The Ebrié (Caman, Kyama, Tchaman, Tsama, Tyama) people are matriarchal Potou-speaking, "Lagoon" Akan people living in the Abidjan region of Côte d'Ivoire and some parts of the Ghana border.
The Ebrié people are located in Lagunes Region, urban Abidjan, Dabou subprefecture, Bingerville subprefecture. 57 villages, including 27 in Abidjan. The Ebrié people were originally called "Tchaman" or "Achan" (both of which mean "the chosen ones" in the Ebrié language), the name Ebrié was given to them by the neighboring Abouré people.
In the Abouré language, Ebrié means "dirty" or "soiled," and was given to them after a military defeat. In turn, however, the Ebrié refer to the Abouré as "Koroman," which means "dirty people" in the Ebrié language. The traditional lands of the Ebrié lie along the lagoon which bears their name, which extends from Grand-Bassam (in the east) to Assagni (in the west) and includes the city of Abidjan and its environs. The Ebrié make up approximately 0.7% of the population of Côte d'Ivoire.
The Ebrie celebrate people are famous for their 'Fatchue' or the festival of the generations with dances and rituals to mark the passage of individuals from one generation to the next. The 'Blessoue Djehou' generation is mature in age and is the next generation to participate in the management of village affairs.
The Ebrié Lagoon is part of the inter-tropical estuarine system (three long, narrow lagoons) that line the shores of the West African state of Ivory Coast. It (4–11°N, 2–9°W), and lies between the Grand Lahou and the Aby Lagoons.
With an average depth of 4.5 m and a surface area of 566 km2, the lagoon (which is narrow, only 4–5 km wide) extends more than 130 km parallel to the coast (Carmouze and Caumette, 1985; Durand et al., 1994).
It is the largest lagoon in West Africa.Durand et al. (1994) divided the lagoon into six homogeneous zones on the basis of morphological features and location, the relative influence of the Vridi Canal, and the input of freshwater. At the eastern end, it has an only permanent connection with the sea (Atlantic Ocean) through the Vridi Canal, a channel of 300 m wide and 15 m deep constructed in 1951.
Abidjan, the largest city in Ivory Coast, stands on several converging peninsulas and islands in an eastern part of the lagoon; other communities situated on or in the lagoon include Jacqueville and the village of Tiagba.
Freshwater input during the summer rainy season is mainly by the Comoe (Komooé) River, located on the eastern side of the lagoon. In winter the lagoon becomes salty, but it turns to fresh water during the summer rainy reason. The levels of pollution in the lagoon have been moderately high for some years due to discharge of untreated industrial effluents and sewage from the nearby urban areas.
Ebrié people speak Ebrié. Ebrié, or Cama (Caman, Kyama, Tchaman, Tsama, Tyama), is spoken in Ivory Coast and Ghana. It is a Potou language of the Kwa branch of the Niger–Congo family of languages.
The Ebrié are members of the Akan ethnolinguistic group. Their oral history relates that the tribe was originally located to the northeast, near the lands of the Ashanti in Ghana. The rise of the Asante Kingdom, a large and militarily aggressive member of the Akan, led to the dispersion of many smaller groups, who fled to the south and west, primarily along the coast, away from their heavy-handed, intrusive neighbors.
Oral history of the Ebrie people state that they fled to the south after a great defeat in battle by a neighboring tribe. They are believed to have begun immigrating to their present location in the eighteenth century, and the migration took place in several stages, or waves.
Ebrié (Kyama) as an extremely complex grouping of people first settled along the south-east coast, particularly around the Ebrié Lagoon and in an area now known as Abidjan. Ebrié started migrating further inland around 1750. They never organized into central states; their most inclusive political unit has been the village. They have largely shifted from traditional occupations to cash crop farming. Lagoon people have attracted many migrant labourers to their farms, especially Mossi from Burkina Faso. Baoulé and Dioula have also moved in and assumed political and economic prominence to the concern of the original inhabitants.
Although numerically overwhelmed by immigrants, they have managed to preserve their identity and some aspects of traditional culture which was oriented towards the waters of the sea and the lagoons. They are however becoming increasingly attracted to Christianity and integrated into the wider economy and society.
Age grades are an important part of social cohesion. Ebrié occupy the area around Abidjan, Bingerville and Dabou and were the indigenous people of the site of the city of Abidjan.
In Côte d'Ivoire, the Ebrié are traditionally divided into nine distinct kinship groups, or phratries (goto in the Ebrié language): Kwè, Bidjan, Yopougon, Nonkwa, Songon, Bodo, Dyapo, Bya and Gnangon. All told, these nine phratries form a community that spans the sixty-three villages in the region.
Abidjan, the land of Ebrie people. According to oral tradition of the Ébrié as reported in the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Côte d'Ivoire, the name "Abidjan" results from a misunderstanding. Legend states that an old man carrying branches to repair the roof of his house met a European explorer who asked him the name of the nearest village.
The old man did not speak the language of the explorer, and thought that he was being asked to justify his presence in that place. Terrified by this unexpected meeting, he fled shouting "min-chan m'bidjan", which means in the Ébrié language: "I just cut the leaves." The explorer, thinking that his question had been answered, recorded the name of the locale as Abidjan.
