Between Vavoua in the East, and the Lake Kossou in the West, lies the Gouro country geographically located in the Western region of the country between the Bété and Baoulé tribes. These people have managed the transition from a traditional subsistence economy to modern agriculture while keeping their cultural traditions intact.
The Gouro folklore, a lively culture that reinvents itself
In Ivory Coast, Gouro the country managed to preserve its authentic way of life, traditional dances and masks and its round huts villages. Cashews have been, for the last couple of years, the predominant cash crop. The capital city of the region is a small provincial town called Zouénoula.
Today, the traditional Gouro culture still remains the most popular and most folkloric culture of Ivory Coast. Whenever a ceremony requires a representation of the Ivorian folklore, Zaouli masks cherished by the Gouro people are always recognized as an important symbol during celebrations.
The Gouro people, who are part of the Mande group of the South, are recognized as outstanding sculptors, who export their artistic expertise to neighboring Baoule villages. Many masks, statuettes and Baoule weaving pulleys are the work of Gouro sculptors. They worship the masks and hence give great importance to human and animal figures. Zamblé and Zaouli masks are the most famous symbols of the Gouro folklore. While Zamblé masks are competition masks that cannot be worn by women, Zaouli masks are used during public events.
Likewise, any opportunity will be seized to adorn dancers with masks intended to represent the struggle between good and evil, between the real and the supernatural. In addition to their undisputed expertise in the art of carving wood, the Gouro are distinguished by their rich and varied songs repertoire. Very often, unsuspected singers perform at funerals, feasts and releases of masks. With their magnificent sculptures, masks and songs, the Gouro people know, better than anyone else, how to reinvent their folklore.
Strange Zamblé duels
The great duels between Zamblé masks take place within the narrow confines of a family ritual sacrifice to the ancestors or occasionally during great funeral celebrations involving several villages. With their special appearance, half leopard, half antelope, Zamblé masks are very famous in the Gouro culture.
Similarly, Zamblé duels are so famous they gather around the dance stage spectators from very distant villages. Yet, duels are not just an entertainment. The mere fact of attending performances that involve the use of supernatural powers can sometimes be dangerous.
During these extraordinary dance contests, tension and anxiety reach their acceptable tolerance levels. In the grip of a real paranoia, witnesses feel that the danger is imminent and constant. The atmosphere increasingly oppressive becomes almost palpable. As the day goes by, some people collapse, victims of the dreaded combination of their anxiety, alcohol and witchcraft. After the duel, the name of the winner has to be announced. The public is the only judge. Finally, only a man of extreme wisdom and great boldness will have the courage to name the Zamblé champion.
Text and photos Nabil Zorkot
Travel in Gouro country, Ivory Coast
Zahi + 225 47 82 08 15 / 06 59 26 33
Auberge Myle +225 08 47 07 45
Le prestige +225 77 18 55 35
Harmonie +225 07 72 59 49
Le Mont Lotan +225 30 68 92 80
Koblata +225 30 68 95 91
Les rosiers +225 32 70 50 56
Cristal +225 07 73 61 24
- le Parc national de la Marahoué
- le Confluent de Bonzi
- les Pierres sacrées de Gohitafla
- les Tisserands de Bazré
- Zahouly, Zamblé & Goly dances
- Art and Culture Festival