Ironsmiths - Ivory Coast

The Senufo have traditionally worked the iron they extract by means of underground shafts. Near the city of Korogo we find a mining region which the ironsmiths still use. 

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The oldest people tell us that in the past iron could be found on the surface, but a curse was cast, and the spirits concealed it beneath the ground. Now, the miners have to descend down these narrow cavities, literally risking their lives, especially during the rainy season. Many are buried alive when the walls soften and cave in on them. 

The soil they extract from the shafts is washed in the river, to separate out the heavier ferrous stone. 

Then, at the blacksmith’s, the furnace master forms small balls with the paste resulting from the washing process. These are then introduced into the furnace, so the iron melts and runs free from the other elements. 
They block the lower nozzle of the furnace with soil, to increase the temperature. Two adobe cylinders ensure enough air enters to keep the fire going. 
Through the chimney, they introduce the ferrous stone, and the charcoal which will provide the necessary heat to melt the iron. 
The blacksmith have a high status in Senufo society. Their work has always been extremely important for the community. Those who had good blacksmiths possessed the best weapons in battle, and this made them superior to their rivals. Now, thanks to the tools they forge, the people are able to work the land. 
The forge master controls the pace of work, when they should stop, and the rhythm of the bellows, so that the heat is precisely that needed by each piece at each moment. 
 They are holy men, who work under the protection of the powerful fire fetish. 
Just like the men who perform the dance of fire, the purifying element, which wards off evil and attracts the benefactor spirits of the Poro.

In the north, beyond the lands of the Senufo, the influence of Islam can immediately be felt. The most beautiful mosque in the Ivory Coast is that of Kong. It was built by a Malinque chief, Samory Turé. Its architecture combines elements from the north of Africa with other, local ones. 

The buildings are made of mud, and held up by wooden beams.

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