Lobi: Background

Lobi is a loose term which refers to several closely related ethnic groups that comprise roughly 7% of the Burkinabe population including the main Lobi clan Birfor, Dagara, Dyan, Gan, and Tenbo/Loron. Although traditions may vary slightly between clans, they share a common sense of identify and traits such as living in distinctive mud defensive compounds, using poisoned bows and arrows to fend off attackers, a sharing of initiation rites and animist beliefs that vigorously pay reverence to the spiritual world, families that are often determined by female lineage, and their craftsmenship of wooden statues which are often worshipped.

The name Lobi originates from two Lobiri words lou (meaning forest) and bi (meaning children), literally “Children of the forest” who settled initially on the left bank of the Mounhoun River dividing Burkina and Ghana who ventured into Burkina Faso. The Mounhoun is important in Lobi myth and symbolizes a dividing line between this world and the next, similar to the River Stzx of Roman mythology. The Lobi crossed the Mounhoun centuries ago from east to west and settled in the lands and brought with them deep animist beliefs and superstition. According to Lobi legend, the spirits of the deceased must return across the river to rejoin their honorable ancestors in the ancient world. The banks of the Mounhoun are used in initiation rites and fish and animals in the river are considered sacred.

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