the help of the Sow Djibril Souleymane, secretary of the local Fulani association, we explored several camps around the town of Mango.

First we visited Koundji Harri, the oldest woman in the region:

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She is the granddaughter of Malian Fulani who were the first to arrive in Togo. According to her grandson, she is currently 187 years old. Although that fact is disputable, there’s no doubt she’s over 100 years old, as family records show that she gave birth to her fourth son in 1919.

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She’s a treasured resource for the local community, a living history book. During the colonial period, she was married to a French military leader in Mango. Although the Frenchman demanded milk from the local population, she says he was generally kind to them. After independence she returned to her Fulani lifestyle and married a Fulani who’d come from Cote d’Ivoire.

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Koundji Harri with her fourth-born son.

The Fulani from Cote d’Ivoire in Togo accompanying Anoufoh warriors. The Anoufoh came from Cote d’Ivoire to conquer new territories, and while the Fulani did not fight, they did help the warriors. For example, legend has it that a Fulani man had the power to transform himself into a lion. Each night he scouted nearby villages and reported to the Anoufoh leaders who would proceed to attack the villages. Arriving in Togo, the Anoufoh chased the native Gam-Gam out of the town of Mango. Fond of the town, the Anoufoh settled in Mango while the Gam-Gam fled into the bush across the Oti River. With the Anoufoh settled in Mango, the Fulani didn’t take well to the village life, so they also crossed the river and resumed their agro-pastoralist lifestyle alongside the Gam-Gam exiles. These Fulani are known today as the Sangnabe.

Next, we visited a camp of Djelgobge Fulani who emigrated from northern Burkina Faso:

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For years, this family had been traveling to Togo every dry season, but they finally decided to settle permanently near Mango.

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These domed tents are unique to the Djelgobge.

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To make their tents, women weave matts out of straw.

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Another unique characteristic of the Djelgobge is that the woman milk the cattle.

In other Fulani clans this job is reserved for men.

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A calf awaits the arrival of the herd.

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The herd returns from pasture at dusk.

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The family lights a fire to attract the cattle. The flames tell the cattle “this is home – this is where we’ll sleep tonight”.

The smoke also keeps flies from annoying the animals.

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It’s portrait time!

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We spent a peaceful night sleeping under the trees with the family.

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They were gracious hosts, killing two roosters for supper and treating us to fresh milk.

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The chief of the camp.

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Distributing photographs is one of the highlights of this project.

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Guida’s advancing quite well as a photography apprentice!

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14 Responses to “A Diversity of Clans in Northern Togo”

  1. Shari Crist says:

    Fabulous! Thank you so much! This project really makes me feel so happy. I so appreciate the video component, which really helps to explain the context of your project to others. I am laughing about the kid in the Obama shirt, because I took a photo of a kid wearing the same shirt in Mali! Christoph, Carl, Jessica’s PC dog, really perks up his ears when he hears the sounds of West Africa. Our best to you both. Bon journe!
    Shari, Jess, and Carl

  2. Ianissimo says:

    Stophskins,
    I predict that Koundji Harri will soon turn into a lion, and then defeat the returning Gam Gam.

    I love the little factoids like how the women milk the cattle and the fire brings the cattle together and it helps shoo away the flies.

    You are getting unbelievable content. Amazing!

    The video is awesome, and the music is great. Where did you get the music?

    Your brother, Ian

  3. Pat Simpson says:

    I am studying about the Fulani in my Regional art of Western Sudan at Cleveland State Univ in Ohio. Your pictures, videos and words are really making my learning very real and exciting You are doing a very professional job of presenting the people and their lives. I will continue to follow you in your trip. My daughter traveled in Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana last summer so that she could learn more about the people. Thank you for the efforts and patience involved as you have overcome many hurdles so far. Don’t give up! You are doing well!!!!

  4. Hi Pat,

    Thanks for your message! It’s great to know our photos and videos are
    useful in illustrating what you’re studying. Please share our site
    with others who may be interested.

    We really appreciate the encouragement. Don’t hestitate to keep in
    touch as we continue the trip!

    Christoph and Guida

  5. I am very happy to read this. This is the kind of info that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that’s at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

  6. Schnoke says:

    Thank you for a nice article.

  7. Anna says:

    This is AWESOME!!! Thank you for what you are doing. I used to live in Mango…pretty sure I recognize some of the people in the video. I love these people and pray for them often. Thank you so much for your invaluable information and work!!!

  8. kowouvi says:

    j’ai beaucoup aimé les photos. je suis togolaise et ma grand mère paternelle est peule. je voulais en savoir un peu plus étant complétement déracinée. merci.

  9. bah says:

    greeting’s from fouta djallon. thank’s for your job.

  10. hady says:

    I’m really happy to visit this website.
    I’m even fulani. I come from senegal.
    I lived close to the River Valley.
    I find that really pathetic that fulani people so in entire spread warm thanks for your visit to westafrica. Veggie hady dieng them.

  11. c’est belle cette nature et cette mode de vie chez les peuls du togo,sachez (peuls du togo)que vous etes les memes avec les peuls du fouta djallon ,j’aimerais vraiment vous rendre visite un jour si Dieu le veut .qu’il unisse les peuls aamiine

  12. Rachid BARRY says:

    Sujet très intéressant mais le contenu ne semble pas refléter le Titre : La diversité des clans Peuls au Togo”. J’espère qu’il sera possible d’identifier clairement les différents clans peuls notamment du nord togo où ils sont le plus concentrés.

  13. Sow says:

    je suis très ravi de découvrir mes parents du Togo à travers vous, je souhaite avoir les contacts des auteurs.

  14. Mohammed yeroh. Barrie says:

    I am very proud to be a Fulani, Allah is really great, we circle the worldwide, I am really glad be a Fulani from Liberia,Monrovia, I was born in new kru town, good job.