The Mau of Côte d'Ivoire
When Europeans first came to this region, they found the northern area (where the Mau are located) well-organized, with a strong hierarchical structure. Mau society is patrilineal and patriarchal, with both ancestry and rule descending from the males. After the Portuguese and Spanish accumulated the ivory, gold, and ostrich feathers of the area, the Dutch and English arrived and began the slave trade. It was the French who finally colonized Côte d'Ivoire in 1908, and today, French remains the national language.
What are their lives like?
For the Mau, the clan is still the most important aspect of their lives. They remain fiercely loyal to it, proud to defend it, and determined to maintain its vitality. They express their devotion through dance and their oral traditions of storytelling. The Mau exhibit several basic morals: dedication to their people, obedience, and honesty, all of which are motivated by a driving sense of human dignity. To the Mau, selfishness and lack of hospitality are the two deadly sins which defile that dignity.
Mau settlements consist of a small number of mud huts with cone-shaped roofs of palm leaves or thatch. Men and women live separately, the men in round houses and the women in rectangular ones. The huts are grouped irregularly around a center court, which serves as a meeting place. Many settlements actually consist of an extended family acting as an economic unit. Each extended family has a head, who offers sacrifices to the spirits of their ancestors. The head is succeeded by the son of his elder sister. The new leader then leaves his own compound to assume his new role. Each village (group of clan settlements) has a religious chief and headmen to handle village affairs and disputes.
Most Mau girls are betrothed while they are quite young and marry at the age of 16. Marriages are arranged by either the father or the extended family head. When a man marries, his bride may join him or remain in her father's home. If she remains with her father, her daughters live with her, but her sons join their father at a young age. The Mau still illegally practice polygamy (having more than one spouse), and marriage within the clan is encouraged. Nearly half of the Mau are under the age of 15, with only 13% living beyond age 45. As a result, they have great respect for the elderly, especially those who are Muslim scholars.
What are their beliefs?
The Maninka rulers of Mali were largely responsible for spreading Islam throughout West Africa, and the Mau have been faithfully committed to Islam since pre-colonial days. West African Muslims, however, generally retain many of their local traditions and are, therefore, more tolerant of diversity than Muslims in other areas.
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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