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The Senufo People in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa

Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d'Ivoire, is located in West Africa. Close to the equator and sea facing, the climate is warm and humid. Agriculture is the main industry. And in the agricultural community in northern Ivory Coast, there live the artistic Senufo people. The Senufo religion is a fusion of animistic beliefs and Islam. They believe that everything, including flora, fauna, environment, and even climate has a soul. They show their faith and piety in the many handicrafts they produce.

The Senufo people are world-famous for their handicrafts, most of which are characterized by cultural themes and religious beliefs. It is said that Pablo Picasso and the cubist/surrealist painter Fernand Léger are both inspired by the art of Senufo people. In contemporary art, Senufo has become a genre in art collection, representing the traditional art of West Africa, and is exhibited in world-renowned museums.

The Senufo people have matriarchal society and mostly live in Korhogo, an ancient town in the north of Ivory Coast. According to legend, the town of Kohogo was founded by the patriarch of the Senufo in the 14th century, and it is still the home of the Senufo people. It is also the birthplace of Korhogo, a traditional special painting belonging to the Senufo tribe.

Crafts with Natural Painting Style

Korhogo and Bogolan, the mud-dyed cloth in Mali have similar stories. The warm and rainy weather in Ivory Coast is very suitable for cotton planting. The production, twisting, weaving and dyeing of cotton are all manual works. Women twist the cotton into threads and make dyes. Men, on the other hand, are responsible for weaving and drawing patterns on the cloths.

The traditional korhogo is painted on a white piece of cloth. The paint is a mixture of fermented mud and boiled leaf juice so that the painting has black or dark brown lines. Red, ocher, and black are also used as the main colors. The first tool used for drawing korhogo is the knife. The knife is used to moisten the paint with mud and tree sap, and then emboss the engraved pattern on the cloth surface to make the first composition. And then drip the other paints on the sketch. The capillary phenomenon formed by the first layer of dye prevents the dripped paint from bleeding.

The Symbols and Meanings of the Painting

The people express the respect for nature and the human connection through the paintings, by depicting elements such as animals, plants, the sun, and the moon. Each animal and natural element has its own special meaning. For example, the birds Guinea fowls represent the inner beauty of women. Fish symbolize vitality and harvest. Hunters symbolize the mystery of life while goats represent the strength of men.

The traditional festivals and rituals of the Senufo People,  and a  rhythmic dance called "Senufo N’Goron" are also painted on the korhogos. In the ceremony of "Senufo N'Goron", female dancers wear hats and clothing made of feathers, sheepskin, hay, and shells and dance to celebrate women’s adulthood and beauty. On the last day of the festival, men dress up in leopard-like costumes to dance Boloye (leopard dance), challenging each other through the moves, showing dance skills, and draw the festival to an end.

Combination of Fashion and Tradition

Kohorgo is also significant to the Senufo people in other ways. For male hunters, it symbolizes safety, good luck, and prestige during hunting. Women wear it during special occasions such as weddings and funerals to express respect and to follow etiquette. In modern times, besides making Korhogo into clothing, it has also become a popular and trendy wall decoration in Europe and the United States.

Select Monthly 03 x Côte d'Ivoire Korhogo Cloth