By G. Tucker Childs
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The area where Mani was historically spoken is certainly larger than that where it is spoken today. The Mani once occupied a much greater geographical area: at the beginning of the 18th century a Mani kingdom stretched from Sierra Leone north to the River Pongo in Guinea (Arcin 1907, as in Diallo 1974:36; see Moity 1957). Piehl 1980 states that the Mani were the first inhabitants of the coastal region between Freetown and Conakry, being later replaced by the Temne-Baga and still later by the Soso.
Several jihads expedited the process of the Mani acculturation to the Soso and their conversion to Islam. Forcible conversion to Islam came later in the l~h century at the hands of the "Tourelakai", warring Muslim Malinke on jihad (Diallo 1974:3 7). Morlaye Boyo Keita, an oral historian, relates how one of Sunjata's lieutenants (Kalmasine) threatened the Mani who had fled to Matakan, a small sometimes island (connected by a narrow isthmus only during low tide) off the larger island of Kabak in Guinea, one of the more productive areas surveyed in 2000.
Historical background 11 Other sub-groups within Mel are 1) Temne and the Baga languages, also spoken along the Sierra Leone and Guinea coasts; and 2) Gola, a single language spoken in the forest region straddling the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia (see Map 1). Figure 3 shows the accepted classification of South Atlantic: the isolate Bijogo and North Atlantic are not shown. South Atlantic A. Mansoanka B. Mel languages 1. Baga: Temne; Baga Maduri, Baga Sitem, Baga Fore, Baga Kalum, Landoma 2.