The fierce resistance of Senegalese Women against the Arab slave trade

The fierce resistance of Senegalese Women against the Arab slave trade

Good morning, everyone, 
Time went by fast and I've had a lot of work to do in the last few months. In particular, I took the time to delve into the archives of the Arab slave trade and the fierce resistance of black women. 
Today, I wanted to share with you the story of Nder , which I think is still a current concern. History shows that the Moors captured black women in the south of the Sahara to sell them to fill the harems of wealthy families. Unlike the transatlantic slave trade, slaves were used to wage war or if they were women to become sexual slaves. 

The river separated the Walo from Mauritania, where the Trarzas tribe was established. Of them, one never knew in advance if they would land as customers to exchange goods or as enemies to refuel in captives. However, since the installation of the French troops in Saint-Louis, the Moors kept increasing their pressure against the Walo, which they wanted to bring under their control, in order to prevent the region from falling under European domination. We were at the beginning of the dry season and Nder was living a bit in slow motion. Le Brak (the king) was in Saint-Louis to be treated for a bad wound received during the battle of Ntaggar against the Moors. As usual, the dignitaries of the kingdom were of the trip and a good part of the cavalry accompanied them.

Tuesday as the other days, the men had joined the fields at dawn, the daba (traditional hoe) on the shoulder. Others had gone hunting, while a third group had gone to the river where their fishing boats were moored. Only a few tiedos (soldiers) had remained in garrison, and were busy nonchalantly polishing their large milking rifles.
In the village with its round huts for women, children and the elderly, daily life reigned. The pounding of the pestle, in a jerky round, redoubled the zeal to grind the millet. The women, going about their business, questioned each other inside the concessions. Others were busy around the attics where the last crops were stored. A few  chatted quietly in the village square, while the young children continued loudly around the palaver tree where, in the evening, the elders used to unfold the stories of the past.

Suddenly a cry of fear disturbed the tranquility of the place. In an instant, the laughter froze, the rammers fell, the concessions emptied. All eyes converged on the woman who had just burst through the entrance of the tata, this wall of branches and clay, supposed to protect the villages in the event of an offensive.

"The Moors are here! They're coming! I was at the edge of the lake of Guiers and I saw them through the reeds. An army of Moors! They have with them a troop of Toucouleurs led by the chief Amar Ould Mokhtar! They're about to cross the river and come to our village! "


All the women shouted at the same time. They knew what fate awaited them... The Moors had resumed their raids in the Walo to get supplies among the natives. A large number of men, women and children would be taken from their families to be sold as slaves to wealthy families in North Africa. It had always been that way and Nder had lost many sons and daughters.

Meanwhile, a few kilometers away, stationed on the other side of the river, the turbaned horsemen from the desert were preparing to throw their horses at the village. The women immediately decided to organize the resistance with the remaining soldiers and hastily sent the children to the surrounding fields under the leadership of their elders, so that they could hide in the high stems of millet. Then they rushed into their huts to come out dressed in boubous and puffy trousers, which of a husband, a father, a brother; their hair hidden under the hats of a man. They had everything they could use to defend themselves: cutters, spears, clubs and even real rifles, which they were preparing to handle for the first time. 

Amazons for a day, these women fought with the energy of despair. Servants, peasants, aristocrats, young and old, they engaged, animated only by their courage, in the terrible confrontation with the enemy. In their songs of celebration in memory of these exceptional women, the griots, illustrators of the pages of African history, ensure that on that day, they killed more than three hundred Moors. However, the fight was uneven. The tiedos were quickly exterminated. Boiling gullies of blood were spreading in a reddish mud on the beaten earth floor. Here and there, corpses and dying wounded lay in a jumble.
Faced with the fierce determination of the survivors who, although disarmed, outnumbered the enemy column, Chief Amar Ould Mokhtar ordered his troops to disperse. The desert horsemen put away their sharp swords, took their wounded in a croup and crossed the lake again. Vexed to have been held in check by simple women, the Moorish chief knew however that they could not resist long in spite of their bravery. Not wanting to risk damaging the "merchandise", he intended to return a little later, in order to take them alive to get a better price on the slave markets.
The women of the Walo felt lost... At the end of their strength, they could not sustain a second attack. The men had all perished and the messenger who had rushed for help, would surely arrive too late.

It was then that a voice rose above the cries, the lamentations and the screams of pain. That was Mbarka Dia, the confidante of the lingual (queen) Faty Yamar. Only she knew how to make herself obey the energetic and authoritarian courtesans who surrounded the queen. Leaning against the palaver tree, because she herself had been wounded, she began to harass her companions..:

"Nder's wives! Walo girls! Stand up straight and renew your loincloths! Let's get ready to die! Nder's wives, must we always step back from the invaders? Our men are far away, they can't hear our screams. Our children are safe. Allah the Almighty will know how to preserve them. But what can we, poor women, do against those merciless enemies who will not be long in resuming the attack? »

"Where could we hide without them discovering us? We will be captured as our mothers and grandmothers were before us. We will be dragged across the river and sold into slavery. Is this a spell worthy of us? »
The crying stopped, the complaints became more deaf..." Answer me! But why don't you answer the question instead of just standing there moaning?! What's in your veins? Blood or river water? Would you rather we say later to our grandchildren and their descendants: Your grandmothers left the village as captives? Or: Your foremothers were brave to death. 

on the panic-stricken poultry, the looted attics, the rammers abandoned on the ground, the pots overturned, the huts ripped open and all those corpses of relatives who began to swell under the effect of the heat... Then they piled up in the main hut. Some young mothers who had not wanted to separate from their newborns, held them against their breasts, choking them. The last one to enter the room was pregnant and near term. Mbarka Dia closed the door. With a precise gesture, she lit a torch and without even a tremor, threw it against one of the branch fronts. Immediately, a huge inferno gushes out. Inside the hut, the women hugged each other and, as if to give each other a final burst of courage, sang lullabies and old refrains that had punctuated their activities since childhood.

The songs began to weaken... immediately replaced by violent coughing fits. Then the mother-to-be, guided by her survival instinct, kicked the door violently and, catching a gulp of air, rushed outside where she fainted on the beaten earth. Those who were still alive did not move. A few had time to whisper: "Let her be left. She will testify to our history and will tell it to our children who will tell it to their sons for posterity. "Those who had not yet been asphyxiated continued to seek in their supplications the courage to remain in this incandescent coffin. And the voices faded little by little... Suddenly, a terrible cracking dominated the crackling of the flames. The roof frame had just collapsed on the bodies. It was a silence of death that welcomed the men who arrived too late to the rescue of the village. All Nder's women had perished. Except one.
The ancients say that at that moment, big black clouds veiled the sky and everything became obscure. As if to hide the pain of these fathers, these sons and these husbands, annihilated by a despair that neither their cries, nor their tears, nor even time, could appease. From that day on and for a very long time, a rite was established in the village of Nder known as "Talata Nder", to honour the memory of these heroines. Every year, on a Tuesday in November, there were no activities to disturb this day of remembrance. And for long hours, men and women, young and old, remained locked inside their concessions to pray and pay homage to the sacrifice of Nder's women.
Today, I am told, this small village of Walo, symbol of resistance, is abandoned and erased from nature, as from memory.

Sources:

Tebawalito Le Blog