Beyond the Stream
The town of Korhogo in northern Côte d'Ivoire looks very much like the other middle-sized towns in that country. The resemblances are owing, in large measure, to government policy dictating the private ownership of land in towns, which has established a system of rectangular plots, with rows upon rows of rectangular little cement houses with corrugated iron roofs along reasonably wide, if not always level, streets. The center of Korhogo is marked out by its large, partly covered marketplace and the street leading from the market past the banks and the poshest hotel to the prefecture. Away from the center, in the shade of "Mount Korhogo"—a lone promontory that dominates the flat, wooded savanna landscape only by default—lie the wealthier residential neighborhoods, with spacious villas peopled by expatriates and by upper- and middle-level civil servants from other parts of the country. The rest of town is more densely packed with buildings, though occasional villas are juxtaposed with more modest structures, as well as with rectangular blocks of one- or two-room flats for the multitude of residents who cannot afford more elaborate accommodation. The circular mud huts with thatched roofs that still characterize most villages of northern Côte d'Ivoire have entirely disappeared from the urban landscape, though only twenty years ago pockets of them still existed in parts of town. Unlike most other towns in northern Côte d'Ivoire, Korhogo continues to mushroom. New rows of cement houses, and bit by bit new neighborhoods, are constantly springing up on the outskirts of town. The relative prosperity of Côte d'Ivoire has until now ensured a certain semblance of order; by and large, Korhogo has not yet seen the proliferation of shantytowns.
Korhogo is, for most intents and purposes, a new town. When I first came to Korhogo in 1972, its estimated population was about 35,000; in 1984, I was told that it had jumped to about 85,000. Even if one takes such figures with a grain, if not a tablespoon, of salt, it is absolutely clear that the over-whelming majority of the town's population are recent arrivals. The two-storey "palace" of Korhogo's late chief, Gbon Coulibaly, is the nearest equivalent to a historical monument—and this, too, is in fact a twentieth-century construction. Little if anything that meets the eye of the casual visitor would suggest that the town is anything other than a modern, colonial and postcolonial creation, like so many other African towns, in Côte d'Ivoire and elsewhere.
Yet there is at least one part of town that is, in a very real sense old—the neighborhood of Koko. The name "Koko" means "beyond the stream" and in fact, if one travels to Koko from the central marketplace, one must cross a little bridge
over a tiny brook just past the cinema. Continuing just a bit further, the visitor cannot help noticing the brand-new, enormous, and imposing mosque, in the purest Ali Baba Gothic style, a cement pastiche of a Middle Eastern mosque and also—or so I was told—an exact replica of the mosque at Yamoussoukro, the birthplace of Côte d'Ivoire's president, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, and a national center for monumental architecture. This is no mere local mosque, but serves the whole town for Friday worship and for the major religious festivals. To the right, but some distance away from the road, the visitor may even notice a patch of virgin forest, seemingly adrift in a sea of cement houses. This is the sacred forest of the poro , the initiation society, where rituals take place that none but initiates are allowed to attend, and from where, from time to time, masked dancers will emerge. These two sacred establishments, "pagan" and Muslim, are the only features that mark Koko as in any way different from the rest of town.
This was not always the case. When, in 1903, the French colonial administration decided to make the village of Korhogo the administrative center of a cercle , the little stream served as a boundary between two quite distinct halves of the same community. Such split villages were by no means uncommon in the region around Korhogo. Sometimes, as in Korhogo, a stream would mark the boundary between one part of the village and the other; in other cases, the two halves of the village might be as much as a kilometer apart. Such halving of village communities was symptomatic of the social heterogeneity of the region. Quite commonly, the inhabitants of each half of the village spoke a different language. The majority of the inhabitants of the region were native speakers of one dialect or another of Sienar, a Gur or Voltaic language. These are the people who are known in the ethnographic literature, as well as by connoisseurs and historians of African art, as "Senufo." However, a substantial minority of the region's population—at least one-tenth, and substantially more in certain chiefdoms, including Korhogo—were native speakers of dialects of Manding, a northern Mande language en-
tirely different from Sienar. These Manding-speakers called themselves "Dyula," which in their own language means "traders."
