A journey to a country that only very recently has again become accessible to travellers.
An itinerary for real “pioneers” wanting to discover multi-faced Africa:from liana bridges to cathedrals, from tribal masks to initiation dances, from tribal chiefs to sacred monkeys, from traditional hunters’ villages to the skyline of Abidjan, from savannah to forests and the Ocean wild beaches.
Every day will be filled with surprises and will take you to genuine, vibrant and colourful traditional ceremonies.For travellers who like unfiltered journeys in Africa
Arrival in Abidjan and transfer to the hotel.
Domestic flight to Bouake
We meet the Baulé people from the Akan lineage originating from Ghana. The Baulé share with their cousins, the Ashanti of Ghana, a complex social hierarchy but they also have enriched their cultural traditions by taking cues from their neighbours. Their complex craftmanship shows this rich heritage: fine statues representing the world of spirits, sculpted weaving-loom pulleys and beautiful masks. Visit of some villages. We attend the dance of Goli masks, that can be performed for both entertaining and celebrating the funeral of a person of high rank.
Heading to the north, we leave the main road for a track which will take us to the old town of Kong. The origins of Kong date back to the XII century. This ancient kingdom emerged as a trading centre when the merchants from the Mali Empire began trading within the territory of the Senufo people.
Drive to Ferkessedougou, main crossway to Mali and Burkina Faso. Its development started in 1895 when the first part of the Abidjan-Niger Railway was completed and Ferkessedougou became its southern terminal. Today the town is known as a cattle trading centre of Zebu cows and its market is worth a stop. From Ferkessedougou we drive to a remote village to witness the old technique of iron melting carried out by some old blacksmith, a very rare example of traditional iron metallurgy in Africa. This “tribal technology” will bring us back to the first Iron Age in Africa, referring to the prehistory and protohistory of Afro-Eurasia, the time when the dominant tool making material was iron.
LA DANZA DELLA PANTERA
Korhogo e’ un passaggio obbligatorio per il viaggiatore che attraversa le regioni settentrionali del paese. La sua storia risale al XIII sec. ed e’ la capitale del popolo Senoufo, un etnia che ha prodotto i maggiori capolavori dell’arte Africana e che vive ancora nel rispetto delle sue antiche tradizioni culturali. Tra questo popolo si annoverano abili scultori, tessitori, pittori e fabbri. Visiteremo i loro villaggi che mantengono ancora oggi i segreti della propria produzione artigianale. Nei villaggi potremo ammirare i massicci granai in argilla e le case sacre con i bassorilievi colorati. I Senoufo sono celebri anche per i loro complessi riti iniziatici. L’iniziazione dei ragazzi e’ chiamata Poro e si distribuisce su 21 anni. Consiste nell’apprendimento dei segreti sociali e religiosi che contraddistinguono un vero Senoufo, il superamento di alcune prove e l’esibizione in danze mascherate. Tra queste ultime la più spettacolare e’ quella del Boloy, o danza della pantera. Se in programma parteciperemo ad una di queste celebrazioni cariche d’atmosfera.
The Panther Dance
In the morning return to the village to see the result of the fusion. The town of Korhogo is a must for any traveller visiting Ivory Coast northern regions. Its history dates to the XIII century and today it is the capital of the Senufo, the tribe that has produced some of the greatest artworks of Africa, in almost every field: sculpture, weaving, painting and blacksmiths. Visit of the interesting craft market to discover wooden sculptures and textiles showing the traditional Senufo patterns. It is these patterns that have inspired modern artists like Pablo Picasso who also personally travelled to Senufo country to meet and exchange experiences with local artists. The Senufo are renowned for their complex initiation rites. We spend two days in the Korhogo region and if a traditional funeral will occur, we will not miss the opportunity to look at the sacred masks dance performed during this special ceremony.
The virgins’ dance
We will discover the village of Niofoin with its clay granaries, decorated with symbolic bas-reliefs, and with a unique sacred house boasting a tall conical roof. The house has painted decorations and sacred objects belonging to the animistic cults, still practiced by Senufo people. Later in the day, encounter with the unmistakable Fulani nomads, constantly in search of pastures for their herds of zebus. The Fulani can be easily recognized by their conical straw huts, the walking stick they always carry over their shoulders, the water bottle hanging around their neck, the machete in their hands and their proud posture. Visit of a village, mostly inhabited by women and children. We will be invited into their huts to see old family photos, dowry presents etc. Late in the afternoon, we attend the dance of the virgin girls performed by the Senufo and part of the Poro Initiation.
