Gambia, Republic of The
- Roderic C. Knight
Country in West Africa. With an area of only 11,295 km², it is the smallest country on the continent.
The 2000 population estimate was 1·24 million, of which 42% are Mandinka, 18% Fula (Fulani, Fulbe or Peul), 16% Wolof, 10% Jola (Diola or Dyola) and 9% Serahuli (Soninke), with other groups comprising less than 4%, and non-Gambians 1%. The population is 90% Muslim, 9% Christian, and 1% follow traditional religions. English is the official language.
Most Gambians are agriculturalists, though the Wolof and Mandinka also have a strong mercantile tradition. The Fula, now sedentary, were at one time cattle nomads, and they still keep herds of cows. With the exception of the Jola, all Gambian ethnic groups have some degree of hierarchical social organization, one of the marks of which is that certain skilled crafts, including music, are practised primarily by hereditary professionals. The generic term griot generally refers to specialists in music, praise-oratory and oral history in West Africa, but each ethnic group has an individual term for this profession....