Ethnographic notes from a people group in Mali


The Nononke are a people group in the inner Niger delta of Mali. Many refer to them as Marka or Marka jalan (lit. dry Marka), but because the term Marka can be misunderstood, we started using the term Nononke which is what they call themselves. (Marka in Bambara means Soninke, which is the origin of some Nononke, and “dry Marka” refers to the fact, that they no longer speak their original language, Soninke. However, there are other groups in Mali who are called Marka and who speak neither Soninke nor the same language as the Nononke.) The Nonoke that will be mentioned in this blog are mostly Jenaama speaking (lit. the language of Djenne), often also called Sorogaama (lit. the language of the Soroge or Bozo; Sorogo sg, Soroge pl). Jenaama is one of the four Bozo languages, which are spoken not only by the Bozo people but also by the Somono fisher and the Nononke. The other Bozo languages are Tieyaxo, Tiemacewe, and Hainyaxo.

The Nononke are mostly rice farmers in the inundation zone of the Niger river. Besides growing rice and two kinds of millet (sorghum and millet), the people have small patches of peanuts, corn, manioc and potatoes. The women usually have garden patches for growing onions, tomatoes, and gombo (okra).

Some writers refer to them as Nono. Some think that there was once a town called Nono, because Nononke could be translated as “man from Nono” (in Bambara). One of the common family names among the Nononke is Timbo. Their ancestral origin is Mandinka and they say that they came from the Mande main land (near the border of Guinea). Others, for example, people with the last name of Soumare, come from the Soninke or Sarakole, another Mande people group. Most references that I have found about the Nononke / Nono / Bozo speaking Marka where only an aside. So far I have not found any comprehensive description of this people group and their culture. This might be due to the fact that they have immigrated from other areas and adopted the Bozo language. Statistics about the Bozo people often don’t specify whether the Bozo speaking Marka and Somono are included. References to the Marka (e.g. in Segou) often don’t specify what kind of Marka they are referring to.

I plan to post bits and pieces of what I know about them and their culture, including some of their own stories.

This blog is a way of publishing raw anthropological data and allowing others to find out more about this rarely mentioned people group in Mali. The posts are personal notes from observation and conversations while living among them (so-called field notes). The posts do not always represent their own interpretation of things, even though I will try include the emic view as much as possible. Neither do the posts reflect the view of any organization I am affiliated with. Take it for what it is – raw data – i.e. with a grain of salt. I myself might come to different conclusions later on as I get more insights.

N.B. The posts are not necessarily published on the date of writing nor in chronological order.


4 Responses to “About”

  1. Rachel said


    I notice this blog is from 2008, but I was wondering if you have any more information on the Nononke. I was just recently out between San and Mopti, and visited a few villages who called themselves Marka-Jalan, saying they were Soninke who didn’t speak the Soninke language but that they spoke Bambara. I asked them if they knew about the Nononke, but they claim to not know that the Nononke are a people group. They said we were confused that it must be the Bambara word for a Blacksmith, Nomuke (sp?). If you could give me any more information that would be extremely helpful. Are you still working/living among them? If you could… please email me back.

    Thank You,

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