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Gbaya African People
The Gbaya are the African people that are presented in this article for the letter G of the A to Z African People Series.
Who are the members of this tribe?
The Gbaya are also known as the Baya, the Mbere Baya or the Gbaya-Bossangoa. They are the largest ethnic group in the Central African Republic. The Gbaya are closely related to the Mandija people (Also called Mandja). in 1880 they fled Fulani slave raids and holy wars (Jihad) connected with the founding of the Sokoto Caliphate; the ancestors of the Gbaya migrated to the region from present-day northern Cameroon and Nigeria in the early 1800s. They incorporated many of the indigenous inhabitants creating the six basic subgroups of the Gbaya. Fulani continued to raid the Gbaya region each year to capture slaves for sale both in the Caliphate and to trans-Saharan caravans.
Where are they located?
The Gbaya (Baya) people are one of the four major ethnic groups found primarily in Central Africa. The other ethnic groups are: the Banda, the Mandija and the Sara. There is also a small European population that are primarily French.
The Gbaya are found in:
- A country named Bossangoa Batangafo (Gbabana) in the western Central African Republic (has the potential to be one of Africa's richest countries; it is in the center of Africa).
- Eastern Cameroon (African country on the Gulf of Guinea).
- Northern Republic of the Congo (a highly urbanized, oil-rich country in Central Africa).
- Northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo (largest country in Central Africa).
How do they live?
The traditional Gbaya political organization was decentralized, with village chiefs acting as symbolic leaders and judges, rather than political rulers. Only in emergencies were war chiefs temporarily elected as among the Banda. In war, age sets insured unity by cutting across clan identities. The clans managed trade with foreigners, marriage arrangements, and religious customs.
In patrilineal societies kinship in Africa is traced through the male line. In such societies, as among the Gbaya of Cameroon, residence is typically patrilocal meaning that a woman leaves her natal home upon marriage and moves into the household of her husband's family. In patrilineal groups, a woman's children are members of the husband's lineage, not her own.
About the Gbaya people
How do they communicate?
The Gbaya have approximately 300,000 speaking their homeland language which is Gbaya-Bossangoa. Those Gbaya, who speak a Niger-Congo language, today number close to 1 million mainly in the west of the Central African Republic.
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart!"
Gbayan woman, Sudan, Africa
"I am asking the Gbaya people to speak in their mother tongue to their children, because our language is as important as any other language in the world."
How do they survive?
Today most Gbaya remain rural farmers, growing cassava, corn, peanuts, tobacco, and yams and supplementing their diet by hunting and fishing. For cash many Gbaya grow rice or coffee, prospect for diamonds or work for mining companies.
What characteristics define their diversity?
They use the likembe, a type of lamella phone (a small instrument with hand-plucked metal strips that is often mistakenly called a thumb piano).
Below you will be able to admire some pictures with the link (to provide more information) that identify the Gbaya people's diversity in different activities.
Uniqueness of the Gbaya peopleClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Gbaya people have a very interesting history, life and culture. I linked many other articles to this hub for your convenience and to give an expanded visualization of the Gbaya people.
Blessings to all!
© Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill
Learn about the Gbaya African People
Gbaya Language (Central African Rep.)
© 2012 Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill