In this region of the Ivory Coast there are still ancient jungles, such as the Tai jungle, and leafy forests which are home to different ethnic branches of the Mande group. The most characteristic of these are the Dan, who are related to the Guere.
Their villages are very distant from each other – they do not form a large community, but rather isolated groups, which only come together in exceptional circumstances, to defend themselves against some common threat. masks are real institutions, of the Gueré which order, legislate and codify the social life of the different ethnic groups that live in this region in the west of the Ivory Coast.
The Dan tribe
A great part of the mythology of the Dan is born in the heart of the jungle, in these labyrinthine forests teeming with life, where their deities live, and where nature and magic melt into one. The Dan have always respected and venerated their natural surroundings, as something sacred, as it is the indisputable genesis of their cosmogony. In the interior of this green world, we find the bridges of the spirits. But these are not the work of man.
Protected and revered
No one knows how or when they are built. But for them they are sacred, because they are made with lianas, and everything that comes from the jungle is revered. That is why they take their shoes off before crossing, as a mark of respect. Apart from the daily chores, the women occupy a very important position in the social structure of the Ubi.
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As in the majority of the 60 or so different ethnic groups that live in the Ivory Coast, the women form secret societies, which have a decisive influence in the village about sex rituals. In their meetings, which no man may attend, they deal with matters exclusive to the women, though their attention has been centred on just one subject for some time now.
In the main cities of the Ivory Coast, associations have been formed to fight to eradicate the barbarous traditional practices, the mutilation of female sex organs. Periodically, women from these associations travel to the most remote villages, to speak with the leaders of the secret societies, and try to convince them to abandon this custom. Every village in the Ivory Coast has an area of the nearby forest where the spirits of their ancestors live. It is the sacred forest of each group, a place which is taboo for strangers. Here, the young men are brought to be initiated, circumcisions are carried out, they speak to the masks of wisdom, and justice is imparted.
To the north of the Mande country lies the land of the Senufo, one of the ethnic groups of Africa that has best preserved its own culture. Agriculture is their main activity, though they also have cattle, above all goats and cows. Rice forms an important part of their diet. In these mortars, they separate the grain from the husk. It will then be stored in the granaries, along with the millet and maize. Senufo villages tend to be large compared to those of other groups in the Ivory Coast.
They are made up of groupings of different clans and lineages, which form what we would call districts. In each one of them there is a fetish house, where they keep their masks and religious carvings. Women are very important in Senufo society.
Their power is comparable to that of the men, though less evident. The system of transmission of culture and tradition is matrilineal, which makes the woman the head of the lineage. Senufo painting is also among the most widely recognised in Africa.
Picasso came here, seeking inspiration for cubism, from these artists who expression the visions of the hunters, or the deities of the Poro. They use vegetable paints made using techniques whose origins are lost in the depths of time.