|The Jola: The Jola people are known for their relaxed, friendly manner and hard work. In the bush villages they are farmers of rice, millet, and some vegetables to add to the mostly rice diet. Many also grow groundnuts (peanuts) as a cash crop. From the very young to the elderly, housewives and village chiefs, all work in the fields. They are known as hard workers from sunrise to sunset. They have no caste-type system, all are considered to be equals. Families are large and fiercely loyal to one another. This causes a strong feeling of interdependence on one another in the community, as many villages are made up of as few as two main families, with members intermarrying.|| |
| || Families: Many families are polygamous. Elderly men often have up to four wives. Some have surpassed this number by marrying the wife/wives of a deceased brother. The women of a household are responsible for gardening, cultivating rice, food preparation, household chores, and care of the children. Men cultivate crops and produce (peanuts, citrus fruits, mangoes, etc.) which are sold to provide resources for the family. Networking among family groups is important to the economic situation of a community. Each relative, however distant, is seen as insurance against unemployment or other tragedy. If you have money and a relative has a need for part of it, you are expected to give it to the relative. And the entire community contributes to important life cycle events such as birth, circumcision, weddings, and funerals. |
Typical Jola village home: Because of the intense feeling of community among Jolas, it is difficult for outsiders to have much influence. All must agree that something is right and the chief with the elders make the final decisions. For this reason, evangelistic work is slow within traditional villages. If an individual accepts Christ, he can be disowned by the family and the village.
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|Beliefs: Catholicism has had a presence in Senegal for centuries as has Anglicans and Methodists in The Gambia. But during the last century there has been an aggressive shift to Islam because of strong influences from the north. Now over 90 percent claim to be Muslim and maybe 2-4 percent Christians in some localities. But all maintain some degree of the old traditional beliefs, animism, fear of witches, evil spirits, and curses. A large number wear amulets around their arm, wrist, waist, or ankles to ward off evil spirits and curses. A Jola watchman in Banjul took his wife, sick with malaria, to the doctor for medicine and then to the village for what he called "traditional cures" (herbs and amulets from a "traditional" doctor).|