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Soninke people. The famous Malian singer Oumou Sangare.
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The famous Malian singer Oumou Sangare.

Soninke warriors from late 19th century.

Mauritanian Soninke warriors from late 19th century.

People living in Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. In Mauritania they dominate in a small area around the town of Selibaby and south to the banks of the Senegal river.
Altogether they count about 1 million; LookLex has not been able to find any good estimate to their numbers in Mauritania. Ethnologue sets the number of Soninke speakers to 39,000 in 2006; considering that many take Arabic as first language in today's Mauritania, the actual size of the Soninke population may be set at 150,000 (2009 estimate).
Soninke are closely related to the Imraguen people. Sonike of Mauritania speak the Azayr dialect of Soninke, a dialect heavily influenced by Berber language. Soninke was recognized as a national language in 1991, together with Wolof and Pulaar. Soninke are Sunni Muslims, and were among the first south of the Sahara to embrace that religion.
Their economy is based on agriculture and trading.
The social regulations are rigid and position in society is defined by family, and there is little social mobility. Polygamy is practiced, but marriage does not happen across class divisions.

By Tore Kjeilen