A slightly different and less elaborate version of the legend: When the first colonists asked a native man the name of the place, the man misunderstood and replied "M'bi min djan": "I've just been cutting leaves"
Ebrié villages are, by and large, oriented around a single large thoroughfare. Due to the Ebriés' predominant Christian faith, most villages have three houses of worship: a Catholic church, a Protestant church and a Harrist church.
Each village, or akubè, is divided into quarters, or akrobu, whose names reflect the slope of the land on which they are built. Quarters built on high ground are called Ato, while those built on lower ground are known as até. School buildings are generally built in a quarter separate from the main residential area, as are cemeteries, which are traditionally built in a high-ground to a quarter, at a slight remove from the rest of the village.
Because of their proximity to both the lagoon and the neighboring ocean, the principle economic activity of the Ebrié people is fishing.
Those communities located in more outlying areas of Ebrié land, such as Bingerville and Songon, are also engaged in the cultivation of produce agriculture, such as plantains, yams, taro and manioc, as well as export products like coffee, cacao, rubber, palm oil, bananas and sweet potatoes
One of the central features of the organization of Ebrié society is the generations of its inhabitants. For the most part, generation groups are formed by people born within a 15-year span of one another. These co-generationals are considered, for all intents and purposes, siblings, even if they are not biologically related.
Ebrie sub-Queen mother being hugged by her subjects at the celebration of the Ebrie 'Fatchue' or the festival of the generations at Blokosso,Ivory Coast.
This system takes into account both genders, and recognizes four generations, which are known by the following names: Blessoué, Gnando, Dougbo and Tchagba. Each generation, in turn, is separated into four smaller sub-groups (in order of seniority): Djehou, Dongba, Agban and Assoukrou. The entire cycle of four generations lasts sixty years. ( It should also be noted that this organizations exists within a system of clans, in which lineage is traced maternally. Despite this, a child is considered to be its father's, and it is the father who is responsible for naming the child. A child is incorporated into its maternal family as it grows.
The Ebrie people believe in an Almighty Supreme Being,just like all Akans and Africans, called Nyãṉkã
Ebrie (like all Akans) believe that God is the supreme, uncreated, self-existent being in whom all things end up, upon whom all things are dependent. God is everywhere but also far away beyond the reach of humans.
We know Him by many appellations such as Otweidiampon, Okokroko, Onyame, Awurade, Odomankoma-the One who can give us grace, Nyankopon, Asasse Yaa-Mother earth, pure, unpolluted, motherly, protective, fruitful---He is the Great one, the dependable One, Eternal, Infinite, the Mighty of Mighties, transcending everything, able to satisfy, Aja -our Father, Awurade-our Lord, our King, our Judge.
The Abosom (Lessor Gods)
Despite this firm conviction, the traditional Akan (Ebrie) does not worship God directly. God is too unique. Besides the Supreme Being, we believe that there exists in our world a world of spirits. We believe that Spirits are everywhere. The Supreme Being is the father and creator of those spirits. We believe that these spirits are ministers of the Supreme Being. They are known as the lesser gods, in that they have no power unto themselves but the power is from the Supreme Being. They however are able to work independently, doing the good work of healing and protecting the people who worship them. These lessor gods have a generic name which is different from the names given to the Supreme Being.
They are called Abosom(plural) or Obosom (singular) and sometimes referred to as the Deities. These spirits are embodied in the wind, rivers, oceans, streams, trees, mountains, rocks, animals, and other objects. Through the Abosom, we receive blessings, prosperity, protection from dangers and difficulties, direction and guidance for all aspects of our lives, and much more. The role of the Abosom in the traditional Akan religion, therefore, is great.
The Ebrie, like most of the so-called "Lagoon" peoples, are known primarily for their strikingly beautiful female figures, used ritually to promote fertility. Statues of the Ebrie, like those of other groups in the area, are some of the most ravishing in all of Africa, combining the best features of Baule artistry with a unique "lagoon" appearance. They can be found either standing, or seated upon a classic Akan stool, and usually have lovely blackened patinas.
Ebrie pieces do show Baule influence, in their faces primarily, but Lagoon carvings are stronger and bolder, more daring, with massive volumes offset by muscular, stubby arms. The effect can be exquisite, even extraordinary. This body shape is in stark contrast to the more linear figures of the Baule.
In societies without hereditary chiefs, such as the Akan-speaking peoples of southern Côte d'Ivoire, political and economic elevation remained open to people with the initiative and skill to advance. Once established as a community leader, an individual commissioned his or her own personal regalia, such as this pendant. To reinforce the point, a person of prominence eventually arranged an “exhibition of gold” to display the depth of his or her personal wealth and to entertain (and feed) the community.
The Ebrié say on such occasions that “he or she has added something to the family chest.” PROVENANCE Museum records suggest that this snake pendant may have once been found in the personal collection of Abrogoua, a “king” (or, at least, a powerful chief) of the Ebrié who died in 1811. From there, it entered the Paris collection of Charles Ratton, a pioneering early dealer in both African and medieval art, who arranged to have the pendant shown in an ethnographic context at the Trocadéro museum, in Paris. In 1938 Ratton sold the work to Frederick Pleasants, a leader in the developing aesthetic approach to African art in New York, who would later serve as curator of the African collection at Brooklyn. In 1944 the pendant found its way into the collection of Alastair B. Martin, an important mid-twentieth-century collector in New York, who finally offered it to Brooklyn.