As their name implies, these "Dyula" were part of a vast Manding-speaking trade diaspora. Most Dyula trace their origins back to the land of "Manden" and to the great medieval West African empire of Mali, which flourished from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries (Levtzion 1973). The breakup of the Malian empire accelerated the movement of trading communities southward, closer to the forest, and into regions such as Korhogo. Kola nuts, in great demand as a mild stimulant throughout the West African savanna and sahel, grow exclusively in the forest. The north, in turn, was a source of salt, slabs of rock salt mined in the Sahara desert. Of course, precolonial patterns of trade were a great deal more complex, involving a variety of other goods—cloth, livestock, iron, slaves, and weapons to name a few—with east-west routes crisscrossing the major north-south axis. Even so, this trade of salt for kola nuts was so central to trading patterns that the very terms used by the Dyula for the directions "north" and "south" were worodugu— literally "the land of kola"—and kogodugu , "the land of salt." The frontier with the forest, which occupies most of the southern half of Côte d'Ivoire, acted as a magnet, drawing Manding-speakers toward all of what is now northern Côte d'Ivoire, either as a majority (in the northwest) or as a sizable minority, around Korhogo and to the east. However, Korhogo was peripherally located relative to the major north-south routes, which passed either to the east or to the west. As a result, the Dyula of Korhogo and the surrounding region depended more heavily on local trade with their Senufo neighbors than on participation in the interregional north-south trade.
Perhaps because of their involvement in local trade, Dyula were not averse to living next to their customers, and split villages—one half consisting of Muslim Dyula "traders," the other of "pagan" Senufo farmers—were thus a common, though hardly the only, pattern of settlement. However, because the village of Korhogo was also the capital of a small
chiefdom, its social composition was more than usually complex. The side of the stream across from Koko was first and foremost associated with the chiefship itself. It was where the chief and his people resided, and as such was relatively homogeneous, linguistically and ethnically. On the other side, "beyond the stream" in Koko, lived a heterogeneous assortment of miscellaneous "others": Dyula; but also various hereditary groups of artisans (often labeled "castes"); Senufo who spoke the Fodonon dialect of Sienar, quite distinct from the Tiembara dialect spoken by the chief and the majority of the chiefdom's population; and even some Tiembara speakers who, for whatever reason, chose to live on the "other" side rather than on the chief's side of the stream. In one sense, Koko was the Muslim quarter of Korhogo before the colonial period. All the Dyula—and consequently all the Muslims—lived in that half of the village. On the other hand, non-Muslims lived side by side with Muslims.
In any case, the socio-spatial division of the community was hardly restricted to the partition of Korhogo into two discrete halves. On the contrary, Koko was divided and subdivided into neighborhoods and sections corresponding to a host of groups and categories of various order. In the first place, each of the constituent "ethnic" groups, the Dyula, both Senufo groups (Tiembara and Fodonon), and each of the different artisan groups, occupied a different part of the quarter. Each of these neighborhoods, if large enough, was further subdivided into its constituent units. The organization of the Dyula community was particularly complex. In the first place, it was divided into kabila , or clan wards. Members of each ward (with the notable exception of descendants of slaves) acknowledged a common origin and in principle a common ancestor. The ideology of descent was distinctly patrilineal, or agnatic. Children—except, in past times, the children of slaves, and nowadays sometimes children born out of wedlock —belong to the clan ward of their father. Given stated preferences for, and in fact high rates of, in-marriage within the clan ward, many individuals can trace member-
ship through both parents. Still, the patrilineal ideology of the Dyula, however imperfectly realized in practice, contrasts sharply with the matrilineal ideology of their Senufo neighbors. Each ward was identified by its patronym: Cissera, the Cisse ward; Fofanara, the Fofana ward, and so on. Many of these patronyms are widely distributed throughout the Manding-speaking world, and so certain unrelated wards shared the same patronyms. Large clan wards were in turn segmented into constituent subunits along more or less genealogical lines, though few clan wards were large enough for such segmentation to make much sense. Individual families of "strangers"—affines, friends, relatives—could easily attach themselves as clients to any "host" clan ward. The "host/stranger" relationship was in principle perpetual; client families who grew numerous enough to constitute a clan ward in their own right continued to acknowledge another ward as their "host." Only the "original" occupants of Koko were not "strangers" to anyone else. However, the "host/stranger" relationship was used to group clan wards together in loose associations called makafo or makafu , with one ward acting as "host" to the others in its cluster.
