The coastal town of Grand-Bassam in Ivory Coast, located about thirty kilometers from Abidjan, inaugurated the Abissa celebrations over the weekend of October 28-29, the traditional festival of the N’Zima people. This annual event draws thousands of participants and is a vibrant cultural, mystical, and unifying spectacle for the N’Zima people.
The Festive Atmosphere
The Abissa festival is marked by an electrifying atmosphere, with music and enthusiastic expressions of joy echoing throughout the town. It represents a unique blend of tradition, culture, and mysticism, bringing together the N’Zima people with the beat of drums. As one participant shared, “It’s all about the ambiance.”
A Celebration of Unity
For the N’Zima people, Abissa is a crucial moment for deepening their sense of community and unity. Joséphine Coffie, who presides over the Mudenko Development Mutual, is a regular attendee of the festival. She emphasizes its significance, stating, “This is the time when we must strengthen our sense of togetherness. It’s our sole festival in the year… As N’Zima brothers, we come together for exchanges and to collectively explore ways to contribute to our community.”
Throughout the festivities, longstanding taboos are cast aside. Men may dress as women, and vice versa, and families air their grievances in public. Citizens have the opportunity to hold their king accountable if they find his rule lacking. Jean-Baptiste Amichia, President of the Abissa Association, which organizes the event, notes, “For us, it is a time when the people can pause after a year, declare all privileges null and void, and express themselves. It’s a unique form of democracy that is vibrant and authentic. This is not mere folklore; it’s genuine. We’ll hear what the troubadours have to say and learn what they’ve observed over the past year.”
A Return to Tradition
In 2018, the Abissa festival was canceled due to political tensions related to municipal elections. This year’s elections were similarly fraught with disputes, but this time, issues can be resolved openly in the public square.