Bagirmi people

Anthropology: Culture and History of the Bagirmi People

Bagirmi means a multiethnic society organized like an old nation. The main population group in the region was known to be Barma, who established and operated the state. The Arabs used to be the main inhabitants. Additionally,  the Fula played an important role in local religious life. “Bagirumi” is derived from the Arabic language (Bagir, cow, Mia, Hundred) and, according to tradition, indicates the amount of compliment the Arabs and Pauls paid to the first sovereign.

A basic introduction to Bagirmi


Bagil Mikoa was supposedly located along the Chari and Bar Elgig rivers in the Republic of Chad, from N’Djamena in the north to Bousso in the south. Furthermore, this core was known to be surrounded by tributaries. Bagirmi was wedged between two competing kingdoms. To the northwest was Bornu, while Wadai was to the northeast.


In 1954, there were approximately 25,000 Barmas. Furthermore, about 78,000 Arabs and 25,000 Peuls in the area as well. It was corresponding to the central and tributary areas of Baguirmi in the 19th century. From late before the colonial era, there is evidence of Bagirmi migration. It continues then and to this day. Bagirmi has a relatively low fertility rate.

Language link

Tar Barma is spoken by the Barma. It belongs to the central Sudanese branch of Nirosahara and is closely related to the languages spoken by the people of Sarah, Kenga, and Brala in Chad.

History of the Bagirmi

History of Bagirmi

Bagirumi’s pre-colonial history focuses on its ruler (mbang) and his court affairs. There are known to be four categorized phases: formation, attack, counter-attack, and final.

Early era

The period of formation (c. 15221608) corresponds to the reign of the first four kings. Their first, Dara Birni, has a tradition of leading skilled workers from Kenga’s territory around 1522. The gang stops under a tamarind tree (Tar Barma: mas). There is a young Fula milkmaid named Enya. Later, around this tree, a complex called “Masseña” was built to commemorate both the tree and the milk delivery person, making it the capital of Bagilmi.

Dara Birni is said to have protected the inhabitants of the area, and in return they paid homage and the number became the name of the kingdom (see “Identification”). Nothing is known about the second and third with sovereignty. The fourth ruler is best known for imposing Islam on Bagilmi, expanding the state significantly, and creating much of its governance structure. With his death, traditionally modified around 1608, Bagilmi entered a more aggressive stage.

Progressive era

From 1608 to 1806, Bagilmi may have enjoyed brutal hegemony in central-eastern Sudan. In that tradition, this tenacious political system created a tributary north between Medgo, Brala, Kuka, and Babelia. It rested west of Kotoko. South between Sarua, Somurai, Nierimu, Dam, and Bua. East between Kenga and Sokoro. The city of Bidili was the center of Islamic culture, and its merchants were active throughout the region. This period ended in the second half of the 18th century when Wadai attacked. The invasion of Wadai stems from the belief that Gaulan, the ruler of Bagilmi, committed incest while marrying his sister. Gaulan’s defeat, around 1806, began a period that would last until the arrival of the French. Meanwhile, Bagilmi stages a counterattack against Wadai and Borne in an attempt to regain the lost excellence. These actions are often unsuccessful. However, there has been an expansion to the south.

The modern history of Bagirmi

At the end of the 19th century, France decided to annex central Sudan to the empire. The period preceding formal French colonization (1897-1912) constitutes the final period. Bagilmi wanted to sign a treaty with France in 1897, thus gaining support in the conflict with Ouadai. Bagilmi officials also stood behind the French and conspired with Wadai. After the final fight with the French, which ended in 1912, Bagilmi became a concrete block under the direct control of the French leader. Thus, during the colonial period that followed (during 1912-1960) and after 1960, Baguirmi ceased to be independent.

The society, culture, and economy of Bagirmi

Bagirmi people
by Wikipedia

Urban and rural settlements

Camp-like towns and villages and rural settlements were the two main pre-colonial settlement models. Many Bermas live in permanent cities in or near streams and swamps. Cities, which can cost thousands of inhabitants, are often fortified. There are various neighborhoods and large open-air markets, around which there are mosques and official residences. However, a major change in settlement patterns after colonization was the downsizing of the city of Balma. Arabs and Fulani lived in villages and camps on a fortnightly basis. The villages are small, generally fewer than 100 people, and tend to be located north and east of Bagilmi. They are breeding grounds and breed during the rain (June-September). As rainfall decreased, many people and animals moved southwest. Camps (small groups of 10 to 30 people living in temporary cottages) are the type of organization employed by transitional people.