Nei dintorni di Odienne vivono i Malinké, discendenti dell’antico impero del Mali. Tra i personaggi della storia di queste famiglie ricordiamo quello del guerriero Samory Touré, che proprio in queste regioni trovò grande sostegno contro l’avanzata dei coloni. Tra le fila dei suoi guerrieri si fecero notare i “Dozo”, la società dei cacciatori, per il coraggio dimostrato in battaglia e per il potere mistico ancora oggi tramandato nel corso di una lunga iniziazione. Incontreremo i responsabili di questa casta.
In the region of Odienne we will meet the Malinké, descendants of the old Mali Empire. His army included the Dozo (initiated hunters) known for their courage and mystic powers. We will encounter the Dozo and walk in the savannah with them – dressed in their traditional costumes made of “bogolan” fabric and carrying their shotguns covered with amulets. They will give us an interesting introduction to traditional herbal medicines and will take us to a sacred site where, to the growing rhythm of tam-tams, they will dance and give proof of their strength.
The day is dedicated to the encounter with the Yacuba, also known as the Dan. We visit villages built on hillsides and characterized by big round huts with thatched roofs – some of the houses are decorated with frescos made by women during ceremonial periods. Amid scented branches of coffee plantation and in the shadow of an enormous Iroko tree, we visit a large pond inhabited by venerated catfish, custodians of ancestors. Soon the echoes of tam-tams and the shouts of the initiated tell the masks that it is time to leave the sacred forest … so they appear and offer us unforgettable emotions.
The rainforest that stretches between Ivory Coast and Liberia is famous for its long liana bridges. Its is shrouded in mystery – tradition says that they are secretly built by young initiated men over the course of only one night! In a nearby tiny village, masks will emerge from the forest towards us.
Rituals in the forest
Vehicles 4×4 will be necessary to discover the remote forest region where the arrival of foreigners is a rare event. The track crosses wooden bridges before reaching the more isolated settlements inhabited by the Guéré ethnic group. The sacred and spectacular masks will dance for the village. Drumming will announce the rare “Jongleurs” performances. Jongleurs are an ancient tradition now vanishing. Initiated girls with their face painted in white Kaolin perform a unique acrobatic dance… In the afternoon we continue to Daloa.
A basilica in the Savannah
In Daloa region we attend Zaouli dancing masks.
In the afternoon arrival in Yamoussoukro, the country’s capital since 1983. Economic success attracts immigrants from neighbouring Sahel countries and western foreign investors, thus making the Ivory Coast the giant economy of French speaking West Africa. A “child” of the economic boom of 1980s is the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Paix (Our Lady of Peace). In Yamoussoukro cars drive in wide boulevards constantly trying to avoid big potholes and free roaming chickens! During the visit our attention will also be caught by the huge government buildings, the lofty 14-floor high hotels and the artificial lake which is inhabited by caimans. And yet, among all this, what mostly strikes our imagination is the feeling of emptiness, the nothingness that surrounds what has become a bygone dream.
African metropolis: skyscrapers & lagoons
Drive to Abidjan. We enter in town by the new quarter of Youpugon, not far from the Banco River forest and the “Fanico”, the famous clothes washers. If we look beyond the lagoon, the “plateau” (the City District) is growing very fast, not horizontally as in most African towns but vertically, with its large modern buildings and skyscrapers. Not much land is available and the little available must be continually extorted from the waters of the Ebrié Lagoon. The modern City District is defined to the west by the harbour and its endless queues of people waiting for a ferry, and to the east by the incredible silhouette of Saints Peter & Paul Cathedral. When we admire the skyline, only the Statue of Liberty seems to be missing, however this is Black Africa, not Manhattan!
Gran Bassam, old colonial atmosphere
Grand Bassam is an old town built on a sand bank between the lagoon and the ocean. It was the former capital of the French Ivory Coast colony and now is a maritime leisure resort for the Abidjanese. Thanks to its calm avenues shaded by tall trees, large bougainvillea and well-preserved colonial buildings, Grand Bassam has a magic atmosphere. The old post office is a jewel of French colonial architecture. The Costume Museum, in the former governor’s palace, with its large outer staircase is a true architectural gem and its unique collection of tribal costumes, masks, ornaments and ethnographic photographs gives an interesting perception of the country history and culture. Transfer to the airport for the flight out. End of our services.