This is a response to the posts by Lars Marius Garshol and Peter
Constable re. the Mende Kikakui script of Sierra Leone.

The site ( devoted to 'Afrikan'
alphabets, apparently put together by a graphic designer, is unreliable
(and not just for Kikakui). But this isn't strange, since there is a lot
of material available on the www relating to African scripts, much of it
wrong (even absurd).

I see the Vai syllabary listed, with date of origin given incorrectly as
1883. The Vai script dates to 1832 or 1833. For the most recent
information on the Vai script, see Konrad Tuchscherer and P.E.H. Hair,
"Cherokee in West Africa: Examining the Origins of the Vai Script",
_History in Africa_, Vol. 29 (2002), pp. 427-486. On page 440 is the
earliest extant manuscript in the Vai script.

The Mende Kikakui script dates to ca. 1917. I call it "Kikakui" because
that is the only name Kikakui literates give it! The Mende part is
added so that people know the people/language I am referring to. 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
Koranic 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 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 (in several
places I have read about 'Kisimi Kamara' the 'simple village tailor',
which is absurd!)

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).

I did research on Kikakui in Sierra Leone, on and off, from 1990-94
(first in the south, and after the 'war' started, in the east). The
most complete study of Kikakui is: Konrad Tuchscherer, The Kikakui
(Mende) Syllabary and Number Writing System: Descriptive, Historical and
Ethnographic Accounts of a West African Tradition of Writing (Ph.D.,
University of London, 1996). Since that might be difficult to lay hands
on, there is some good information on the history of the script in:
Konrad Tuchscherer, "African Script and Scripure: The History of the
Kikakui (Mende) Writing System for Bible Translations", _African
Languages and Cultures_ 8, 2 (1995), pp. 169-188.