Serer people

Serer people

ethnic group

caption=A Serer mother and children in a rural village in Siné Saloum, Senegal. While such places maintain traditional Serer culture, many Serer people now live in urban areas or in the diaspora.
poptime=Over 1.18 million [ [ Ethnologue: Serer] (2002)]
popplace=Senegal (1,155,000), The Gambia (28,000), small numbers in Mauritania and overseas
rels=Catholicism, Islam, Animism
langs=Serer language including dialects, Wolof
French (Senegal and Mauritania),
English (The Gambia),
related=Wolof people, Toucouleur people

The Serer (also spelled Sérère, Sereer, etc.) are the third largest ethnic group in Senegal, and also present in The Gambia and Mauritania. The Serer heartland is in the southwest of modern Senegal, running from the southern edge of the Cap-Vert peninsula south and east to the Gambian border. Pre-colonial Serer states included the Kingdom of Sine and Kingdom of Saloum. One in six Senegalese is of Serer ethnicity, most famously the first President of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor. While traditionally speakers of the Serer language, most Senegalese—Serer people included—now learn Wolof as a first language. Rural Serer communities largely resisted the influx of Islam in the 12th–17th centuries, a plurality of Serer people are either decedents of 19th century converts to Roman Catholicism or else retain Traditional beliefs. Serer people are closely related to their Wolof, Malinke, and—to a lesser extent—Fula neighbors. Some people of Toucouleur ethnicity trace their ancestry to equal parts Fula and Serer cultures.


Before the creation of the kingdom, the Sine area was populated by Serer from Fouta-Toro, who fled because of Almoravides pressure wanting to convert Animists to Islam, and especially because of the dryness which started to prevail. The migration which lasted from the 11th to the 13th century lead them to the area of Sine, where they set up at once their territorial rules of management. They divided the area into "lamanats", directed by "lamanes" which themselves controlled several local leaders. The Wolof Empire exerted its domination over them after their arrival. They lived in peace and practised their animist religion. They practised agriculture, breeding and fishing. The Sosses, who were present before the arrival of Serer were either driven back to the south or cohabited in peace with the Serer. Peulhs and some Toucouleurs were also present. At the beginning of 15th century, Mandingues came from Kaabu to live in Sine. According to the oral traditions, these Malinkes belonged to the nanco nobility of Kaabu. Their departure of Kaabu is mysterious and a disputed subject among historians. Some think that they left Kaabu voluntarily, while intending to speak by about Diolas about a rich ground directed by local leaders, but deprived of true kings. According to another assumption, their departure would be because they wanted to make a putsch to Kaabu and that to punish them, they were driven out of Kaabu by Mansa. But everyone agrees to think that these Malinkes were informed of the grounds of Sine. Once they arrived at Sine, they cohabited with the Serer for approximately five years, in accordance with oral traditions, before seizing power at about 1500 and creating the Kingdom of Sine. The creation of the kingdom is due to the person of Maysa Waly Mane, who took the name of Maysa Waly Dione towards the end of his long regency. Maysa Waly is the first bour sine, and he created the guelwar dynasty, the reigning dynasty of Sine, born from marriages between the local serer chiefs and the malinkes conquerors. Before seizing the power, the Mandingues had to understand the Serer and their habits. It is why Serer admire their confidence towards them and accept them as kings. The Kingdom of Sine ceased existing as such in 1969 and is now part of independent Senegal.

Social organization in Sine kingdom

While arriving at Sine, Malinkes brought in the Serer's country the system of the castes, because before their arrival the company serer was a levelling company, without castes. But their system of government is inspired by Wolofs, at time when Djolof dominated the area. The capacity was divided as follows: the king, or "bour" of Sine, appointed the chiefs of provinces named "lamanes", often of origin serer or "guelwars", the "farba kaba" chief of the army and of the slaves, the "farba binda" Minister for Finance, of the police force and the royal palace, dialigne the chief of the provinces inhabited by of Peulhs, the diaraf beukeneg chief of the servants of the court, and the large "diaraf" council to advise of the king.


The ethnic group Serer is typically Senegalese, because it is found only in Senegal, in the old areas of Baol, Sine, Saloum and in Gambia. The Serers groups are characterized by their spoken dialects, the inhabited areas and the practised trades; indeed, the majority of Serers are farmers since unmemorable times, while they entrust their herds to the shepherds peuls with whom they always cohabited. However one finds of Serers Niominka which practises fishing in the delta of Saloum. Serers and Toucouleurs are linked by a bond of "cousinage". This is a tradition common to many ethnic groups of West Africa called a "Relation du jeste" ("Joking relationship"), which enables them to be criticized, but also obliges them with the mutual aid and with the mutual respect. Serers call this bond of cousinage. This bond is because Serer are the parents of Toucouleurs. In Tekrour, it is Serers and Peuls which, while being mongrel, gave birth to the toucoulor ethnic group. Also several legends explain this cousinage. Serers also maintain the same bond cousinage with Diolas of Casamance with which they have a very old relationship. In the ethnis group serer this same bond exists between the patronyms, for example between Diouf and Faye. Even if methodologies were different, several investigations make it possible to try an evaluation of the number of Serers in Senegal.

erer patronyms

Common patronyms are Diouf, Faye, Ngom, Sene, Dione, Tine, Loum, Diene, Thiaw, Marone, Senghor, Ndour, Bakhoum, all typically of the Serer ethnic group, and Diagne, Sarr, Bop, Ndiaye, Dieng, Seck, Diop.


Their principal sport played by the Serrer is the wrestling.


The Serer believe in a universal God called Roog and have an elaborate religious tradition dealing with various dimensions of life and death, space and time, and ancestral spirit communications.

Currently, some Serers—animists originally—have become Christians, while some others have converted to Islam.

