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From Yamoussoukro we headed west, almost to Cote d'Ivoire's border with Guinea and Liberia, into the lands of Dan. The Dan, or Yacouba, is a prominent tribal group. What are they famous for? Masks. They use elaborate masks in ceremonies of all types, and in earlier days they carried small, hand-sized masks as identification cards when traveling. The small mask acted as a passport of sorts by showing which Dan group a person belonged to. Dan people no longer carry these small passport masks, but they still live a traditional lifestyle. We drove into the jungle and arrived in a Dan village, Sila Koro, for an overnight stay. We introduced ourselves in a time-honored way, by making a ritual sacrifice to sacred catfish (we marched into the surrounding jungle to a stream and handfed bread to the fish). Then we drank liquor with the village elders. We ended our fete in a tribal dance with the entire village. They laughed at our lack of rhythm. We retired to a village hut: no lights, no running water, dirt floor, and the walls smeared in dung. Sound comfortable? It was better than a tent. After an initial bout of claustrophobia, we realized dung kept off the mosquitoes.
The Dan village of Sila Koro, a small settlement of a few hundred people in the middle of Ivoirean rainforest.
Outside our hut.
The villagers smear dung on the walls for insect repellant. Wall decorations included a newspaper add for women's lingerie and another add for Rambo III. For added flair, a string of empty cigarette cartons and laundry hung across the room like a oversized beaded necklace.
As a way of introduction, we swapped liqour drinks with the village elders. They let us drink some local moonshine (some yeasty concoction made from millet) and we gave them some scotch. Both sides preferred their own rotgut.