Originating in Burkina Faso, the Lobis and the Bilfo have settled in the north-east of the country. Until recently, they were hunters, but are now sedentary.
They form villages with no definite structure, rather anarchic, scattered around the interior of the wooded savannah.
Their houses, called sukalas, are very unusual buildings, totally different from those of the other ethnic groups of the Ivory Coast.
They are built with adobe. Thick wooden pillars hold up the upper floor, which is a flat rooftop. They are of different sizes, depending on the number of members in the family.
The rooftop is used to dry the millet and maize.
The Lobi are one of the least developed ethnic groups in West Africa.
Many women still today wear the traditional decoration, two white stones inserted into their lips.
On the ground floor of the sukalas, they keep their cattle and household utensils.
The rooms are large, including the kitchen, which has a small courtyard through which the smoke from the fire escapes. It is normal for three generations to live in each sukala.
A narrow opening in one of the walls of the kitchen leads into the family sanctuary. Here, they keep the fetishes of their ancestors.
Our film crew was shooting in this Bilfo village when something unexpected and tragic occurred. The people ran to a nearby sukala. The women let out heartrending screams, and within moments weeping could be heard right through the village.
We soon found out what was happening; a ten-year-old child had just died from malaria. The pain of these people broke our hearts. The women raised their hands to the sky and, between sobs, muttered prayers. Then, they shouted out the name of god with the same familiarity they would speak to someone close by, someone who was with them in their profound pain.
And then, as always in Africa, the music sounded out, the tom-tom could be heard. Everyone got up – undoubtedly, they had been expecting it.
We felt moved and tense. These people, so far removed from our world, had just drawn us into their lives, made us one of them, and we shared their suffering.
The sound of the drums brought us out of our daze. And we began to see the real Africa, with its greatness and misery, the human Africa that speaks through the sonar of the tom-tom and is capable of dancing even as they cry.
For these people, death has a different meaning than for us.
The deceased becomes part of a parallel, and intimately close world. But they have to realise that they have died, they have to leave, no longer bother the living. And hence the cries and the music.
For many Africans, illness has a religious dimension. When they fall ill, they believe something evil has invaded them and caused their particular ailment. Whatever it may be, the origin must lie in a spell, and so they turn to the healers, the traditional medicine.
The Unyi fetish women are the most famous healers in the Ivory Coast.
By invoking their spirit friends, they are capable of driving out the illness from those who have been victim of some spell.
The truth is they do give spiritual tranquillity to a patient who, for example, has malaria, and believes that the mosquito that brought the disease was sent by someone wanting to harm him. The sad thing is, if the patient is not given quinine, they will die, even if the devil himself has been forced to flee.
That is Africa, and that is how it will continue to be, with its wisdom and its foolishness, but also with its mysterious magic which will continue to fascinate us.