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Christa Neuenhofer | profile | all galleries >> Poro Initiation Ceremony in Korhogo, Northern Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Poro Initiation Ceremony in Korhogo, Northern Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

In February 2014 my husband and I were lucky to witness a Poro ceremony at Korhogo, in northern Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Poro is an initiation ritual of the Senufo people that comprises three stages of seven years each. Senufo boys start taking part in the initiation rites at the age of seven and at about 28 they will be fully initiated and be respected elders in their communities.
The young initiates spend weeks and even months together in secluded sacred groves where they develop the survival skills and intellectual foundation to prepare them for adulthood. Senior Poro members instruct initiates in the work of Poro, also referred to as work for "Old Mother," the female aspect of the supreme deity and protector of Poro initiates. They learn how to meet social obligations, work with peers, and respect their elders. Only after being fully initiated they are e.g. allowed to celebrate funeral rites.
Always after seven years there is a big celebration for those who have undergone all stages of initiation. The whole community takes part in the festivities. There is music (nowadays modern pop out of big loudspeakers), young people are dancing, women are cooking for the community and the Poro members, dressed in nothing but a loincloth, are waiting for the final part of the celebration at the end of the afternoon. In Korhogo this was at 4:30 pm. Suddenly the music and the dancing stopped and no more photos were allowed. The initiates walked to a hut at the edge of the sacred grove where the final rituals took place. They (in Korhogo there were dozens of them) went there in a long line, behind each initiate walked his wife – if he was married – otherwise his sister who carried a ceremonial chair that had been elaborately sculptured for this special purpose and would later be kept in the man’s house – a visible sign that he was a full member of society.
We were informed that this was also the ‘day of the women’. Therefore a Poro junior dressed as a beautiful lady paid homage to the female members of his lineage by telling them of the hard times the young men underwent in the sacred grove and thanking the mothers for their support.
Young Poro initiatiates on the way to the sacred grove
Young Poro initiatiates on the way to the sacred grove
Korhogo. Poro initiate during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro initiate during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro initiate during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro initiate during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro initiate during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro initiate during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro initiate during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro initiate during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro ceremony; senior Poro members
Korhogo. Poro ceremony; senior Poro members
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during  Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during  Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during  Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during  Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during  Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during  Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during  Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Ceremonial chair, later carried behind the initiate during Poro ceremony
Korhogo. Poro junior dressed as a lady paying homage to the women during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro junior dressed as a lady paying homage to the women during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro junior dressed as a lady paying homage to the women during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro junior dressed as a lady paying homage to the women during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro junior dressed as a lady paying homage to the women during Poro celebration
Korhogo. Poro junior dressed as a lady paying homage to the women during Poro celebration
Korhogo. community elders
Korhogo. community elders
Korhogo. women cooking for the community during Poro celebration
Korhogo. women cooking for the community during Poro celebration