To all Kroumen of Côte d'Ivoire

Kane Sonde and Fax Clark are in our hall of fame for their contribution to the Kroumen culture, and the advancement of Ivorian music.


                                                                                         The Kroumen of the Ivory Coast

In our serialized version of  the cultures of Côte d'Ivoire, this first month of the year 2020 is dedicated to the  Kroumen. Commonly called Krou, they live in the South-West of Côte d'Ivoire, in the region of BAS-SASSANDRA, precisely in Tabou, Grabo, Grand-Béréby and San-Pedro. Because of this geographic location, they are also called the Southern Krou.

History, Origins

The Kroumen of Côte d'Ivoire have a long history which goes back to the history of the migrations of Africans. They  would have originated from the Near East, in particular Egypt. This happened from 3500 BC for meteorological and other reasons. They migrated precisely from the Nile Delta, gathered in twenty-five communities or tribes, BLOGBA or BLOWA, from nine cantons: Bapo, Plapo, Tépo Sud, Tépo Nord, Trépo, Touo, Ourouboué, Tahoux, and San-Pedro to occupy the South-West of the Ivory Coast, i.e. the part of the coast between the Cavally and San rivers, Pedro and extended inland to the South of Taé at the Nigré river.

 Kroumen, warrior people, call themselves: Klapo or Klawé or Klagbé in the plural and Klapi or Kloyou or Klayou or even Klapiou in the singular according to the idioms which mean all children or warriors of Kla, the name of their common (mythical) ancestor. Their traditional socio-political organization revolves around territorial and family units which fit into each other according to a pyramid scheme. Kinship, therefore, plays a crucial role in such a type of society, where the only truly undisputed authority is that of the eldest of the lineage, but also marriage, as the creator of alliances. Material culture is relatively uniform. The Kroumen civilization is a clearing civilization. Indeed, they practice shifting cultivation on slash and burn, rice is the basic food, socially the most valued. Cassava, corn, plantain, taro are the supplementary food. To these traditional food products are added the commercial crops of coffee and cocoa (GB and SP), rubber (SOGB: latex treatment plant, oil palm plant) (San Pedro, Grand-Béréby), oil palm, coconut grove (Tabou, Grabo with a processing plant located in Néka 45 km from Grabo.

 The name

It would be a distortion of the word Kréo, a small ethnic group on the Liberian coast which would have provided crews for the first European ships to arrive on this coast. The English would have assimilated by homophony, the word Kréo to the English word Crew (crew) which gave Crewmen (men of the crew), a trade which the Kréo were the very first to exercise on this portion of the coast. The word Kroumen has qualified and still qualifies, although lesser today, as a socio-professional category of African workers in seasonal service on European ships. The first mention of the name krou in European writings makes it possible to locate towards the end of the XVIth century, the beginning of the descent towards the sea of ​​the first Kroumen. This descent is precisely about the settlement of Europeans and the development of trade. Undoubtedly, the Kroumen who did not want to integrate into the cola trade with the large metropolises of the Sahel at the time, and who had a pacifist instinct, did they prefer to turn to the Gulf of Guinea and trade with Europeans. This is how the Kroumen of Ivory Coast occupied the Western coast of liaison with the country of origin and commercial relays. The Krou appellation applies to a linguistic or cultural family located in the West and South-West of Côte d'Ivoire.

Besides, it is also observed that under the general name of kroumen, European sailors designated more a professional category than an ethnic entity. Moreover, all workers who practised the profession of "navigator" regardless of their ethnic origin were designated by this name. Dockers but also sailors (because for the Ivorian administration, they embarked under the name of navigators) on the coast and essential auxiliaries of the ships which frequent the golf of Guinea, the kroumen were in the past specialized in the most delicate handling work particularly in the loading and stowing of logs. Fishermen and farmers by nature they practice shifting cultivation on slash and burn. Rice is the basic food, socially the most valued. Cassava, corn, plantain and taro are the supplementary foods. To these products are added the commercial crops of coffee and cocoa (Grand-Béréby and San-Pédro), rubber (SOGB: latex treatment plant, oil palm plant in San-Pédro and Grand-Béréby ), oil palm, coconut grove (in Tabou and Grabo, with a processing plant located in Néka, 45 km from Grabo.


Just as some African peoples whose use of tattooing is an integral part of their tradition, in Ivory Coast, in the Krou ethnic group as well among the Guéré as among the Kroumen, female tattooing is a traditional ancestral practice preserved jealously. However, if under other skies, especially the Fulani, it is perceived as a criterion of relentless beauty, among the Kroumen people, on the other hand, although this sublimating female beauty is rather the symbol of identity.

The Mlin, the Bouê, the Zran or even the Lalé etc ... as called according to the idioms highlights all the "kroumenité" of the woman as well during the events of mourning as of festivities like the dowry, the lifting of mourning, recognition etc ... Composition The female kroumen tattoo is obtained from the mixture of two compositions: the leaf of a tree called "Mlintougbê" or even Bahatou (according to the idioms) that are stacked to extract the juice and the fruits of this same tree which after have been dried are boiled to collect the solution. It is with the mixture of these two compositions that the drawings are applied.
Application It is done according to the inspiration of the one who applies them. Before the application of these body marks, it is possible to cover with ash the parts of the body to which they will be applied. Parallel or oblique, vertical or horizontal, sometimes even circular, the lines can have various shapes and styles. However, their applications differ depending on whether it is a celebration or mourning event. During a happy event, the application of the drawings is done using the stems of the tree and admits design. But when it comes to an unfortunate event like mourning, there is no design. In this case, the juice is poured from the head and it pours on the body.

Published/Updated by Meyan Clark Nanguy. A Graduate of London Westminster University

 Assistant-Editor-In-Chief For Ivory Coast Tribune/Photos:Censors

Kroumen Region