River Nomads

Background information

Amongst the many groups which inhabit the river banks and islands scattered along the 4200 kilometers of the Niger river, the Kebbawa stand out for their peculiar nomadic lifestyle. Little is known about these migrant fishermen who form convoys of large wooden boats (called ‘pinasses’) on which they navigate together from Northern Nigeria (Yauri, Lake Kainji) to North-Western Niger (around Ayorou) and Eastern Mali (Ansongo, Gao, Timbuktu, Tindirma) where fish is abundant during the dry season. At the head of each convoy stands a man – the navigator – whose role is to guide safely the boats from Nigeria to Niger/Mali. The navigator or pilot is the one who makes sure the boats will not hit a rock, take a blind way, or run aground on a shoal in the river.

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By Eric Hahonou