Basic economy in Bagirmi

The commercial activities that produce survival appear to have changed little since the last colonization. Burma continues to grow grains and vegetables using fumigation and sterilization techniques (for example, the staple foods are sorghum and millet, as well as peanuts, cotton, and okra. Balma lives in a stream of fish.

Arabs and Fula are primarily shepherds, raising cattle, sheep, and goats outdoors. They also usually use shifting cultivation techniques to grow grains. All foods are increasingly cultivated not only for livelihoods but also as cash crops. During the colonial era, France failed in trying to make cotton a major cash crop. In urban areas, it is common to cut wood to sell. Bagirmi is renowned for its excellent pre-colonial craftsmanship.

Local trade

Before the colonial period, trans-Saharan, inter-regional, and local trade was conducted in Bagilmi. Trans-Saharan trade involved the exchange of slaves captured south of Bagilmi for luxury goods and weapons produced in the region around the Mediterranean. Interregional trade involves the exchange of goods produced in various ecoregions of West Africa. Forest kora can be exchanged for salt in Bagilmi

Trans-Saharan slavery was practiced by Bagilmi officials and professional slave traders, who were often not Bagilmi. Trade between regions tended to be in the hands of professional traders, many of whom were not Bagilmi. Local trade is carried out by the producers themselves. These business models changed dramatically in the 20th century. One of the main changes has been to restrict trans-Saharan trade and replace trade with European trading companies.

Division of Labor in Bagirmi

In the 1970s, the men of Balma had large fields for the production of wheat, while the women had small fields for growing vegetables. Men are usually responsible for fishing, trading, and house construction work. Women do most of the housework, produce crafts, and are prominent food traders.

Land rights

Pre-colonial land tenure systems facilitated but were not limited to, access to land. Membership in a social group guarantees access to non-marketable land. Today there are coexisting ownership systems: traditional systems – details tend to vary between regions and ethnic groups – and a modern land law based on European concepts. Europe on usufruct. Powerful individuals can use the following system to obtain free land.


Balma traditionally prefers to marry one of two cousins. However, in the 1970s, most of their marriages were unrelated. Bridal prices have been paid for most weddings. Levirato and Sororate were not practiced. Polygamy occurs most often in middle-aged men who are politically, economically, or religiously different. Divorce is easy and frequent.

 Socialization among the Bagirmi people

Balma children grow up reasonably tolerant. Failure to comply with cultural norms is unacceptable and criminals will be verbally reprimanded or spanked when necessary. Some teenage boys attend Koran schools, but a few have other forms of formal education.

map of Chad

Social organizations of Bagirmi

Before the Bagirumi colony, society was a group of tribal groups organized by class. However, class status is based on the management of political and non-economic resources. The upper class consisted of functionaries elaborately organized around the rulers of Massenia. The two lower classes of slaves and free men were food producers. Most of the officials are Balma. Barma, Arab, and Peuls are independent food producers. The slaves often came from southern Chadian tribes, such as the Sara. The income system allows authorities to draw resources from food producers. There was little relationship between the official and the food producer, except for the earners, so the tribal system continued to follow the reproductive, cultural, economic, and organized hierarchy and religion.


The official hierarchy of pre-colonial states had three levels: ruler, court, and official of the domain. The kings were in charge of the entire administration, and the court officials had duties in their estates, a collection of sites such as villages, tribes, tributaries, and sometimes marketplaces. Regional mandarins, perhaps chiefs of tributes, villages, etc., controlled part of the territory of the imperial mandarins. The ruler and his courts lived in Macedonia, and the officials of the domain were dispersed in the central and tributary areas. Court officials could come from royalty, freedmen, or slaves. Those with great military responsibilities tended to become slaves, whose function depended on the will of the ruler.

Social Control

Rumors, ostracism, witchcraft, and witchcraft continue to be important forms of social control. Traditional Islamic courts and experts settle disputes under Malekite law. Today, the most serious crimes can be brought to justice under the national legal system.

