Who are Kanuri?

Have you ever heard of Kanuri people? If you haven’t, this article is just for you!


The Kanuri is an African ethnic group of people that live mostly on the territories of the former Kanem and Bornu Empires in Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. Kanuri people include several subgroups and dialect groups and some of them feel themselves distinct from the Kanuri.
Their origins are traced to ruling lineages of the medieval Kanem-Bornu Empire.
Kanuri groups have traditionally been inactive, engaging in farming, fishing the Chad Basin, and engaged in trade and salt processing.



In the 11th century the Kanuri became Muslims. Kanem was a centre of Muslim learning and soon the Kanuri people were controlling the whole area surrounding Lake Chad and a powerful empire called Kanem Empire. Kanem Empire reached its height in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when the much Africa was ruled by them.



Kanuri people are separated by several subgroups, and are identified by different names depending on the region.
The largest diaspore of Kanuri is placed in the northeast corner of. Some 3 million Kanuri speakers live in Nigeria, not including the 200,000 speakers of the Manga or Mangari dialect.
In southeastern Niger they form the majority of the inactive population. There, the Kanuri are commonly called Beri Beri. The 400,000 Kanuri people in Niger include the Manga or Mangari subgroup, numbering 100,000. They regard themselves as distinct from the Beri Beri.



Originally a pastoral people, the Kanuri were one of many Nilo-Saharan groups homegrown in the Central South Sahara, beginning their expansion in the area of Lake Chad in the late seventh century.
According to Kanuri legend, Sef, son of Dhu Ifazan of Yemen, arrived in Kanem in the ninth century and united the population into the Sayfawa dynasty. This legend is likely to be a product of later Islamic influence.

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After the downfall of the Bornu Empire and the Invasion to Africa by Europeans in the 19th century, the Kanuri were divided under the maintenance of the British, French and German Empires.
Despite the loss of the Kanuri state, the Shehu of Bornu continued as the head of the Bornu Emirate. The current ruling line, the al-Kanemi dynasty, dates to the extension of Muhammad al-Amin al-Kanemi in the early 19th century which had displaced the Sayfawa dynasty. The 19th Shehu, Mustafa Ibn Umar El-Kanemi, died in February 2009.

Family and social relations


Social relations in Kanuri society usually idealize a perfect family. A man's prestige is based on the size of his household and the number of his patron-client relationships. His followers provide farm and household labor, support, and defense. As a return, he provides food, clothing, bride-price, and sometimes, even a bride.
For men, marriage usually appears first at age about 20, for women, at about 14. The preferred bride for a man is a young virgin, 10 to 14 years of age. But this is a very expensive form of marriage; most of men cannot afford it as a first marriage.
In accordance with Islamic law, polygyny is also permitted and it’s practiced.

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