Africa Guide
Guide to Africa

Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire) People and Culture

The population of the Ivory Coast is approx 20.3 million people (recorded in 2013).

There are more than 60 ethnic groups, the key ones being the Baoulé in the center, the Agri in the east, the Senufo in the north, the Dioula in the northwest and west, the Bété in the center-west and the Dan-Yacouba in the west. Houphouët-Boigny promoted his own group, the Baoulé, who account for 23% of the population. The succession of Konan Bédié, another Baoulé, has annoyed many groups, the Bété in particular.

Migrants from other west African countries account for up to 40% of the population.

Akan

Among the Akan-speaking peoples of southern Ghana and adjacent Côte d'Ivoire ritual pottery and figurative terracottas are used in connection with funeral practices that date at least to the 1600s.

Akye

Akye are an Akan peoples living in southern Côte d'Ivoire. The rise of the early Akan centralized states can be traced to the 13th century and is likely related to the opening of trade routes established to move gold throughout the region.

Anyi

The most important art forms among the Anyi are funerary images and monuments. A family can demonstrate its affluence through grave monuments to the ancestors.

Aowin

Aowin are an Akan peoples living in southern Côte d'Ivoire. The rise of the early Akan centralized states can be traced to the 13th century and is likely related to the opening of trade routes established to move gold throughout the region.

Baule (Baoulé)

The Baule belong to the Akan peoples who inhabit Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Three hundred years ago the Baule people migrated westward from Ghana when the Asante rose to power. The tale of how they broke away from the Asante has been preserved in their oral traditions.

Dan

The Dan are an extremely musical people. They don't do anything without music. Rice, Death, Marriage, Birth, Weather are all celebrated with music.

Senufo

The Senufo are made up of a number of diverse subgroups who migrated into their current location from the north during the 15th and 16th centuries.

National or official language is French.

12% Christian
25% Muslim
63% Traditional Beliefs

The majority practise traditional religions involving ancestral worship. They believe that the dead are transformed into spirits and remain in constant contact with the living; through various rituals, the living seek their blessings and protection. Magic is also common, and good magic keeps evil spirits away.

Medicine men or juju priests dispense charms, tell fortunes and give advice on how to avoid danger. They also bless grisgris, necklaces of charms that ward off specific evils. The Senoufo people in particular have held very strongly to their traditional beliefs. Children are instructed over many years in the history and social mores of the Senoufo and are then secretly initiated.

One of Côte d'Ivoire's most famous festivals is the Fêtes des Masques (Festival of Masks), which takes place in the region of Man occurs in November. Numerous small villages in the region hold contests to determine the best dancers and to pay homage to forest spirits who are embodied in the elaborate masks.

Another important event is the week long carnival in Bouaké each March.

In April, the Fête du Dipri in Gomon, near Abidjan. This festival starts around midnight, when women and children sneak out of their huts and, naked, carry out nocturnal rites to exorcise the village of evil spells. Before sunrise the chief appears, drums pound and villagers go into trances. The frenzy continues until late afternoon of the next day.

The major Muslim holiday is Ramadan, when everyone fasts between sunup and sunset in accordance with the fourth pillar of Islam. Ramadan ends with a huge feast, Eid al-Fitr, where everyone prays together, visits friends, gives presents and stuffs themselves.

The traditional diet in Cote d'Ivoire is very similar to that of neighboring countries in its reliance on grains and tubers, but the Ivorians have a particular kind of small, open-air restaurant called a maquis which is unique to them.

Attiéké (grated cassava) is a popular Côte d'Ivoirian side dish. Côte d'Ivoire's claim to culinary fame, maquis normally feature braised chicken and fish smothered in onions and tomatoes, served with attiéké, or kedjenou, a chicken dish made with vegetables and a mild sauce.

One of the tastiest street-vended foods is aloco, which is ripe banana in palm oil, spiced with steamed onions and chilli and eaten alone or with grilled fish. Bangui is a local palm wine.

World famous reggae artist Alpha Blondy is Côte d'Ivoire's best known singer, though his music isn't necessarily representative.

The country's traditional music style is characterised by a series of melodies and rhythms occurring simultaneously, without one dominating the others. The Dan are an extremely musical people. They don't do anything without music. Rice, Death, Marriage, Birth, Weather are all celebrated with music

Historically, this music has been the prerogative of just one social group, the griot (village entertainers), who use only instruments they can make with local materials, such as gourds, animal skins and horns. instruments used include Talking drum, djembe, Kpalogo, Shekere (Youroo), Akombe, Cleavers

The Baoulé, the Dan (or Yacouba) and the Senoufo - all known for their wooden carvings.

No one produces a wider variety of masks than the people of the Ivory Coast. Masks are used to represent the souls of deceased people, lesser dieties, or even caricatures of animals. The ownership of masks is restricted to certain powerful individuals or to families. Only specifically designated, specially trained individuals are permitted to wear the masks.

It is dangerous for others to wear ceremonial masks because each mask has a soul, or life force, and when a person's face comes in contact with the inside of the mask that person is transformed into the entity the mask represents.

Ivory Coast Trips

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