Conflicts faced by the people of Bagirmi

Before the colonial era, unfortunately, the Bagirmi constantly suffered from police operations, raids, wars, and rebellions. Violence was a state monopoly, and officers were riding horses and working as cavalry. Authorities often direct police actions against major food producers, often because taxes have not been paid. Authorities attacked groups of non-Muslim leaders, often to capture slaves. Officials wage war on foreign nations and contend for control of Bagilmi. Since Chad gained independence in 1960, Baguirmi, like many other parts of the country, has experienced civil war as a result of an attempt to dominate the nation-state.

Beliefs prevalent in Bagirmi societies

Pre-colonial religious concepts were syncretism, at least in part, by class. Officials tend to be Muslim and at the same time confirm their king’s divinity. Many food manufacturers seem to ignore the finer details of Islam or Bagirmi’s concept of divine kingship. Islam seems to have spread in the 1970s. The Tijaniyyah Brotherhood is particularly famous.

Islamic experts, whom the Barma are known to have called Malam, performed Islamic rituals, and the officials themselves performed rituals related to the king’s deity. Food producers tend to be served by mallards, but they are also served by many little-known non-Islamic practitioners.


Two types of ritual tended to dominate the religious life of colonial officials. In addition to those related to the royal family of God, there are regular Islamic rituals such as Idal Kabir and Idel Fitr. The latter includes the installation of a ruler, his observation


Traditional music and dance celebrate pre-colonial rulers. The visual arts are underdeveloped. There are no paintings and the sculptures are limited to those drawn on wooden tools.


Little is known about pre-colonial medical practice in Bagirmi province. Throughout the 1970s, many physical and mental illnesses seemed to be due to witchcraft and the actions of Shetan.

Death and life after death

Little is known about pre-colonial and non-Islamic death and life after colonization. In the 1970s, demons and witches were believed to be the cause of some deaths. In the 1970s, traditional Islamic attitudes towards death and the afterlife gained momentum. There are no ethnic groups in Balma. However, the strong adherence to the patriarchy in the 1970s led to areas where male relatives tended to be blood-related. Arabs and Fulani have different ancestral patriarchal systems. Balma’s kinship term is Iroquois.

Cultural significance in the anthropology of Bagirmi

Art of Bagirmi people
the cobbs

Baguirmi, Kingdom of Baguirmi,  a historic African country founded in the 16th century in the area just southeast of Lake Chad. The Europeans first became aware of Baguirmi and other powerful Central African states (Ouaddaï Bornecanem) when Dixon Denham entered Lake Chad in 1823. Details are particularly known from the writings of explorers, the late Heinrich Bath and Gustav Nazigal.

The Bagirmi dynasty seems to have been founded in 1522. King Bagilmi, known as Muban, ruled from the capital Macenia. Many of the rulers and their supporters were Muslims during the reign of the fourth king, Abdullah (circa 1600). The 17th century brought prosperity through the slave trade. Unfortunately, the Bagirmi ended up becoming a pawn in the conflict between Bornu, situated in the west, and the rival Wadai Empire, situated in the east. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Bornu eventually fell to Wadai in the early 19th century and was repeatedly looted, forced to pay homage to both states.

Religious perspective of the locals

The drought and persecution of Islamic teachers prompted significant migration from Bagilmi in the 19th century. However, it was important to export locally woven and dyed textiles and non-Muslim slaves. Especially so in the first half of the 19th century. It was a center of trade and crafts. In 1894, Macenia was destroyed by an army of explorer Rabif Addsbyle. A series of treaties from the late 19th century to the early 20th century put the territory under French control.

Before colonialism, Bagilmi often seemed to have conflicting religious ideas. For example, officials claim that there is a supreme being, Allah, while at the same time claiming that their rulers are the two Mao forces and the earthly incarnation of Calkata who powered everything the universe created. On their side, food makers seem to have believed that shetan (the devil) was the cause of many of their pains. They also believe that Allah is responsible for everything, including pain.

Balma is linguistically related to Kenga and traditionally dates back to the escape from Kenga’s territory. Kenga’s religion is dominated by faith in Marguei (the genius of the place). It is said that some Bagirmi also believed in Margai.

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