The Fulani Creation Story
Many societies have explanations for how the world came to be and why it is the way it is now. You may be familiar with stories of Adam and Eve/Hawa from the Abrahamic religions (i.e., Christianity, Islam, Judaism), but what about the Fulani creation story?
The Fulani (also called the Fulbe, or Fula people) are a nomadic group of about 40 million, spread across West Africa’s Sahel region. According to the Fulani, the world was created by a supreme being named Doondari. Using five elements, stone, iron, fire, water, and air, Doondari creates man. The number five is also repeated in created life and its challenges, namely man, blindness, sleep, worry, and death. When they each become too proud, Doondari restores balance, ultimately revealing himself as Gueno, “the eternal one.”
This creation story has been passed down orally among the Fulani for generations. In the outside world, it gained popularity as a piece of poetry after it was published in Ulli Beier’s The Origin of Life and Death: African Creation Myths (1966):
At the beginning there was a huge drop of milk.
Then Doondari came and he created the stone:
Then the stone created iron,
And iron created fire,
And fire created water,
And water created air.
Then Doondari descended the second time,
And he took the five elements And he shaped them into man.
But man was proud:
Then Doondari created blindness, and blindness defeated man.
But when blindness became too proud,
Doondari created sleep, and sleep defeated blindness;
But when sleep became too proud,
Doondari created worry, and worry defeated sleep;
But when worry became too proud,
Doondari created death, and death defeated worry;
But then death became too proud:
Doondari descended for the third time,
And he came as Gueno, the eternal one:
And Gueno defeated death.
By Nnenna Onuoha