Ivory Coast Arts and Literature

By | August 12, 2020


The novel is a recent phenomenon in the Ivory Coast, later than in other French-speaking countries; the genre was preceded by theater and poetry, literary forms that are closer to the oral tradition. The first four novels came out during the period when the colonial empire was criticized in Africa in general (1944-60): “Climbié” (1956) and “Un nègre à Paris” (“A Negro in Paris”, 1959) by Bernard Dadié, ” Kocoumbo, l’étudiant noir ”(“ Kocoumbo, the Black Student ”, 1960) by Aké Loba and“ Les inutiles ”(“ The Unnecessary ”, 1960) by Dembélé Sidiki. With the exception of the latter, the novels are biographical or autobiographical in form.

Côte d'Ivoire Population Pyramid

  • Countryaah: Population and demographics of Ivory Coast, including population pyramid, density map, projection, data, and distribution.

During the first ten years of independence, a second wave came with more mature works. Some of these novels have autobiographical features. “Le soleil noir point” (“The Black Sun Dawns”, 1962) by Charles Nokan is an avant-garde and revolutionary work that tells about criminal proceedings in Europe. Other writers deal with social and political ills in the country, eg. Ahmadou Kourouma in “Les soleils des indépendances” (“The Sun of the Independent”, 1968), a now classic work that believably reproduces the malink environment. This also applies to the historical novel “Monné, Outrages et défis” (‘Monné, insults and challenges’, 1990), Kourouma’s second novel.

During the 1980’s, the number of writers increased significantly. Jean-Marie Adiaffi has attracted attention with the “La carte d’identité” (‘ID card’, 1980) as well as Amadou Koné with promising youth novels. Tradition and modernity, conflicts between generations and cultures as well as social problems in the cities are common topics in Ivory Coast novels. A noted writer from the Ivory Coast in the early 2000’s is Véronique Tadjo, who is mostly known for children’s books but also writes for adults. Mention can also be made of Maurice Bandama and poets Tanella Boni and Josué Guébo.

Arts and crafts

A variety of sculpture and mask traditions are found in the many groups of people in Ivory Coast. The Dan people have been recognized for their masks; Particularly famous is the so-called deangle mask, which is characterized by a naturalistic round sculpted style. In the central Ivory Coast, the expressive masks of the Baules, Yaures and Gurus are noticed. Prominent are also Baule’s anthropomorphic sculptures, made of wood and characterized by carefully processed details and surface. The folk group senufos masks are also well known; The most common occurrence is the kpeli-yehe mask, which is currently being produced for the tourist market in several parts of West Africa.

Among the first modern artists in the Ivory Coast to get international acclaim were Christian Lattier and Célestin Dogo Yao, both of whom have meant a lot to later artists such as Youssouf Bath and Koffi Mourouffie.


In 1891, French colonizers decided to build a deep harbor in a lagoon area on the Ivory Coast. The port would open the vast African inland with the help of the railway. The city of Abidjan was built on a plateau above the lagoon according to colonial plans with clear segregation. The plateau was reserved for Europeans, while the native residential area of ​​Treichville was moved to the lagoon south of the city. The street network was built as a regular route system in both the European and the domestic districts. Thanks to the port’s expansion and large investments in infrastructure, the city experienced a huge expansion phase, which meant that people moved from the countryside to the city and settled in illegal housing on unsuitable marshland.

In order to ward off the pressure on Abidjan, in 1983 it was decided that the political functions would move to the new capital Yamoussoukro in the middle of the country. However, the decision coincided with a general economic downturn that put an end to the expansion, and some unemployed people moved back to their villages. As a result, a number of very large, modern buildings, among others. party headquarters, the president’s residence and a cathedral – the world’s largest – are today in an almost abandoned environment in Yamoussoukro.


With its around 60 ethnic groups, the Ivory Coast exhibits a rich spectrum of both domestic and assimilated music. Traditional music is characterized by a responsive singing and playing method that creates a two- or multi-part sound world, in which parallel ters or quarter movements with chromatic elements is a prominent feature. Distinct polyrhythmics takes visual form in acrobatic and expressive dance forms. Since the 1950’s, a popular music industry has grown, with Western instruments dominating. However, typical styles of traditional music shine through, especially in descending melody structures based on pentatonic and / or heptatonic tones.

Among the artists that were popular during the 1960’s and 1970’s are Les Sœur Comöé and Sery Simplice (born 1949) and his band Les Frères Djatys. However, one who is usually regarded as the father of modern Ivorian pop music is Ernesto Djédjé (1948-83), who in the late 1970’s achieved great success with the ziglibithy music style.

As part of a protest movement in the student world in the early 1990’s, Zouglou emerged, a linguistically inventive genre in which the often satirical texts blend French, pidgin language and the language baule; central figure from the beginning has been Didier Ballé. Among the successors is the band Magic System, which since the beginning of the 1990’s has reached success across much of the world.

One of the country’s biggest stars is Meiway (really Frédéric Désiré Ehui; born 1962), a pioneer of dance music zoblazo, which is based on traditional rhythms from the southern part of the country.

Reggae has played an important role in Ivorian music since the 1980’s. A precursor to this development is Alpha Blondy (actually Seydou Koné; born 1953), who together with the band Solar System has gained international recognition. Another successful artist is Tiken Jah Fakoly (actually Doumbia Moussa Fakoly; born 1968), who combines reggae with influences from traditional music from the Northern Ivory Coast. In recent years, dance music coupé-décalé has become increasingly popular. Essentially a nightclub phenomenon that arose among Ivorians in Paris, coupé-décalé has spread over large parts of West and Central Africa.

Ivory Coast Arts and Literature