Diomande Tribe: People of Africa
Stories - Fauna & Flora
- Countries -
Dan, We, Guro, Senufo
Types of Art:
Diomande art includes wooden sculpture
and masks, which are danced for initiation, education, and entertainment.
Although there are few sources available
on Diomande culture, much has been written about Dan peoples who live to
the south of Diomande territory and share many cultural and artistic similarities.
Oral traditions describe Diomande society of the 19th century as lacking
any central governing power. Social cohesion was fostered by a shared language
and a preference for intermarriage. Generally, each village had a headman
who had earned his position of advantage in the community through hard
work in the fields and luck as a hunter. These headmen usually surrounded
themselves with young warriors for protection from invading neighbours,
and exchanged gifts with other chiefs in order to heighten their own prestige.
Young people strive to make a name
for themselves by lavishly spending at community feasts to demonstrate
their wealth. Rice, yams, taro, manioc, maize, and bananas are the primary
crops grown. Although farming and hunting have been largely replaced by
laboring in the diamond camps or working at the rubber plantations, the
establishment of a hierarchical social order is still based on the individual's
ability to succeed.
Diomande political systems consisted
largely of non-centralized, fragmentary political groups, in which decisions
are made on behalf of the community by councils of elder men. Masking often
served as a means of social control, enforcing the rules established by
the elders. Diomande initiation is not tied to Poro societies, as is the
case of their many neighbors, but masks do appear at initiation. Performances
also occur during funerals and for purposes of entertainment. Although
described primarily as entertainment, such performances also contain social
and political commentary that serve to demonstrate to the community the
wisdom of the elders.
The Diomande world view holds that
everything can be divided into two separate and clear categories. The primary
dichotomy is between village and bush, in other words, things that have
been controlled by man and things that have not. Crossing over the dividing
line is dangerous business, and whenever it is done, whether to clear new
fields or simply crossing the forest, the bush spirits must be appeased.
In order to take part in village life, the bush spirits must take corporeal
form. The Diomande believe that all creatures have a spirit soul (du),
which is imparted onto humans and animals from the creator god (Xra) through
birth. One's du is immortal and is passed on after death to a new being.
However, some du remain bodiless. They inhabit the forests as bush spirits
and must establish a relationship with a person if they wish to be manifested
and honored. Often the spirit will request the chosen person to dance the
spirit, utilizing a mask to illustrate the spirit's embodiment.