Ivory Coast is a mesmerizing mixture of cultures, influences, languages and forms of artistic expression. Crafts and techniques are the founding pillars of its identity and social structure.
Ivory Coast is a democratic country in West Africa formally part of the French Protectorate in the 19th and early 20th century. It is also a very festive and lively country. One of the most popular festivities is the Fêtes des Masques in December where competitions between villages are held to find the best dancers and pay homage to the forest spirits embodies in the masks. La Fête du Dipri is another important festivity, held in April. This festival starts around midnight and consists in naked women and children sneaking out of their huts, carrying out nocturnal rites to exorcise the village of evil spirits. The frenzy and trances continue way into the afternoon the following day. Ivory Coast is therefore a country full of symbolism as well as a strong awareness and respect for spirituality.
It is a country full of tradition and beliefs. The Ivorians are very pious and mix religious as well as pagan influences to define their faith.
The women in Ivory Coast often adorn wide varieties of jewellery, from bracelets to rings to pendants to hair ornaments. As such, crafts and techniques are at the heart of Ivorian culture. Gold is a very widespread metal in this country, particularly worn by the royalty of West Africa. Gold objects were a symbol of power and prestige back then. To this day, this metal is can be seen on ceremonial occasions. There are countless techniques to craft these pieces of gold jewellery, from lost-wax casting to filigree. Masks obviously also play an important role in the tradition.
The production of ritual masks made of wood is still practiced today. It takes often more than a week to carve one mask.
There are more than 60 ethnic groups in Ivory Coast. The key ones are 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. The Akan and their sub-groups make up a large part of the population.
Ivory Coast is a melting pot of influences and cultures. Not only do these different ethnic groups have their own culture, religion, history and art, but there are also European and Middle-Eastern influences due to colonization in the 19th century. Around 4% of the population is of non-African descent. Many are French, Spanish, Lebanese or Vietnamese.
As such, Ivory Coast is rich in influences with a cohesive Ivorian identity regardless.
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