Notable Serer people

The most famous Serer, Léopold Sédar Senghor, was Senegal's first president and a Catholic.Others serer of great reputations are known also throughout the world: El-Hadji Diouf, Footballer and twice winner of the African gold Boot and Yande Codou Sene, a popular singer of the traditional Serer style who Youssou N'dour considers a great inspiration. But also the second Senegalese president and current Secretary-General of La Francophonie, Abdou Diouf. Among the personalities, we raise the names of the politicians Blaise Diagne ( one father serer) who was a Senegalese political leader, the first black African elected to the French National Assembly, and mayor of Dakar, Ngalandou Diouf the first African elected official since the beginning of colonization, it represents the commune of Rufisque (Teunggèdj) at the General advice of Ndar, capital of French-speaking Africa.

ee also

*Demographics of Senegal

Language and dialects

*Serer language
*Seereer-Siin language

erer regions & states

*Kingdom of Sine


*Lucie Gallistel Colvin. Historical Dictionary of Senegal. Scarecrow Press/ Metuchen. NJ - London (1981) ISBN 081081885x
*Portions of this article were translated from the French Language Wikipedia article , 2008-07-08.

French language bibilography

*fr Charles Becker, "Vestiges historiques, témoins matériels du passé dans les pays sereer", Dakar, CNRS-ORSTOM, 1993, 12 p.
*fr Ismaïla Ciss, "Les Seerer du Nord-Ouest", Dakar, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 1982, 66 p. (Mémoire de Maîtrise)
*fr Ismaïla Ciss, "L’évolution des sociétés Sereer du nord-ouest du milieu du XIXe à la veille de la deuxième guerre mondiale", Dakar, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 1993, 35 p. (Mémoire de DEA)
*fr Ismaïla Ciss, "Colonisation et mutation des sociétés sereer du nord-ouest du milieu du XIXe siècle à la 2e guerre mondiale", Dakar, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, 2001, 396 p. (Thèse)
*fr Léon Diagne, "Le système de parenté matrilinéaire sérère", Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1985, 279 p. (Thèse de 3e cycle)
*fr Salif Dione, "L’Education traditionnelle à travers les chants et poèmes sereer", Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1983, 344 p. (Thèse de 3e cycle)
*fr Marie-Madeleine Diouf, "L’image de l’enfant à travers le conte sereer du Sine", Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1985, 217 p. (Mémoire de Maîtrise)
*fr Marguerite Dupire, « Funérailles et relations entre lignages dans une société bilinéaire : les Serer (Sénégal) », "Anthropos", St Paul, Fribourg, 1977, vol. 72, p. 376-400
*fr Marguerite Dupire, « Les "tombes de chiens" : mythologies de la mort en pays Serer (Sénégal) », "Journal of Religion in Africa", 1985, vol. 15, fasc. 3, p. 201-215
*fr Amad Faye, "La poésie funèbre en pays sereer du Sine", Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1980, 212 p. (Mémoire de Maîtrise)
*fr Jean-Marc Gastellu, "L’égalitarisme économique des Serer du Sénégal", Paris, ORSTOM, 1981, 808 p. (Travaux et Documents de l’ORSTOM n°128) (Thèse d’Etat publiée)
*fr Henri Gravrand, "La Civilisation Sereer. Cosaan : les origines", Dakar, NEA, 1983, 361 p.
*fr Brigitte Guigou, "Les effets de l’islamisation et du catholicisme sur la condition de la femme serer (Sénégal)", Paris, EHESS, 1985, 7-106 p. (Diplôme d’Études Approfondies, sociologie)
*fr Oumy K. Ndiaye, "Femmes sérères et projets de développement : exemple de la diffusion des foyers améliorés dans le Département de Fatick, Sénégal", Université Laval, 1988 (M.A.)
*fr Théodore Ndiaye, "Littérature orale et culture : exemple des Serer du Sénégal", Paris, Université de Paris, 1972 (Thèse de 3e cycle)
*fr Robert A.D. Sarr, "L’éducation traditionnelle chez les Sérèr (Sénégal)", Paris, EPHE, 1971, 210 p. (Mémoire)
*fr Robert A.D. Sarr, "Société sérèr et problèmes d’éducation traditionnelle et moderne", Paris, Université de Paris V-EPHE, 1973, 334 p. (Thèse de 3e cycle)
*fr Birane Sène, "La royauté dans vingt contes sérères", Dakar, Université de Dakar, 198?, (Mémoire de Maîtrise)
*fr Vincent Aly Thiaw, "Les Sereer du Kajoor au XIXe siècle", Uniuversité de Dakar, 1990, 117 p. (Mémoire de Maîtrise)
*fr Georges Gaan Tine, "Ethnographie comparée et tourisme au Sénégal : étude du cas des pyramides dites "sereer" de Bandia", Dakar, Université de Dakar, 1988, 119 p. (Mémoire de Maîtrise)
*fr Paul E. Vallée, "Changements socio-économiques dans une communauté Serer", Université de Montréal, 1969 (M. A.)

External links

*fr [ « A la découverte de la civilisation sereer avec le R. P. Gravrand »] (article de Papa Massène Sène dans "Éthiopiques", n° 39, nouvelle série, volume 2, 4e trimestre 1984)
*fr [ « Diversité et unicité sérères : l'exemple de la région de Thiès »] (article de Ousmane Sémou Ndiaye dans "Éthiopiques", n° 54, nouvelle série, volume 7, 2e semestre 1991)
*fr [ « Politique coloniale et organisation économique des pays serer, Sénégal, 1910-1950 »] (article de Jean-Marc Gastellu, d'après son ouvrage "L’égalitarisme économique des Serer du Sénégal", Paris, ORSTOM, 1981)

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