Ivory Coast, officially the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (French: République de Côte d’Ivoire), is a country in West Africa. It has an area of 322,462 square kilometres (124,503 sq mi), and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country’s population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be 20,617,068 in 2009. Ivory Coast’s first national census in 1975 counted 6.7 million inhabitants.
Prior to its colonization by Europeans, Ivory Coast was home to several states, including Gyaaman, the Kong Empire, and Baoulé. There were two Anyi kingdoms, Indénié and Sanwi, which attempted to retain their separate identity through the French colonial period and after independence. An 1843–1844 treaty made Ivory Coast a protectorate of France and in 1893, it became a French colony as part of the European scramble for Africa. Ivory Coast became independent on 7 August 1960. From 1960 to 1993, the country was led by Félix Houphouët-Boigny. It maintained close political and economic association with its West African neighbours, while at the same time maintaining close ties to the West, especially to France. Since the end of Houphouët-Boigny’s rule, Ivory Coast has experienced one coup d’état, in 1999, and a civil war, which broke out in 2002. A political agreement between the government and the rebels brought a return to peace.
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 their cultural and historical characteristics, which differ somewhat from one to the next. These may be further 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, the 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.
Ivory Coast art
The Baoulé, the Senoufo and the Dan peoples are skilled at carving wood and each culture produces wooden masks in wide variety. The Ivorian people use masks to represent animals in caricature to depict deities, or to represent the souls of the departed.
As the masks are held to be of great spiritual power, it is considered a taboo for anyone other than specially trained persons or chosen ones to wear or possess certain masks. These ceremonial masks are each thought to have a soul, or life force, and wearing these masks is thought to transform the wearer into the entity the mask represents.
Côte d’Ivoire also has modern painters and illustrators.
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