Gurma people


Gurma / Gourma / Binumba / Gourmantche

Gurma (also called Gourma or Gourmantché) is an ethnic group living mainly in Burkina Faso, around Fada N'Gourma, and also in northern areas of Togo and Benin, as well as southwestern Niger and the Northern Volta of Kingdom of Dagbon, Ghana.

They number approximately 1,750,000.

Gurma is also the name of a language spoken by the Gurma (or bigourmantcheba - as they call themselves) people, which is part of the Gur language family. See Gurmanchema language and Oti-Volta languages for related languages spoken by the Gurma.

Gurma map

According to a 1967 estimate, the Gurma together with the related tribes the Konkomba (self-appellation, Kpunkpamba), the Moba, the Tobote (also called Bassari), and the Kaselem number 220,000 in Togo, 280,000 in Ghana, and 220,000 in the Upper Volta. The Gurma language belongs to the Gur linguistic group. The Gurma have preserved local traditional beliefs, although some practice Islam. Farming is the chief occupation (millet, rice, sorghum), but cattle are also raised.

The Gurma live in a wooded savanna that becomes drier and grassier to the north; their mostly flat land is marked by occasional inselberg hills. They live in round mud-brick houses arranged in circular compounds that are enclosed by woven-straw fences. Descent is patrilineal; a man and his one or more wives, perhaps a younger brother or an aging mother, and the children of all these live together. They are mostly farmers. During the agricultural season (June–October) millet is grown between compounds.

The closest neighbours belong to kin groups, and hamlets consist of compounds of lineage members, clan members, those who profess the same introduced religion (Islam or Christianity), or people with a common skill, such as blacksmithing. These associations are generally more important than ethnic identification. A village is a collection of hamlets, and chiefdoms (today sometimes corresponding to the administrative categories arrondissements and cantons) include several, or occasionally many, villages; chiefs then recognize the morho naba, or paramount chief, in Fada N’Gourma, as well as the authorities of the Burkina Faso government. Weaving, dyeing, pottery, and basketry are important crafts. Most Gurma men, and many women, migrate to seek work in coastal West African states, but most later return to reside in their homeland.