IVORY COAST – FESTIVALS
The best way to understand the ethnic groups of Côte d’Ivoire is to witness the initiation ceremonies and ritual celebrations, animated by dances to the beat of drums, flutes and pumpkins used as instruments, such as:
Goli mask dance
Attending by the Baoule peoples. At the Goli mask dance you may attend a ceremony where two types of masks appear in the village, human face masks known as “kpan” and disc-faced masks known as “kple kple”. Their performance is theatrically managed for the greatest effect. The women start to dance and sing some time in advance to beg the masks to come. The women then welcome the masks as beloved personages, fanning them with scarves and dancing joyously behind them. Kple Kple masks – in particular – are called in time of danger or during funeral ceremonies. They are believed to connect people with supernatural powers and gods, which may have a good or bad influence on their lives.
The dancers make children fly through the air, exposing them to the risk of falling on knives, but the strength and skill of the dancers, on the one hand, and the imperturbability of children, on the other, is beyond all imagination. Few foreign visitors have witnessed these amazing dances.
The country has two practices included in the “representative list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity” of UNESCO.
Grand Bassam’s Abissa celebration
Abissa is the pre-eminent festival in the N’zima calendar. It is a time of brutal honesty, renewal and forgiveness. It is a celebration of the ancient N’zima culture, history, royalty, and religion. Held once a year towards the end of October, Abissa lasts 14 days of dedication to Nyamie, the Akan name for the supreme deity. In this period, work activities such as farming, etc. or celebrations like weddings, funerals, etc. are all put on hold
The week-long Abissa festival is powered by drummers, whose infectious beats drive its many dances and rituals. During Abissa, the beat of the cosmic drum releases the N’zima from their customary restraints and allows them to speak candidly to their leaders and to one another. It is a time of collective catharsis that leads to renewal and a spiritual re-birth of the entire community.
Another unique highlight is the cross dressing, where men dress as women, while women are dressed as men. During the accusation-repentance ritual, people disguise to mimic those who have wronged them. Everyone is expected to come clean and pardoned for their wrongdoing.
Baule people’s festival of textiles
It is concurrent with the Feast of Assumption day. It is a multi-ethnic festival where people coming from different parts of West Africa show their textiles. Performances of masks of diofferent origins will take place during the entire festival.
Young virgins’ dance
This dance called Kgoro is part of the Senoufo initiation rites, and regards the village women.
Cultural practices associated with the Balafon of the Sénoufo communities
The balafon of the Sénoufo of Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast is a pentatonic xylophone known locally by the name of “ncegele”. The ncegele livens up parties, accompanies prayers in churches and sacred forests, encourages industriousness, accompanies the funeral music and supports teaching the system of values, traditions, beliefs, common law, ethical rules that govern society and the individual in everyday acts.
This dance is quite famous and it is performed by the men of the Senoufo peoples upon return of the young initiates after a period of isolation.
Famous for their beautiful forms in wood. All these masks come from a sacred forest, where only the initiated may enter. Some of these masks dance on stilts. Other people do stunts.
These masks are known as Gle Gben or Kwuya Nyon. They are three meters high and the dancers perform acrobatic gestures that excite the public. Despite its theatrical appearance, the masks are surrounded by secrets known only by the initiated men and never by women.