Less than a decade after their conquest of northern Côte d'Ivoire, the French decided to move their administrative headquarters to Korhogo. This choice undoubtedly rested on two factors. First of all, the village was located in the center of a relatively densely populated zone, which only encompasses about 2,200 km2 (SEDES 1965, 1: 20); by contrast, the area surrounding this zone is much more sparsely populated. Secondly, the chief of Korhogo was not only willing to cooperate with the French but, even more important, able to make himself useful to the new rulers. These two factors were not necessarily unrelated. Well before the French arrived, throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, the area around Korhogo had been prey to the expansionist tendencies of neighboring states and empires. The French were neither the first nor the most ruthless colonial power in the region. Korhogo escaped many of the ravages of war
because its chiefs judiciously allied themselves with whichever power held the upper hand in the region, at least partly explaining why it was relatively densely populated. The alliance with the French represented a successful continuation, and not a break, with past policy.
Despite the fact that Korhogo became the capital of a cercle much larger than the chiefdom overnight, the nature of the village community was hardly transformed immediately. In 1931, the total population of the town—if town it could be called—was only 4,350 (SEDES 1965, 1: 87). Initially, colonial rule had the effect of drawing people away from Korhogo. The various efforts of the colonial administration to develop the production of commodities for export ultimately succeeded in the forest, in the southern half of Côte d'Ivoire, with the establishment of the cocoa and coffee plantations, which, for better or for worse, still remain the backbone of Côte d'Ivoire's economy. Until 1946, when the French abolished forced labor in their African colonies, men were forcibly recruited in the north, especially in the Korhogo region, for work in the south. In any case, the plantation economy led to the proliferation of urban centers in the southern half of the country, which, until then (unlike the north) had little if any history of urbanization. These new towns seemed to offer far more prospects for enterprising traders than sleepy district headquarters like Korhogo in the north, and Manding-speaking traders flocked there, whether from Koko, from elsewhere in northern Côte d'Ivoire, or from neighboring French colonies. The whole of northern Côte d'Ivoire was effectively transformed into a backwater, economically and educationally underdeveloped compared to the south, a source of labor for the southern plantations and food for the southern cities, whose residents could hardly nourish themselves on the coffee and cocoa grown on nearby plantations.
Precolonial north-south trade routes had, as we have seen, tended to bypass Korhogo to the east or to the west. The colonial transportation network was to do exactly the same. The railway running north from Abidjan to Ouagadougou passes through Ferkessédougou, some fifty kilometers to the east of
Korhogo, as do the major roads leading to Burkina Faso and to Mali. In spite of all of these obstacles, Korhogo began to grow into a veritable urban center, and to become the capital in more than a purely administrative sense of northern Côte d'Ivoire. Migrants of various origins began to settle in Korhogo in ever larger numbers: people from the villages and quasi-towns—the sous-préfectures— of northern Côte d'Ivoire, who could thus attempt to reap the benefits of urban living without moving too far from their families; from neighboring countries to the north, for whom all of Côte d'Ivoire—even Korhogo—constitutes a relative haven of wealth and ease; from the south, mostly as civil servants, in part because the south has a longer history of Western education, in part because of government policy that posts people away from "home."
Not surprisingly, the colonial administration had chosen the chief's side of the stream as the site for the district headquarters. The new urban migrants followed their example, moving to the loci of political and economic power. Initially, it seemed as if one half of the village of Korhogo grew into a town, while the other half remained a village as it had been. However, as the town continued to expand, it was obvious that Koko would not remain untouched, whatever the wishes of its residents. Its residents, in any case, were anxious to benefit from the real amenities of town living: electricity, running water, modern medicine. On the other hand, Koko, like the rest of town, was subjected to division into privately owned, regularly shaped plots of land, the sine qua non for transforming the neighborhood into a series of rectangular grids indistinguishable from the rest of town on the other side of the little brook.
