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Côte d'Ivoire: Cote d'Ivoire Art / Culture Profile



The culture of Côte d'Ivoire is ethnically diverse. More than sixty indigenous ethnic groups are often cited, although this number may be reduced to seven clusters of ethnic groups by classifying small units together on the basis of common cultural and historical characteristics. These may be reduced to four major cultural regions - the East Atlantic (primarily Akan), West Atlantic (primarily Kru), Voltaic, and Mandé -differentiated in terms of environment, economic activity, language, and overall cultural characteristics. In the southern half of the country, East Atlantic and West Atlantic cultures, separated by the Bandama River, each make up almost one-third of the indigenous population. Roughly one-third of the indigenous population lives in the north, including Voltaic peoples in the northeast and Mandé in the northwest.

The diverse culture of the Côte d’Ivoire, a coastal West African country bordered by Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, is exemplified by a multitude of ethnic groups, events and festivals, music, and art.

Events and Festivals

The Fêtes des Masques, held in November in the region of Man (Festival of Masks) is one of the Côte d’Ivoire’s biggest and most well known festivals. Competitions between villages are held in order to find the best dancers, and to pay homage to the forest spirits embodied in the intricate masks. Another important event is the week long carnival in Bouaké each March.

In April there is the Fête du Dipri in Gomon, near Abidjan. This festival starts around midnight, when women and children sneak out of their huts and, naked, carry out nocturnal rites to exorcise the village of evil spells. Before sunrise the chief appears, drums pound and villagers go into trances. The frenzy continues until late afternoon of the next day.

The major Muslim holiday is Ramadan, a month (around December) when everyone fasts between sunup and sunset in accordance with the fourth pillar of Islam. Ramadan ends with a huge feast, Eid al-Fitr, where everyone prays together, visits friends, gives presents and stuffs themselves.


The traditional diet in Cote d'Ivoire is very similar to that of neighboring countries in its reliance on grains and tubers, but the Ivorians have a particular kind of small, open-air restaurant called a maquis which is unique to them. Attiéké (grated cassava) is a popular Côte d'Ivoirian side dish. Côte d'Ivoire's claim to culinary fame? Maquis normally feature braised chicken and fish smothered in onions and tomatoes, served with attiéké, or kedjenou, a chicken dish made with vegetables and a mild sauce. One of the tastiest street-vended foods is aloco, which is ripe banana in palm oil, spiced with steamed onions and chilli and eaten alone or with grilled fish. Bangui is a local palm wine.


The traditional music style of many of the ethnic groups of the Côte d’Ivoire is characterized by a series of rhythms and melodies that occur simultaneously, without one dominating the other. Music is used in many aspects of the culture; The Dan celebrate Rice, Death, Marriage, Birth, and Weather all with music. Instruments include the Talking drum, djembe, Kpalogo, Shekere (Youroo), Akombe, and Cleavers, and are typically made with local materials, such as gourds, animal skins, and horns. In the past, music has been the main forte of one social group, the griot (village entertainers). The Côte d’Ivoire’s Alpha Blondy, the world famous reggae artist, is probably the country’s best known singer, though his music isn’t necessarily representative.


Masks are a prevalent art form in the Côte d’Ivoire. The variety and intricacy of masks created by the people of the Côte d’Ivoire is rivaled by none. Masks have many purposes; they are used mostly for representative reason; they can symbolize lesser deities, the souls of the deceased, and even caricatures of animals. They are considered sacred and very dangerous; as such, only certain powerful individuals and families are permitted to own them, and only specially trained individuals may wear the masks. It is dangerous for others to wear ceremonial masks because each mask has a soul, or life force, and when a person's face comes in contact with the inside of the mask that person is transformed into the entity the mask represents. The Baoulé, the Dan (or Yacouba) and the Senoufo are all known for their wooden carvings.