Côte d’Ivoire — History and Culture
The culture of the Ivory Coast is layered and colorful thanks to the nation’s geographical location, collection of ethnic groups and years under French occupation. They have an excess of 60 different indigenous tribes and even more sub clusters, all with their own distinct identities and traditions. There are four main regions, namely the East Atlantic (Akan), the West Atlantic (Kru), and the Mandé and Voltaic groups. These cultural regions primarily differ in terms of language, economic activity, environment, and traditions.
The Ivory Coast enjoyed economic prosperity after its liberation from France in the 1960’s. However, things took a turn for the worse lately because of a military coup that commenced in December 1999. This was the first-ever threat to the nation's stability and led to the overthrowing of the government. After the rigged elections, junta leader Robert Guei declared himself the new head of state, but popular protest forced him to step aside and give the seat to Laurent Gbagbo.
The game-changing armed rebellion of 2002 caused a big split in the Ivory Coast as rebel forces claimed the country’s northern half. A peace accord was implemented by the end of 2003 after a three-month stalemate between the government and rebels.
Civil war broke out as a result of unresolved issues in citizenship and land reform, causing high tensions between the government and opposition. West African troops and French forces, along with UN contingents, settled in Côte d’Ivoire to promote peace and help with the demobilization, disarmament and rehabilitation of the country.
Elections in 2010 was the first peaceful vote after the rebellion. Power transferred to the former prime minister, Alassane Outtara, in a 54-46 margin. However, tensions still run high between the supporters of the two warring parties, resulting in sporadic street-level combats and other protests. At the moment, travel to the Ivory Coast is deemed unadvisable for pleasure by many world governments unless you're on official business.
The diversity of culture in Ivory Coast is truly remarkable, with over 60 indigenous ethnic groups each with their own unique traditions. Different regions of the country have distinct music, art, festivals, and languages.
The Ivoirian cuisine takes inspiration from neighboring West African nations and most dishes use tubers and grains. Food is often served with the popular side dish of attiéké, or grated cassava. Maquis is a form of braised chicken or fish smothered in tomatoes and onions, and often served with a side of attiéké or kedjenou, which is chicken with mild sauce and vegetables.
Music is also a big part of life in the Ivory Coast, and while each of the country’s ethnic groups has its own take on traditions, some rhythms and melodies are universal. Music is used in all kinds of celebrations, as well as in times of grief. Different instruments including the talking drum, kpalogo, djembe, shekere, cleavers, and akombe are used to express various emotions. These are handcrafted from indigenous materials like animal skins, gourds and horns.
The most iconic Ivoirian art is the mask. The intricacy and variety of designs are truly impressive as these cultural symbols serve many purposes. They represent lesser deities, higher spirits and even the souls of the deceased. Ivoirians also produce ceremonial masks, each representing an entity. Wood carvings, fabrics and pottery are also popular art forms.
Due to their ethnic diversity, Ivoirians adhere to different kinds of religions and beliefs. About 34 percent of the population is Christian, while 27 percent is Muslim. The remaining minorities have storys and legends passed down by earlier generations and their ancestors.