Astonishingly enough, this urban transformation did not entirely destroy the social composition of the neighborhood of Koko. As plots were being portioned out, whole ethnic and clan wards managed with relative success to stay together, even if they had to relocate within the quarter. The process was not quite perfect, but by and large Koko quarter managed to reproduce itself. The "casted" artisans, the
Dyula clan wards, and the Senufo families whose ancestors had lived in Koko in the nineteenth century all managed to stay, and even, grosso modo, to replicate the various sociospatial divisions and subdivisions that had characterized Koko in the past. As a result, while Koko now looks more or less like most other neighborhoods in town, its social fabric is virtually unique in Korhogo. Most residents of Koko are descended from the nineteenth-century inhabitants of Korhogo, whereas the majority of their fellow townsmen in other neighborhoods are new, if not brand-new arrivals. Most residents are, if not members of, at least attached as "strangers" to co-resident corporate kin groups of one sort or another. For this very reason, Koko is "home" to its residents in a much fuller sense than are most urban neighborhoods. For most inhabitants of Korhogo, "home" is somewhere else, outside of town, whether in a nearby village or in another country. "Home" is where one comes from (not necessarily where one was born), where one's kin reside (in principle, even if many are dispersed). Koko is "home," not only to its residents, but to numbers of individuals and whole families who live in the capital or in other towns of southern Côte d'Ivoire.
In certain respects, Koko still bears a very real resemblance to a village community. It is very closely knit; face-to-face relationships are of primary importance. People know one another, not only by name, but as members of specific kin groups and in terms of their particular status within those kin groups; they know to whom other residents are married, whose patron or client a resident may be, and with whom their neighbors are on good terms or quarreling. A dense network of ties links Koko to the villages of the region, resembling the ties the villages have with each other. These ties do not simply involve isolated individuals, but rather whole kin groups in town and in villages. Nevertheless, Koko is not a village that has been engulfed by a town, but rather a very real part of the town itself. A variety of ties bind residents of Koko to individuals on the other side of the stream. People cross the stream to work, to buy most of the
commodities they need and sell most of the commodities they produce or in which they deal. Doctors and pharmacies are all on the other side. While a neighborhood school provides primary education for Koko's children, they must cross the stream to pursue their studies beyond the elementary level. Local politics turns residents of Koko into supporters, opponents, or sometimes only tactical allies, of politicians from across the stream. It might seem, at first glance, that these ties between individuals in Koko with others elsewhere in town are purely instrumental. Admittedly, this is often enough the case, but it is equally true that there often exist deep affective bonds linking individuals in Koko with others across the stream, and not only between residents of Koko quarter. Koko may be a very unusual part of Korhogo, but it is, in every sense, a part of town, and not a world apart from it.
Koko's mosque is in many ways an appropriate symbol of the community. It is, in one sense, the whole town's mosque, the site of Friday midday prayers, though daily mosques have proliferated throughout the rest of town. The new mosque was erected thanks to a grant from the national government, a deliberate goodwill gesture to Korhogo's Muslim community and, in an even more general sense, to the entire Muslim community of Côte d'Ivoire. Before that, an insignificant-looking tiny rectangular building on the same site served as the town mosque. For a while—constituting an even greater embarrassment to Korhogo's Muslim community—a few, uncompleted cement brick walls had stood prominently beside the main road, bearing witness to an earlier, aborted project to build a proper mosque. In fact, Friday prayers have always been held in Koko, testimony to the time when Koko housed Korhogo's only Muslim community. Rights to the office of imam to the Friday mosque are still vested in Koko, a monopoly shared by only two specific Dyula clan wards. Most of the time, it serves Koko's inhabitants, the more pious among them using it for their daily prayers. For Koko's Dyula Muslims, it is really their mosque, one in which they take real pride in proprietorship. Once a week, throngs of Muslims
come to Koko from across the stream, reversing the usual flow. On one hand, the presence in Koko of such a monument to Korhogo's Muslim community can only be understood with reference to the past, to the history of Islam in Korhogo and the former status of Koko as the Muslim quarter. On the other hand, the building is equally a tribute to the involvement of the world across the stream—the Muslim community of the entire town, local politicians, and ultimately the national government.
