Ivory Coast — Abidjan is situated around a lagoon. The lagoon, several kilometers inland, starts at the Ghanaian border and stretches for 300 kilometers along the entire eastern half of the coast of the Ivory Coast. The lagoon takes it’s name from the Ebrié people, one of over 60 ethnic groups amongst the country’s 13.8 million people. The Generation Festival (Fête de Generation) is celebrated once every three years in Ebrié culture. Blokosso was originally an Ebrié village until Abidjan grew and enveloped it. The Tchagba Agban category celebrated their Generation Festival in Blokosso during the first week of August 1998.
The Generation Festival marks the passage from childhood into adulthood. Participants are in their late twenties to early thirties. After going through the ritual, men and women in the village have the right to speak in village meetings, to function as an adult in Ebrié society. All the members of the generation will begin to participate in social engagements in the village after celebrating the festival. People who participated in the Generation Festival and have been added to the village register have the right to lay claim to land or other resources distributed to the village as a whole.
The festival dates back to the time when the Ebrié went to war against with neighbouring villages and tribes. The men of certain age brackets of the village were organised into battalions of warriors. The festival is split into two parts: a test and a celebration. The test of the generation is to accompany the warriors from one end of the village and back to in front of the seat of the village elders, navigating all the mystical obstacles laid for the generation. If the generation can do that successfully then the generation becomes men and women in the eyes of the village. The men of the generation have proven themselves to be men and to be ready for battle.
Nowadays, the festival has been modernised to some degree with fewer mystical obstacles and more symbolism. The generation dancing through the streets of the village is symbolic of the test which the generation has to undergo in order to pass into adulthood. Village elders lay all sorts of mystical traps in the way of the generation – a pit with spikes or a dragon in it or a circle of fire. The seers of the generation are the men who possess the ability to discern the mystical obstacles. The seers are chosen to protect all the men in the generation particularly the warriors. It is the duty of the seers to stay ahead of, stay behind of and stay around the warriors to see if people are casting spells or have laid traps or in other ways trying to do harm to the warriors mystically.
Two warriors are selected and trained by the previous warriors of their godfather’s generation. Warriors are chosen using a criteria of strength and leadership abilities. The dances of the warriors are thoroughly choreographed and are passed on from one generation to the next. The godparents of the generation are selected by the villagers and have to have significant resources and clout in the community.
The women play a secondary role in the festival. At the start of the festival, the women sing and dance their way along the streets bearing gifts for the homes of the warriors. The women provide encouragement to the men during the test in the form of choral songs and rhythmic dancing.
Twice a day until the end of the first week and at the end of the festival on the weekend thereafter, the men and women of the generation parade though the village wearing their finest clothes and jewelry.
For the members of the generation, the festival is an important rite of passage marked by many months of practice and celebration with family members and friends.