Zaouli, cultural heritage of Côte d’Ivoire

The Zaouli dance of Côte d'Ivoire holds deep cultural and social significance, symbolizing various meanings and serving important roles within Ivorian communities. Its meanings and importance can be summarized as follows:

  1. Cultural Identity and Heritage: The Zaouli dance embodies the cultural identity and heritage of the communities in Côte d'Ivoire, reflecting their traditional values, beliefs, and practices. It serves as a powerful symbol of the region's rich cultural legacy, connecting the present generation with its historical and traditional roots.
  2. Celebration of Femininity and Beauty: The dance is often associated with the celebration of feminine beauty and grace, as it is performed by individuals adorned in elaborate masks and costumes representing idealized concepts of beauty. Through its intricate movements and rhythmic expressions, the Zaouli dance honors the beauty and elegance of women, portraying them as central figures in Ivorian culture.
  3. Social Cohesion and Unity: The Zaouli dance fosters social cohesion and unity within communities, serving as a unifying force during cultural gatherings, festivals, and celebrations. It provides a platform for collective participation, bringing people together to celebrate their shared cultural heritage and strengthen community bonds.
  4. Ritual and Spiritual Significance: In some contexts, the Zaouli dance is also linked to spiritual and ritual practices, where it may be performed during various ceremonies and rites of passage. It is believed to hold spiritual significance, contributing to the cultural and religious fabric of the communities where it is practiced.
  5. Promotion of Ivorian Culture: The dance plays a crucial role in promoting Ivorian culture both nationally and internationally, serving as a cultural ambassador that highlights the country's rich artistic traditions and heritage. Its recognition and appreciation contribute to the preservation and dissemination of Ivorian cultural heritage on a global scale.

Overall, the Zaouli dance of Côte d'Ivoire carries multiple layers of meaning, representing cultural identity, celebrating femininity, fostering social cohesion, and serving as a cultural emblem that promotes Ivorian heritage and values.


Institutional and human capacities Côte d'Ivoire maintains cultural institutions, including the Ministry of Culture and Francophonie, to support traditional art forms like the Zaouli dance, offering resources and platforms for their promotion. Educational programs within the national curriculum focus on preserving dances like Zaouli, passing down cultural heritage to younger generations. Cultural festivals and events provide platforms for Zaouli performances, showcasing the expertise of local artists, who also serve as cultural ambassadors through international exchange programs, fostering cross-cultural appreciation and understanding.
Transmission and education The Zaouli dance is transmitted through generations via oral tradition, taught by experienced dancers within specific communities or families. Aspiring dancers undergo apprenticeships under skilled mentors, observing and imitating their movements to understand the dance's intricacies and cultural context. Community involvement is crucial, with elders and experienced dancers contributing to the teaching process in a supportive environment. Moreover, the incorporation of Zaouli into formal training institutions and cultural events provides structured learning opportunities and platforms for showcasing the dance.
Inventorying and research Various cultural documentation projects, ethnographic studies, archival research, academic publications, and cultural preservation initiatives have all contributed to the comprehensive understanding and preservation of the Zaouli dance in Côte d'Ivoire. These efforts involve the collection of audiovisual materials, fieldwork, and archival exploration, ultimately fostering an appreciation for the dance's cultural significance and ensuring its preservation for future generations.
Policies as well as legal and administrative measures The protection and promotion of cultural heritage, such as the Zaouli dance, are often managed within broader cultural preservation and tourism development policies in Côte d'Ivoire. These encompass various measures, including cultural heritage preservation laws ensuring the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and continuity of traditions, tourism and cultural promotion policies integrating traditional dances into national tourism strategies, international cultural exchange programs fostering collaboration for heritage conservation, and cultural education and awareness campaigns aimed at fostering understanding and appreciation. For the most current information on specific policies, it is recommended to consult recent sources or contact relevant governmental and cultural authorities in Côte d'Ivoire.
Role of intangible cultural heritage and its safeguarding in society The Zaouli dance serves as a symbol of cultural identity, embodying the values and beliefs of the communities where it is performed. It fosters social cohesion and community bonding, often playing a central role in cultural rituals and celebrations, adding vibrancy to communal gatherings. To safeguard the dance, the society focuses on cultural transmission through education, organizing cultural events for broader awareness, and actively involving the community with support and resources for its preservation and promotion.
Awareness raising Côte d'Ivoire utilizes a range of strategies, including organizing cultural festivals and educational workshops, leveraging media and public outreach, publishing cultural documentation, and collaborating with cultural institutions to raise awareness about the Zaouli dance. Through these efforts, the country aims to facilitate a broader understanding and appreciation of the dance's cultural significance, both locally and internationally.
Engagement of communities, groups and individuals as well as other stakeholders The Zaouli dance in Côte d'Ivoire thrives through active community participation and performances, with locals practicing and showcasing the dance during various cultural events and festivities. Cultural associations and groups dedicated to preserving Ivorian heritage organize training sessions and workshops, fostering a strong sense of cultural pride. Dedicated artists and performers, including dancers and musicians, contribute to the propagation of the dance, maintaining its authenticity and attracting wider attention. Governmental and non-governmental cultural institutions support the dance through cultural events, resources for education, and collaborations, while stakeholders in tourism and cultural promotion integrate the Zaouli dance into various initiatives to highlight its significance for local and international audiences.
International engagement In 2015, M.I.A., the British-Sri Lankan rapper, featured a clip of a Zaouli dancer in her music video "Warrior," while in 2017, the Zaouli of Manfla was celebrated in South Korea following its UNESCO recognition, leading to the promotion of Ivorian traditional music in the country through the African dance team AMENE, culminating in K-pop group Nature's 2022 "Rica Rica" music video inspired by Zaouli dance. Furthermore, the Zaouli dance was showcased at the Ohio University World Music & Dance Concert in the USA in 2018, with additional global exposure through the use of Zaouli footage in the popular video for the song "Bungee Jump" by electronic music artists Captain Hook & Astrix.
References [1]. https://cuitandokter.com/ by otosection (most impossible dance in the world). retrived 2022.3.25. [2]. fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaouli, (our translation form french) retrieved 2022.03.21. [3]. https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/watch-m-i-a-s-matahdatah-video-featuring-new-124014565431.html retrieved 2022.3.23. [4]. 맹선미 기자. 네이처 ‘RICA RICA’ 특별 퍼포맨스 영상… 아프리카 댄스와 자울리춤 컬래버. 비즈엔터 http://enter.etoday.co.kr/view/news_view.php?varAtcId=219356 retrieved 2022.3.25. [5]. https://www.ohio.edu/news/archive/stories_17-18_03_world-dance-music-festival-2018.cfm retrieved 2022.3.24 [6]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQXIDmb99uY retrieved 2022.3.25. Recommended videos 1. Folklore gouro, Cote d'Ivoire, (Glozran1) 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M512glKnl64 [코트디브아르 아프리카 이야기] 페스티벌 마사 Festival MASA 'Zaouli' 3. NATURE(네이처) X AMENE - RICA RICA Behind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my77ACUKZWg
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Venue : Côte d'Ivoire