Mende Kikakui script

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Mende script)
Jump to: navigation, search
Mende Kikakui
Type Syllabary
Languages Mende
Creator Mohammed Turay
ISO 15924 Mend, 438
Direction Right-to-left
"Mɛɛnde yia" in Mende script Kikakui (from right to left)

The Mende Kikakui script is a syllabary used for writing the Mende language of Sierra Leone.


It was devised by Mohammed Turay (born ca. 1850), an Islamic scholar, at a town called Maka (Barri Chiefdom, southern Sierra Leone). One of Turay's Quranic students was a young man named Kisimi Kamara. Kamara was the grandson of Turay's sister. Kamara also married Turay's daughter, Mariama. Turay devised a form of writing called 'Mende Abajada' (meaning 'Mende alphabet'), which was inspired in part by the Arabic abjad and in part by the Vai syllabary.

Turay's "Mende Abajada" was adjusted a bit (order of characters) by Kamara and probably corresponds to the first 42 characters of the script, which is an abugida. Kamara developed the script further with help from his brothers, adding more than 150 other syllabic characters. Kamara then popularized the script and gained quite a following as result -- which he used to help establish himself as one of the most important chiefs in southern Sierra Leone during his time (he was not a 'simple village tailor' as suggested by some contemporary writers).

Kikakui is still used today, but perhaps by less than 500 people. There is also an associated number writing system, which is entirely original (and, like the characters of the script, written from right to left).


Konrad Tuchscherer, African Script and Scripture: The History of the Kikakui (Mende) Writing System for Bible Translations," African Languages and Cultures, 8, 2 (1995), pp. 169-188. <>

External links

Creative Commons License