Temne, are a influential large West African ethnic group of about 1.6 million people, constituting about 35% of Sierra Leone`s population – the second largest ethnic group.
Regarded as the original owners of the tract of land now known as the peninsula of Sierra Leone, they speak Temne, a language of the Mel branch of Niger–Congo, as one of the country’s most widely spoken languages.
The Temne language, along with the creole Krio, serve as the major trading language in northern Sierra Leone.
Way back, oral traditions suggest the the Temne migrated toward present-day Sierra Leone from the Futa Jallon region of Guinea to escape Fulani invasions in the 15th century.
The Temne have a patrilineal kinship system, with inheritance and descent through the paternal line. Each Temne individual’s surname indicates the patrician with which he or she is affiliated. There are twenty-five to thirty such patricians.
Mainly farmers – their source of livelihood before the 20th century, the Temne people are predominantly dry rice farmers as well as fishermen, and traders. Division of labour tales centre stage amongst them, in terms of farming, men do most of the clearing and hoeing, while women engage in wedding most times.
Temne are mostly Muslim, accounting for about 85% of their population, while a minute 15% of Temne practice Christianity.
Before the British took over, Temne were ruled by a king called the Bai or Obai.
Like any organised society, structures must be in place for law and order, the Temne is no exception; divided into several independent chiefdoms, each governed by a paramount chief, the chiefdoms in turn are divided into sections governed by subchiefs, containing one or more villages or hamlets. A headman(formerly a descendant of the village founder but now an elected official) oversees affairs of the village.
Temne culture revolves around the paramount chiefs, and secret societies: highly regarded men’s Poro society and the women’s Bondo society for example with focus on coronation, funerals of paramount chiefs, and the initiation of new secret society members.
Image Credit: Trip Down Memory Lane