West Africa
Welcome to Dantomba

                       06 Dec 2007

Sequence length:17:47

…  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 bushes.

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 hall.

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 tasty.

Transition from market and mountains to Dantomba.

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 Biankouma.

Dantomba arrival

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 Robert’

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

Cutting hair

Here is another example of what happens when the camera is seen. This young man came dancing through this scene until  told  to leave.

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.

Washing clothes

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 house.

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.

Men eating

Women and children eating

The women and children eat separately from the men. They also sleep in a different house.

 showing pictures

 pictures of our farm in the United States. The pictures of snow were amazing. ....had quite a job explaining what it was to this group.

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

Gourd 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. 

After the Goodbye Ceremony

After about 2 hours, the Goodbye Ceremony is over. See the lone white woman among these Toura men? The male elders conduct the important ceremonies. We should note here that we felt very safe with the Toura people in contrast to other areas where it is necessary to be constantly alert.

 Men on electric pole/coming in for close up

There is no electricity or running water in Dantomba, although they have electric poles.  The nearby city of Biankouma is working to extend electricity (in Toura it's called "fire rope") out to all the villages along that road. On this day, the men arrived to work on the poles. Change is coming to Dantomba! Life will never be the same when the electricity is turned on in this small village. We pray that change will come to the people of Dantomba as they hear the good news of Jesus. Spend much time in prayer before you visit these people. Pray that you will see them through God’s eyes of love.

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