Introduction / History
The Ngan tribe lives in the M'bahiakro district of Cote d'Ivoire. Various people groups who live nearby include the Baule to the South and West, the Akan to the East, and the Senufo to the North and Northwest. Before the Europeans colonized Africa, the Ngan maintained trade relations with these and other local ethnic groups. The Ngan speak Bena, a Southern Mande language, also spoken by groups living further west in Cote d'Ivoire. Many Ngan also are fluent in the Baule and Jula languages.
Unlike many groups in West Africa, the Ngan are a peace-loving people with a history of resisting war. Even in recent times, when threatened by Islamic powers or the French administration, the Ngan have fled, seeking refuge in the forests or other havens. The Ngan abstain from fighting because they believe a person who kills another human being must engage in many lengthy rituals of atonement or else he too will be killed.
What are their lives like?
Although the Ngan are traditionally hunters, gatherers, and farmers, they have entered into the realm of commercial agriculture in the last several decades. This change is due in part to the influences brought by the Europeans during colonization. Though the kola nut was once the sole cash crop, the Ngan now also profit from growing coffee, rice, cotton, and cocoa. However, most Ngan grow only enough to feed themselves. The women continue to gather wild fruits, vegetables, and medicinal leaves from the forests, and the men still hunt to supplement the crops.
Each Ngan village is ruled by a male chief who is assisted by a female chief. Individual houses inside the villages were once large and round with thatched roofs, housing an entire extended family. Today, however, due to modernization by the national government, most traditional houses have been replaced with smaller, rectangular buildings with tin roofs. Instead of an extended family living under one roof, families live as neighbors, still retaining the Ngan family structure despite outside efforts to change it.
Inside most villages, there is no vegetation except for one large kapok (silk-cotton) tree. This tree serves as the center of social life in the villages. The tree's enormous roots are above ground and provide natural benches for the people. The tree's leaves provide shade from the hot sun; adults sit in the shade to relax and socialize. The villagers hold important functions such as dances, trials, and sacrifices under the tree's branches. The kapok tree is seen as the "head of the village."
In the past, parents negotiated for about one year when arranging marriages for their children. The wedding itself lasted about six days. The purpose for this drawn-out and elaborate engagement and wedding ritual was to form an alliance between the two families.
The Ngan do not decorate their houses or buildings, and the people do not dress lavishly or wear ornaments. However, babies are beautifully adorned. Bright colors are painted on babies' heads and bodies and jewelry is placed on their arms, legs, and necks. The people use this practice of elaborately decorating babies as a form of medicine which they believe will ward off common childhood diseases.
What are their beliefs?
While nearly half of the Ngan practice Islam, the majority continue to follow their traditional religion, which centers on the worship of the earth and forest spirits. The people believe that the "Masters of the Earth" (spirits) serve as mediators between humans and the earth. Villagers worship and make sacrifices at shrines that are dedicated to the earth and to forest spirits. Witches and witchcraft also play a large role in Ngan society.
What are their needs?
At the present time, the Ngan have few Christian resources available to them. Much prayer and further evangelistic work are needed to help bring the Ngan to the knowledge of Christ.
* Ask the Lord to send forth laborers with servants' hearts into Cote D'Ivoire to work with the Ngan.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Ngan.
* Pray that God will give the Ngan believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Ngan church for the glory of His name!