Introduction / History
The Mau of Cote d'Ivoire live in the Touba region near the border of Guinea. Their language, also called Mau, is a branch of the Mande languages, which are widely spoken throughout West Africa. The Mau are surrounded by a number of other Mande-speaking peoples, including the Jula. Very little is known about the Mau in particular; thus, some assumptions have been made about their lifestyle based on both their location and the traditions of nearby ethnic groups.
When Europeans first came to this region, they found the northern area (where the Mau are located) well-organized, with a strong hierarchical structure. Mau society is patrilineal and patriarchal, with both ancestry and rule descending from the males. After the Portuguese and Spanish accumulated the ivory, gold, and ostrich feathers of the area, the Dutch and English arrived and began the slave trade. It was the French who finally colonized Cote d'Ivoire in 1908, and today, French remains the national language.
What are their lives like?
In the 1500's, the Jula and other groups began to settle into towns. Some founded their own villages, but others chose to live in towns with other peoples and subjected themselves to their rulers. Within the villages, each lineage was led by an older male who was subject to the village chief. However, social reforms in 1965 eliminated much of the authority of those leaders.
For the Mau, the clan is still the most important aspect of their lives. They remain fiercely loyal to it, proud to defend it, and determined to maintain its vitality. They express their devotion through dance and their oral traditions of storytelling. The Mau exhibit several basic morals: dedication to their people, obedience, and honesty, all of which are motivated by a driving sense of human dignity. To the Mau, selfishness and lack of hospitality are the two deadly sins which defile that dignity.
Mau settlements consist of a small number of mud huts with cone-shaped roofs of palm leaves or thatch. Men and women live separately, the men in round houses and the women in rectangular ones. The huts are grouped irregularly around a center court, which serves as a meeting place. Many settlements actually consist of an extended family acting as an economic unit. Each extended family has a head, who offers sacrifices to the spirits of their ancestors. The head is succeeded by the son of his elder sister. The new leader then leaves his own compound to assume his new role. Each village (group of clan settlements) has a religious chief and headmen to handle village affairs and disputes.
Most Mau girls are betrothed while they are quite young and marry at the age of 16. Marriages are arranged by either the father or the extended family head. When a man marries, his bride may join him or remain in her father's home. If she remains with her father, her daughters live with her, but her sons join their father at a young age. The Mau still illegally practice polygamy (having more than one spouse), and marriage within the clan is encouraged. Nearly half of the Mau are under the age of 15, with a small percentage living beyond age 45. As a result, they have great respect for the elderly, especially those who are Muslim scholars.
What are their beliefs?
Tribal cults continue to dominate in rural areas of Cote d'Ivoire, but one-third of the nation's population is Muslim, mainly in the northwest and in Abidjan. Another one-third of the population is Christian.
The Maninka rulers of Mali were largely responsible for spreading Islam throughout West Africa, and the Mau have been faithfully committed to Islam since pre-colonial days. West African Muslims, however, generally retain many of their local traditions and are, therefore, more tolerant of diversity than Muslims in other areas.
What are their needs?
There is religious freedom in Cote d'Ivoire, and the government is sympathetic to missions activities. However, the Mau have no Christian resources in their own language, and few of them have converted to Christianity. Prayer for church leadership and for the spiritual growth of believers are important priorities.
* Ask the Lord to send workers who understand the Muslim culture to share Jesus with the Mau of Cote d'Ivoire.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom, favor, and creativity to missions agencies focusing on the Mau.
* Pray that signs and wonders will follow the Mau believers as they share the Gospel with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Mau.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Mau church for the glory of His name!