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Lobi people of West Africa

Posted by Walter Gido on

Lobi people of West Africa

The Lobi people, with their roots tracing back to present-day Ghana, began a migration around the 18th century into Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire. They are now a vibrant collective of approximately 180,000 individuals, speaking the language known as Lobiri. The term ‘Lobi’ is deeply rooted in their own lexicon – ‘lou’ (forest) and ‘bi’ (children), encapsulating their identity as the ‘children of the forest’. This connection to nature is not just a historical footnote; it is a lifeline that has shielded them from slave raiders and a spiritual conduit to their ancestors, as per their oral histories and myths.

Culturally, the Lobi people are known for their agrarian lifestyle, rooted in the hoe farming of cereals and vegetables, and the rearing of livestock. This is intricately tied to their artisan and craft traditions, where they maintain a modest yet impactful production of gold, which historically found its way to Dyula merchants, signifying the blend of Lobi artistry and commerce. Their industrious nature extends to the creation of iron implements, brass jewelry, musical instruments, wood carvings, and woven mats, reflecting a rich history of craftsmanship. The Lobi people's religious activities are dictated by the rhythm of the seasons – during the dry season in particular, when the fields are fallow, large festivals and ceremonies are organized.

Shrines are built to these spirits under the instruction of a sorcerer and placed either on the roof or inside the home and are filled with objects such as vessels, abstract iron figures, and stone and wood figures known as Bateba, which are believed to embody the Thil spirits. Their settlements are characterized by striking architecture, sustainable farming practices, and the meticulous finesse of their artisanal works, making the Lobi people a compelling study in resilience and artistic integrity. Their artifacts, whether tools, ornaments, or musical instruments, are not merely utilitarian items but are imbued with the spirit and history of a people deeply connected to their environment.

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