Originating from Mali, W. Africa the Mandinka Tribe (also known as the Malinke and more famously the Mandingo Tribe), are a mostly Muslim practicing tribe now settled primarily in the country of Gambia. Today, the tribe has spread throughout Senegal, Gambia, Mali, and Guinea.
Primarily a people centered on agriculture, Mandinka villages are ruled by local chiefs as well as a select group of elders. While many today living in big cities were modern styles of dress are common, in local villages, there is a great pride in maintaining long-standing traditions and forms of dress. As seen in many West African countries, women generally wear a loose, scoop-necked tops over a long skirts with an accompanying headwrap. For formal occasions men and women may wear the grand boubou. For women this is a loose dress that extends to ground level and may be trimmed in lace or embroidery. For men it is a long robe-like garment covering long pants and a shirt.*
While many members of the Mandinka contribute the the larger community as farmers, another large portion are traditionally artists, musicians, craftsman as well as athletes. "Laamb" or traditional hand-to-hand combat wrestling is a very popular sport both in Gambia as well as Senegal. As in many sports, the men who participate take on a great undertaking in training and are highly revered. Traditionally, the sport was also used by young men to court wives, prove manliness, and bring honor to their villages. Oils are spread across the body during pre-fight rituals and amulets placed around their necks for protection against evil or witchcraft.
Regrading the arts, music and mask making are most prominent. Well known for their particular skill in passing down their oral history, the Mandinka are also well know for their mask making skill as well. Often masks are made depicting the faces of warriors, as this tribe is known for its brave fighters and fighting style. Interestingly in connection the arts, it is said that quite a few of today's African-American descendants living in America today descended from the people of the Mandinka. If this is true, it is no wonder that the strength and power of music / the arts has survived in it's black American descendants, the creators of the most influential form of music today ... hip-hop!
Bonus Film: Watch both Black-Thought & ?uestlove discuss their DNA discoveries and connection to the continent.
Partial source: *www.everyculture.com