Fali - History and Cultural Relations

Oral traditions allude to the presence of little red men, the Gwé-Gwé or Guéwé, who supposedly occupied the land before time was reckoned. This population, which has left only a mythical memory, disappeared with the arrival of the ancestors of the oldest Fali, the Ngomma. It was they who founded the modern villages of which the most ancient, now ruined, Tìmpil, was the capital. Many accounts also allude to the Sao, who developed a brilliant civilization on the periphery of Lake Chad from the tenth to the sixteenth centuries and who, upon the destruction of their villages by the sovereign of Bornu, are thought to have taken refuge in the region. Their influence is proven by numerous necropolises composed of very characteristic tomb jars.

The first half of the eighteenth century (a date obtained by genealogical cross-checking) was marked by a large movement of populations, triggered by the arrival of two groups of southern origin, the Woptshi and the Tshalo. Their arrival also corresponds to a radical change in the type of burial. In the nineteenth century, following the Peul invasion, portions of neighboring ethnic groups (such as the Mundang, Njay, and Bata) attempted to incorporate themselves into the populations already in place.

In 1912 the Fali fiercely resisted the German colonizers. Under French influence (1916-1960), their territories, which were supervised but often not checked upon, consisted of independent subdivisions directly under the colonial administration (heads of subdivisions) and administered subdivisions placed more or less voluntarily under the trusteeship of Peul sultans.

Catholic and Protestant missions have had little success in making conversions. Reading and writing are taught at the village level, especially when such instruction is done as part of the Peul dependency. Primary schooling, although it scarcely touches one child out of five, is nevertheless in full swing. Some scholarships, in the form of aid to the family, permit the most gifted children access to secondary schooling, in neighboring cities. About ten brilliant successes have put Fali students into the higher-education circuit.

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