Ivory Coast’s Original Settlers and Their Art

  • January 12, 2019      Friendly Borders Staff

Yamoussoukro – Can you imagine a complex yet flourishing community with numerous ethnic groups? That description fits the people of Ivory Coast. Travelling here can provide such an interesting piece of history and culture to one’s lives. Let’s start with an interesting look into the lives of one of the original groups to live in the region—the Attie people.

What’s with the Ivory Coast?

The Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d’Ivoire, is a country found in West Africa. Its name originated from the division of West Africa into different coasts during the 15th and 16th centuries. Those were the times when Portuguese and French explorers/merchants came to the Ivory Coast. The name Ivory Coast was mainly used to represent the major trade in the area, which was the export of ivory.

More than its name and the trade it represented, Ivory Coast has become a destination for various immigrants throughout the decades. In spite of this, the Attie people, also called as Attye, Akye, or Atye, remained in the Ivory Coast and retained their distinct culture.

The Attie people, part of the Akan group of the Ivory Coast’s Lagoon Cluster of peoples, are one of the original settlers who had their own culture but are ethnolinguistically related to the other ethnic groups in the area. More than their language and their origin, their particular categorization under the Lagoon Cluster is based on their arts and culture.

Arts and Culture

Throughout history, major ethnic groups can become separated and divided as people migrate to various locations to form their own settlements. This was also the case with the Attie as they faced the rise of the Asante Kingdom. As a result, smaller subgroups of the Attie may have gone to the south and west of the Ivory Coast.

However, in the divide, how did the Attie become part of the Lagoon peoples? This was simply brought about by the Akan settlements that chose to live in the isolated wetlands of coastal Côte d’Ivoire. Here, the people got influenced by neighboring cultures, which is later seen in their arts and traditions. For instance, the Attie peoples’ arts are known for their stunningly beautiful symbols promoting fertility. Their statues are seen as a combination of the Baule artistry that represents the so-called Lagoon appearance. Moreover, these female figures are used in rituals as well, which connects their local practices, beliefs, and culture. This particular resemblance to their art forms show how the Attie are able to adopt the Baule influences while making them their own. They made their statues with bolder and more daring features, such as those seen in the figures’ muscular arms.

Aside from simply providing a comparison to the Attie neighboring ethnic communities, the people of old times are believed to use their figures as a representation for their ancestors, if not a symbol of their belief in spirits. Wouldn’t that be a fascinating experience to witness such colorful events? Perhaps revisiting the history of the Attie culture, life, and beliefs is a good start for a memorable Côte d’Ivoire trip.

Image from abidjan_le_rempart, https://www.instagram.com/p/BmZVA3QFkgt/