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Gbaya African People

Updated on June 20, 2015

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.

Location of the Gbaya African people
Location of the Gbaya African people

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:

  1. 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).
  2. Eastern Cameroon (African country on the Gulf of Guinea).
  3. Northern Republic of the Congo (a highly urbanized, oil-rich country in Central Africa).
  4. Northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo (largest country in Central Africa).

Gbaya People Homeland
Gbaya People Homeland

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.

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.

Deep quotes:

Nelson Mandela

"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 people

Click 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

Gbaya Language (Central African Rep.)

© 2012 Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill


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      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 4 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      hockey8mn that is very nice comment, thanks! Africa is very big in all means. The bride does have a price, but each tribe has their own particular ways. We can not see African's tribes as a whole from Africa's culture. I invite you to read about this in this article, very well written:

    • hockey8mn profile image

      hockey8mn 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      It is always good to read one of your hubs about African tribes. I do have a question. Do you know if the family that loses the daughter through marriage receives a gift from the family that gains a daughter? Many cultures practice this form of gift giving (I forget what it is called-bridal something or other).

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      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 5 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      travel_man1971 thanks for reading and adding such interesting comment. I will gather more information of it.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 5 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      They're like the Negritoes or Aetas (pygmies) of my country, Philippines, as they also came from Africa when land bridges were still apparent.

      Thanks for sharing their story. :)

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      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 5 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Conservative Lady thanks for reading and commenting. I agree with you in the fact that it is amazing to read about these people. I hope many of us try to help them in whatever we can.

    • Conservative Lady profile image

      Sheila 5 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

      Your hub kept my interest all the way through - amazing to read about these people and what they do to survive their lot in life. Great hub

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      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 5 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Froggy213 thanks for your encouraging words.

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 5 years ago from On A Mountain In Puerto Rico

      This was another very well put together hub. You are teaching so many interesting things with this series. Keep them coming love!

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      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 5 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Pavlo Badovskyy tahnks for reading. I think we are all more close to each other than what we really think we are. Africa is special and needs so much help that is one of my purpose with this African series.

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      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 5 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      billybuc Happy Birthday once again and thanks for passing by leaving your words.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Interesting hub and new information for me. African continent is so far away from us that we hardly know anything about it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love learning about other cultures. Thank you for a great educational piece!