Kurtey people

The Kurtey people (var. Kourtey) are a small ethnic group found along the Niger River valley in parts of the West African nations of Niger, Benin, Mali, and Nigeria. They are also found in considerable numbers in Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.

Assimilation into SonghaiEdit

The Kurtey were formed from the movement of Fula people into the Niger River valley of modern Tillaberi Region, Niger in the 18th century, and their intermarriage with local Songhai, Zarma, Sorko and others.[1] While retaining many aspects of Fula traditional culture, the Kurtey have assimilated into Songhai-Zarma ways of life and speak a Southern Songhay dialect.[2] Some outside observers consider them a subsection of the Songhai people,[3] while others describe them as communities with distinct histories, cultures, and ethnic self-identification within the larger Songhai speaking social space, of which the Songhai people are only one part.[4]

Customs and demographyEdit

They today number less than 50000, concentrated on islands and along the Niger river banks near Sansani, Dessa and Ayorou; in Niamey (especially in Koutoukalé quarter); and in villages along the lower middle Niger from Gao to northern Nigeria.[1] Some Kurtey continue to mark themselves with their traditional facial scarification: a small cross at the top of each cheekbone.[5] The Kurtey are also one of six Nigerien ethnic groups who have historically carried out ritual Female circumcision.[6] Kurtey traditionally engage in sedentary cattle raising—a legacy of their Fula ancestry—as well as fishing (like Sorko people), tobacco farming, and riverine flood irrigated millet and rice farming.[1]

Relations with othersEdit

In the 19th century, many Muslim Kurtey engaged in slave raiding amongst pagan Zarma along the Niger,[7] earning them the Zarma nickname "Thieves of Men"[8] While historically bitter rivals of the Wogo people who settled in the same area from the middle Niger beginning around 1800, the two ethnic groups have become closely related, settled in the same areas, speaking similar dialects, and sharing similar ways of life. Both were Muslim before migrating to the area, enjoying close relations with the Fula Emirate of Say.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Decalo, Samuel (1997). Historical Dictionary of the Niger (3rd ed.). Boston & Folkestone: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-3136-8.: pp. 191–192 
  2. ^ a b Harrison, Byron, Annette Harrison, and Michael J. Rueck, with Mahaman Soumana as Interpreter. "Southern Songhay Speech Varieties in Niger: A Sociolinguistic Survey of the Zarma, Songhay, Kurtey, Wogo, and Dendi Peoples of Niger." (1997).
  3. ^ Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Niger : Overview, July 2008. Online. UNHCR Refworld, [accessed 8 April 2009]
  4. ^ Paul Stoller. pp.94-5 in Eye, Mind and Word in Anthropology. L'Homme (1984) Volume 24 Issue 3-4 pp.91-114.
  5. ^ Paul Stoller and Cheryl Olkes. In sorcery's shadow : a memoir of apprenticeship among the Songhay of Niger. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, (1987). ISBN 0-226-77542-9 p.56
  6. ^ Niger: Legal Ban On Female Circumcision Widely Ignored. UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, 6 February 2004. According to this UN report, these groups are the Fula (French: Peul or Peulh; Fula: Fulɓe), Gourmantche, Djerma-Songhai, Kurtey, Wogo people and Arabs.
  7. ^ Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan. Remarques sur la notion de «captif» (à propos des Wogo et Kurtey du Niger). Journal de la Société des Africanistes. (1970) Volume 40, Issue 40-2, pp. 171-174
  8. ^ Jean Pierre Olivier de Sardan. Les voleurs d’hommes (notes sur l’histoire des Kurtey). Etudes Nigériennes no. 25. IFAN-CNRSH: Paris-Niamey (1969)
  • Paul Stoller. The Negotiation of Songhay Space: Phenomenology in the Heart of Darkness. American Ethnologist, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Aug., 1980), pp. 419–431
  • Jibrin Ibrahim. Political Exclusion, Democratization and Dynamics of Ethnicity in Niger. Africa Today, Vol. 41, No. 3, Electoral Successes: Harbingers of Hope? (3rd Qtr., 1994), pp. 15–39

Further readingEdit

  • Jean-Pierre, Olivier de Sardan (1984). Les Societes Songhay-Zarma, Niger-Mali: Chefs, Guerriers, Esclaves, Paysans--. Paris: Editions Karthala. ISBN 978-2-86537-106-8.