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Man Vine Bridge

Ivory Coast – Man – The mysterious construction of vine bridges among the Yacouba, a people located in the western region of Ivory Coast.

 

Among the Yacouba, the vine bridges constitute a real specific cultural heritage that plays an essential role in the relationship and communication between the communities.

 

The location of the vine bridges

 

We identify a dozen vine bridges in this region in good condition, the most famous of which is that of Lieupleu, a village in the region. It crosses the Cavally river 80km west of Man. Their crossing is done barefoot out of respect for the old initiates, also at the risk of exposing themselves to accidents, which according to the beliefs of the communities concerned, are often of mystical origin.

 

The construction of vine bridges

 

By whom and how is the vine bridge built among the Yacouba?

 

The Yacouba people are the only ones to hold the design secret they inherited from tonin (the spider). It is called in Yacouba “dra” that is to say “hammock”. The technique used is that of weaving. Building materials are vines. A few days before construction, the assembly of lianas is placed along the river at the site chosen for the implementation of the work. Access is therefore prohibited to all uninitiated persons.

 

The masterpiece made

 

The next morning, a masterpiece of plastic beauty with the characteristics of a spider's web is erected on the watercourse.

 

We thus see the lianas attached very high to tree branches and thus holding the bridge proudly suspended above the river.

 

In one night therefore with all the mystery that surrounds it, the bridge is designed by insiders whose average age is 50 years. But according to the local tradition, "these are spirits who throw the bridges of vines over the river in the night". The secret thus remains kept by the initiates and is not transmitted so easily.

 

The lifespan of a vine bridge

 

Built to help villagers connect their village to their fields, the vine bridge endures intense and non-stop use. For greater security, it is renewed each year in August.

 

The prohibitions of the vine bridge

 

Out of respect for the insiders (who remain unknown to the villagers themselves) who built it and all the mystery around it, the prohibitions vary from one bridge to another but the prohibition common to all bridges c is to take off your shoes before crossing them. The Vatouo bridge, which in this case remains the highest and longest vine bridge in the country, adds to this prohibition of taking chewing gum with you in any form whatsoever, even if it is packed in a bag.