Soninke Women of Mauritania Painting Their Hut
(Photo from Mauritania)
The Soninke (also called Sarakole, Seraculeh, or Serahuli) are a Mandé people who descend from the Bafour and are closely related to the Imraguen of Mauritania.
They speak the Soninke language, a Mande language. They were the founders of the ancient empire of Ghana c. 750-1240 CE.
Subgroups of Soninke include the Maraka and Wangara. After contact with Muslim Almoravid traders from the north around 1066, Soninke nobles of neighboring Takrur were among the first ethnic groups from Sub-Saharan West Africa to embrace Islam.
When the Ghana empire dispersed, the resulting diaspora brought Soninkes to Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.
This diaspora included Wangara, famous traders who spread far from traditionally Mande areas. Hence the term Wangara is used today in Ghana and Burkina Faso to describe the Soninke populations in cities and towns.
Today, Soninke around 1 million.