Like the mosque, Islam in modern Koko can only be fully understood with reference both to the past and to the world across the stream. This is owing in large measure to the unusual, if not unique, nature of Koko, which is simultaneously a tightly knit local community comprised of corporate kin groups and a modern urban neighborhood. It is precisely this dual nature that makes the study of Islam in Koko so rewarding. It is truly possible to examine changes in religious beliefs and practices in a single community from the mid nineteenth century up to the present day. Such time depth is often inapplicable to African towns, many of which are colonial creations. Of course, it would have been possible to study religious change over the course of a century or so in any of the numerous Dyula villages or village halves in the vicinity of Korhogo. However, whatever takes place in Koko—not only in the domain of religion, but in terms of marriages, funerals, local politics, or simply gossip—rarely if ever escapes the attention of surrounding Dyula villagers, and vice versa. Changes are likely to be initiated in Koko, rather than in the villages. This is hardly to say that the villagers automatically emulate their own cousins, but it is fair to say that they look to Koko in the same way that the residents to Koko look to Abidjan, the capital, or even to some of the other large towns of the south, for possible examples to follow.
More crucially, the nature of the villages' involvement with the outside world, and particularly with the wider community of Muslims both within and beyond the frontiers of Côte d'Ivoire, is quite different from that of townspeople. In the first place, Dyula villagers are spatially removed, even if
they are hardly isolated, from the outside world. They are generally freer to arrive at consensus about religious practices away from the watchful eyes of outsiders. Most often, it is the towns that are the battlegrounds of Muslim religious controversy. Of course, many "villagers"—those who define the village as "home"—are in fact living in urban communities, either in Korhogo or in the towns of the south. However, many of these urban residents from the villages are quite willing to stay on the sidelines, to wait to see which side gains the upper hand in the towns before deciding whether such changes ought to be imported into the home village.
The nature of the villagers' involvement in the national and international economy, whether at "home" or as migrants to one town or another, is also rather different from that of Koko's residents. This is owing, in no small measure, to the educational backwardness of northern Côte d'Ivoire as compared with the south. Western education was very late in reaching the Dyula Muslims of Koko, and even later in reaching Dyula villagers. When, shortly after independence, positions opened up, particularly in the government sector, for qualified workers, Western education was essential. The north, as a whole, was underrepresented, and the villages, particularly so. Such opportunities have, in any case, been steadily shrinking. On the other hand, the large numbers of migrants from Côte d'Ivoire's poor sahelian neighbors, Mali and Burkina Faso, constitute a vast reserve of unskilled workers. More recently, dramatic increases in the price offered for cotton have led to a cotton boom in northern Côte d'Ivoire, a boom that has drawn Dyula villagers much more heavily into the agricultural sector, and, I also suspect, closer to their Senufo neighbors, with whom they share common interests in controlling cotton prices, and so on. One way or another, many of the religious issues or controversies that have, in the past fifty years, impassioned if not divided the Muslims of Koko have not impinged very heavily on religious concerns in village contexts. Those villagers who have been most concerned with such questions are precisely those who have integrated themselves most fully into the life of the
towns—though these are not, it should be emphasized, a negligible category. Even so, they have tended to leave their religious concerns behind when paying visits "home." The attitude of Dyula Muslims from Koko when they visit their village relations is hardly any different. Practices certain townspeople might frown upon or even condemn at home are easily tolerated in the villages, on the rather supercilious grounds that the villagers "don't know any better."
Koko, on the other hand, is a perfect arena for religious controversy, or at least questioning, precisely because of the way in which it partakes simultaneously of the worlds of town and village. Its residents are as fully involved in the economic and political life of the town as are inhabitants of virtually any other neighborhood. On the other hand, every family has extensive networks of kinship and of friendship in nearby villages, and, as we have seen, the very socio-spatial structure of Koko replicates the model of a typical village community in the region. For most Ivoirians, "town" and "village" are spatially and socially separate arenas, between which individuals can move back and forth, committing themselves in greater or lesser degrees to one arena or the other. For those who live in Koko, such movement is impossible. The arenas of "town" and "village" are only symbolically separated by a bridge over a little rivulet that the people of Koko cross every day to go to work, to shop, to seek medical attention, to attend weddings and funerals, or just to visit with friends; and over which Muslims from across the stream pass, every Friday at midday, to pray at the mosque.