… talking with woman
who is carrying ax on head
We are Volunteers from the USA who had the privilege of visiting
the Toura people of Dantomba, Cote d’Ivoire in December 2000. Our
purpose was to produce an advocacy video . This video segment,
Welcome to Dantomba, is for those people who may also visit
Dantomba as volunteers. The following are our experiences as
first-time visitors and may be helpful to you. Please remember that
as white people, you are going to be the center of attention at
first. Many will follow you out of sheer curiosity. They will gather
to listen to what you say-- but don't be fooled into thinking
they've come to hear your message. They've come to stare at you --
the novelty, the fascinating interruption to the routine of their
lives. If you can show them respect, if you can follow their customs
even a little and if you are willing to sit down and eat their rice
-- you'll win their friendship. One thing is for sure, your own life
will be changed forever.
Abidjan is the modern city where your Cote d’Ivoire visit begins.
The Mission has nice guest rooms available here. Prior to leaving on
the eight to nine hour drive to Biankouma, a stop was made at the
supermarket for supplies not available in the smaller towns. Susan
and Arline got what was needed and we were ready to go.
Road to Man (Mahn)
After leaving Abidjan, the road becomes increasingly lonely with
only a few small towns.
It is very apparent to us that having our friends with us is
imperative in knowing what to do and how to act here. This is not a
trip for inexperienced persons traveling alone. Several military and
police check points must be navigated. Some wave us on through. At
others we are stopped and asked a few basic questions. Thankfully,
we were not detained. We were told that the rule is never to stop
unless it is an official checkpoint and even then there may be
problems that arise. This trip must be accomplished in daylight. On
this route, there are no safe places to stop overnight. A stop is
made for gas, our lunch that we brought with us is eaten while
traveling and bathroom breaks are a few short stops to visit the
Scenes in Man… coming back with watermelon
We arrived early evening in the town of Man with about 45 minutes
left to reach Biankouma. Man is the closest town where some needed
supplies are available. Although the market place has many, many
items, do not expect stores here that you would find even in rural
America. We will be taking all of our food to eat while in Dantomba.
There is a very small grocery store here. She also needed some
vegetables available from the street vendor. We also decided on a
watermelon to take with us to Dantomba. The common practice at these
stands is to barter on the price with the individual who is selling
the product. Before continuing on to Biankouma, we had delicious
pizza at a nice restaurant operated by an Italian man. This is the
only restaurant in town that can be considered safe for visitors.
Outside Man…laundry/swimming hole/bathtub
At this spot about 5 miles from Man toward Biankouma, one can do
laundry, go swimming, and take a bath all in one stop!
Biankouma…street scenes near P.O./mayor’s place/city hall
Biankouma is the closest town to the village of Dantomba. Our
friends have their main home here where they have electricity,
running water, and a telephone. They also spend several days a week
at their village house in Dantomba. The nicest street in Biankouma
is here at the location of the post office, mayor’s place, and city
at market Biankouma/ buying fritters market Biankouma
get some of these small fried cakes. Similar to fritters and made
with the banana like fruit called plantains, they are really quite
The people of Dantomba walk the 8 miles to Biankouma if they need
to come into town for any reason. Monday is market day and several
may come to the market to buy or sell items. From the market place
in Biankouma, the mountains near Dantomba may be seen. Dantomba is
at the end of a very rough road that takes at least 45 minutes from
The arrival of Steve and Susan in Dantomba always causes
excitement among the people. On this day, they are particularly
excited to see the white couple with them. What an experience to be
greeted with such enthusiasm! Dantomba is home to about 300 of the
approximately 35,000 Toura people. The homes here are traditional
style mud brick with thatch roofs or concrete block with a tin roof.
Greeting is simply essential to life in a Toura village. To you
this may seem unnecessary and you would like to get on with the task
that you came there to do but you MUST be patient. You would be
spitting on their culture and their traditions and their way of life
if you did not take the time to greet everyone properly. Your
project or agenda will flop. As you are taken around to the homes
and you MUST go in each one and shake hands and greet them warmly --
asking them how their homes, families and fields are, thanking them
for their work and their wisdom and for welcoming you and for taking
care of the village.
The Toura are a people who depend on the seasons to bring them
rain for their crops. Even their play is tied to the elements. If
their boys whipped their tops, called dena, during rainy season, the
skies would close up and refuse to soak the rice fields. The dena
are only allowed to spin during dry season – the season of harvest.
