Introduction / History
The Kissi inhabit the thick tropical forests of Guinea, as well as small areas in Liberia and Sierra Leone. They speak a Niger-Congo language called Kisi (or Gizi). For many generations, the Kissi have been known as a hard working people. They are very age-oriented, dominated and led by the elderly.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The country of Guinea is rich in minerals such as bauxite, iron ore, gold, and diamonds. Patches of rain forest filled with lush vegetation and animals such as snakes and crocodiles dot the area. Despite all of its minerals and agricultural resources, Guinea remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with very little income and a soaring inflation rate.
To the north of the Kissi are the dominant Mande-speaking tribes. Because the Kissi are neither culturally nor linguistically related to the Mande-speakers, they have been somewhat neglected by the government, both politically and economically.
The Kissi are primarily farmers. Rice, their staple crop, is grown on most hillsides and in low, swampy areas. Other crops include peanuts, cotton, corn, bananas, potatoes, and melons. Beans, tomatoes, onions, and peppers are grown in small vegetable gardens, and coffee is raised as a cash crop. Most of the farmers also raise some livestock.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Agricultural work, such as sowing, weeding, and harvesting, is shared equally by the men and women. Additional responsibilities for the men include hunting, fishing, and clearing land. The women's duties involve caring for the small vegetable gardens, tending to the chickens, trading in the local markets, and doing some fishing. Boys tend to the livestock, which are usually cattle and goats. Cows are considered very valuable animals, not for their milk, but as religious sacrifices.
The Kissi live in small, self-governing villages that are tucked inside groves of mango or kola trees. Each village is compact, containing no more than about 150 people. Houses are usually raised slightly above the ground and are round with mud walls, cone-shaped thatch roofs, verandahs. In the center of the village is a public square with a dwelling place for the village headman. He offers sacrifices at the village shrine and acts as judge over the community.
To the Kissi, a child is not considered "complete" and is thought of as dirty and impure. Therefore, when a boy or girl reaches puberty, a purification ritual is held. This ceremony, called a biriye, "cleanses" the child and ushers him into adulthood. Afterwards, the boy or girl is expected to take on adult responsibilities.
Music plays a unique role in the Kissi culture. Sometimes, it is used for certain types of communication. The music does not necessarily have a melody, but rather a rhythmic sound with much drumming and whistling. The Kissi are also well known for making baskets and weaving on vertical looms.
A number of the Kissi have converted to Islam, most of them continue to practice their traditional ethnic religion. Ancestor worship (praying to deceased relatives) is common. The Kissi believe that ancestral spirits act as mediators between them and the creator god. Small stone statues are used to represent the spirits. They are worshipped and offered sacrifices by the village headmen.
What Are Their Needs?
The Kissi constantly live in fear of the supernatural. They wear charms in order to protect themselves from the evil spirits. Witchcraft is also practiced by sorcerers and witches. Some of the elders and religious leaders communicate with spirits through trances and hypnosis. The biriye and other rituals are held in the forest, since this is thought to be a sacred setting.
Although the Kissi have access to the New Testament, only a few have become Christians. Additional efforts are needed to reach the hearts of these people with the love of Christ. Above all, prayer must be made on their behalf in order to break down the strongholds that are keeping them bound.
Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth additional laborers to work among the Kissi.
Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Kissi.
Pray that God will give Kissi believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Guinea through worship and intercession.
Pray that Christian literature and the Jesus film will be effectively used among the Kissi.
Ask the Lord to bring forth strong local churches among the Kissi.
Scripture Prayers for the Kissi, Northern in Sierra Leone.
Bethany World Prayer Center