The national emblem of Ivory Coast (known in french as Côte d’Ivoire) is the head of an elephant and this is symbolically important to the nation since it is the largest animal found in the country as well as the source of ivory for which the nation is named. Understanding what makes these people rock will be a time well spent.
Little is known about Côte d’Ivoire before the arrival of Portuguese ships in the 1460s. Compared to neighbouring Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire suffered little from the slave trade. European slaving and merchant ships preferred other areas along the coast with better harbours. France took an interest in the 1840s, enticing local chiefs to grant French commercial traders a monopoly along the coast. Thereafter, the French built naval bases to keep out non-French traders and began a systematic conquest of the interior. They accomplished this only after a long war in the 1890s against Mandinka forces, mostly from the Gambia. Guerrilla warfare by the Baoulé and other eastern groups continued until 1917.
France’s main goal was to stimulate the production of exports. Coffee, cocoa and palm oil crops were soon planted along the coast. Côte d’Ivoire stood out as the only West African country with a sizeable population of ‘settlers’; elsewhere in West and Central Africa, the French and English were largely bureaucrats. As a result, a third of the cocoa, coffee and banana plantations were in the hands of French citizens and a hated forced-labour system became the backbone of the economy.
So, who are the people that make up this land full of elephants?
The Ivory Coast has a total of 60+ ethnic groups. The main groups of Ivory Coast are- the Baule tribe, Senufo tribe & Dan tribe.
The Baule tribe lives in the centre of the country and they are about 400,000 in number. Baule is the name of the language as well. The Baule tribe creates wooden sculptures, masks and figure carving. They also farm and run animal husbandry. Markets are mostly run by women.
The Senufo people live in the Northern part of Ivory Coast with a population of about 600,000 people. They speak “Senufo”, are known as strict people. Surprisingly, those who farm are referred to as high-class people, on the other hand, the musicians are low-class.
Also called “Yacouba”, the Dan tribe can be found in the Western part of Ivory Coast with a population of 350,000 people.
What is unique about this tribe is that there are a number of ‘coincidences’ about the beliefs and culture of the tribe of Dan that are in line with what is found in the Thora (Jewish Holy book) and the early days of a tribe in Israel.
The Torah and the traditions of the Ivorian tribe of Dan:
- The name of the tribe is Dan. The name of their language is Yacouba (Jacob?) The tribe members call themselves quite often as well Yacouba.
- The observance of the Shabbath starts on Friday at sunset till sunset on Saturday. That day they do not work, and it is the day for the offerings. They gave it the name: Sabayi. Originally, they were not allowed to walk that day more than a distance of about seven kilometres and back in the day, soldiers arrested those working on that day.
The Dan people are very musical people. Main events such as births, deaths, and marriages are celebrated with music.
Because masks play a big role in their daily lives, they are home to lots of sculptors.
Western Ivory Coast is extremely rich in its culture and traditions. The dances and masks exhibited in this specific region of the country are internationally famous. Visitors can join the traditional mask dances and initiations.
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