To use the dena it takes many hours of practice and the reflexes of
the young! My attempts were met with much laughter.
Stream Dantomba … – Kids!
Women pounding rice
This first day in the village, some of the people were self
conscious and somewhat silly. They wanted to have their pictures
made and flocked around. These women pounding rice had a typical
reaction to the camera. People eventually relaxed into their normal
routines enabling us to get videos of typical village life.
Okra leaves/basket making
Village A.M. … women/goats/kids going to school
Scenes of village
Chicken house turkeys
Let’s climb up the hill to visit John’s chickens and turkeys.
Muan Peu washing son
Here is another example of what happens when the camera is seen.
This young man came dancing through this scene until told
Boy at water pump
Men do not get water. This is a job for the women and children. A
shallow well and pump put in next to their house. Drinking water is
not available here. That must be filtered and brought from Biankouma.
Village friends also use their well.
Women getting water at the stream
Most people in the village get their water as they always have
--- from the stream.
The same stream serves as the Laundromat.
Initiate (scene cut)
Her painted body and dress indicate that this young girl has gone
through the rite of female circumcision.
greeting a woman drying coffee beans
Asking this village woman for permission to video her placing
coffee beans out to dry. She is happy to show us how this is done as
she spreads the beans out evenly.
Elder of village with fetishes hanging all around doorway of
The Toura believe that animals, birds, wood, fruit, etc. serve to
protect them from the evil spirits. Many homes display these
fetishes near the front door.
Women and children eating
The women and children eat separately from the men. They also
sleep in a different house.
pictures of our farm in the United States. The pictures of
snow were amazing. ....had quite a job explaining what it was to
Clarice mixing banana fritters/Clarice and her
mother/Clarice/women with baskets
Robert’ giving haircut
Robert’ is giving one of the village elder’s a haircut.
Village store inside/outside
Muan Peu and John
Meet Muan Peu Gondu and his son, John. Muan Peu is the
soft-spoken elder whose name translates "Old White Man" because he
has gray hair. He is the elder who has "adopted" Steve and Susan.
Steve and Susan have been told that Muan Peu looks upon them as his
children. As Grand Fetisher of Dantomba, Muan Peu tries to heal
people with charms and offers sacrifices to the spirits of the
ancestors. John is a very good friend.
Family compound and town crier
His 4 wives and their children live in this compound with Muan
Peu. The town crier is about to call everyone to the Goodbye
Ceremony honoring us. Sometimes a council of elders will meet to
welcome a guest who arrives in a Toura village. Some of the elders
were not able to be there for a welcoming ceremony and instead gave
us a special goodbye. You may be offered a meal, and it is so
important to at least eat some of it, even if rice and okra sauce is
not your favorite food. More than likely, you'll just walk around
and greet many people without a ceremony.
greeting elder/Elder arriving for ceremony
In a Toura village, the old men are supreme. Elders only wear
this long robe called a baboo on formal occasions. As the elders
arrive, they sit according to age. The seating arrangement changes
as each one arrives. Cola nuts are being passed. They use them when
handing out blessings and they use them to sacrifice to their
ancestors. Cola has tremendous ritual, religious and social
implications for the Toura. They present cola to each other just as
a gesture of greeting and goodwill. They love the bitter taste and
eat it like candy.
First-time visitors in a Toura village must bring a gift for the
chief and often that gift is simply cola nuts. Since we were being
given a ceremony, we brought cola nuts and a nice live white
chicken. Our friend, John, is participating in the ceremony as the
son of Meu Peu. John is receiving the chicken and cola nuts
along with our thanks for the hospitality and kindness of the
villagers during our stay with them. These gifts are then given to
the elders. Notice that only men are participating in this ceremony.
Beginning of ceremony/man speaking Toura – accepting chicken –
more of ceremony
Muan Peu is leading the elders in the special Gourd Ceremony
asking for blessings on us as we travel. Cola nuts are cut in half
and thrown on the ground to see which way they fall to determine the
will of the spirits. The nuts are offered to the ancestors, praying
to them that they will accept the gift. A little water is poured out
on the ground serving the ancestors a liquid sacrifice. He prays
over the puddle, asking for the spirit's favor in response to the
drink. Then, those around dip their fingers in the mud and smear a
little on their forehead to receive the blessing of the ancestors.