Damel was the title of the ruler (or king) of the Wolof kingdom of Cayor in what is now northwest Senegal, West Africa.

The most well-known damel is probably Lat Dior Diop (1842–1886) who died in battle during the final French drive to capture his territory,[1] which was one of the strongest areas of resistance.[2] Lat Dior is a Senegalese national hero.

The 30th and last Damel of Cayor, Samba Laobé Fall, was killed by the leader of a French delegation, Captain Spitzer, at Tivaouane, Senegal.[3]


Among the social classes found among the Wolof of Cayor, the Damel stood on the top of the hierarchy. The Damel were traditionally seen as great magicians and it was through female relatives that royal blood was transmitted.[4]

The term « Damel » means « breaker », coming from the Wolof verb « damma » meaning « to break, » referring to the breaking of their vassalage to the Jolof Empire.[5]

List of damel

The following are the damel of Cayor, in order[6][7]

  • 1759–1760, Birima Yamb
  • 1760–1763, Isa Bige Nagone
  • 1763–1766, Jor Yasin Isa
  • 1766–1777, Kodu Kumba
  • 1777–1790, Birima Fatim-Penda
  • 1790–1809, Amari Ngone Ndèla Kumba Fal
  • 1809–1832, Biram Fatma Cub Fal
  • 1832–1855, Maysa Tènde Jor Samba Fal
  • 1855–1860, Birima Ngone Latir Fal (d. 1860)
  • 1860–1861, Ma-Kodu Kumba Yande Fal
  • 1861 May – 1861 Dec 8, Ma-Jojo Jegeñ Kodu Fal (1st term)
  • 1862 – 1864 Jan, Lat Jor Ngone Latir Jop (1st term) (b. c.1842, d. 1886)
  • 1864 Jan – 1868, Ma-Jojo Jegeñ Kodu Fal (2nd term)
  • 1871 Feb 12 – 1882, Lat Jor Ngone Latir Jop (2nd term) (s.a.)
  • 1883 Jan – 1883 Aug 28, Amari Ngone Fal
  • 1883 Aug 28 – 1886 Oct 6, Samba Laobe Fal


  • Crowder, Michael (1968). West Africa Under Colonial Rule. Northwestern University Press.
  • Hale, Thomas A., Johnson, John William and Belcher, Stephen Paterson (1997). Oral Epics From Africa: Vibrant Voices From A Vast Continent. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21110-7
  • Harney, Elizabeth, (2004). In Senghor’s Shadow: Art, Politics, and the Avant-garde in Senegal, 1960-1995. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3395-3

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