Nuits Balnéaires

The Power of Alliances

"Nuits Balnéaires' work is telling a story that is intimately rooted in tradition, culture, and imagination.
He allows us to envision another world dimension, filled with poetry, light, beauty, ritual, and spirituality.
He has created a powerful document enlightening the rich bonds at the foundation of Ivorian culture." - Emilie Regnier, photographer and West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship mentor.

Nuits Balnéaires is a visual artist and Ivorian creative director based in Grand Bassam in Ivory Coast. He is inspired by poetry, the spirit of water, nature, the sea, the night, the study and observation of civilizations. 

The Power of Alliances attempts to foster a dialogue on the importance of the values of unity, solidarity and sharing in Côte d'Ivoire, a country that is slowly recovering from the wounds inherited from decades of political instability. By illustrating the seven great families of the N'zima Kotokô tribe of Grand-Bassam, the project sheds light on the social structures that have spanned several centuries. The complementarity of symbols carried by each family is necessary for the harmony and survival of the community.

The symbols of the Alonhomba family are the raffia and the calabash. They are farmers and travelers. Raffia and calabash symbolize self-domination, courage and tenacity. According to legend, the Alonhomba, headed by the valiant Ekou Ahizi, had discovered a banana plantation left fallow by the Adahonlin because of its misfortune and suffering. The Alonhomba took this plantation and reaped great profits from it. Their motto: The misfortune of some makes the happiness of others. And so the alliance between the Adahonlin and the Alonhomba was born.

Corn is the symbol of the N’vavilé family, but they are also known to have discovered Abissa. The name N’vavilé means “I have the spirit of the moment.” Abissa’s democratic-based social criticism eludes social disorder. The Nvavilé are great dance leaders. The bonds of brotherhood between the Nvavilé and the Mafôlé are so strong that these two families organize funeral rites together.

The N’djua or Ahua are symbolized by fire and the dog. The members of this family are the light, the key to the visible world. The human warmth, affection and loyalty are values that the behavior of the dog expressed in its relationship with humans. The N’djua have mastered fire and dog and are characterized by self-control and serenity.

The Abissa, an ancient ceremony, is at the same time a religious ritual, a political-social platform and a catharsis which marks the beginning of the New Year in the N’zima calendar.

Ezohilé means “the act of adorning and admiring oneself.” With the crow, rice, water, cat as their symbol, the Ezohilé behave like kings of kings (arelemgbunlin nou arelemgbunlin). Their leaders are supposed to ride on elephants and walk on a carpet of white sheepskin. The Ezohilé claim that their symbol is water, the source of life, but recognize that water alone cannot be sufficient for their survival. They are complementary to the Aboussouan of the N’djua or Mahilé.

The Mafôlê are symbolic for gold and silver. Skilled gold miners, they are distinguished by a spirit of convenience, expediency and relevance. According to legend, the Mafolê, under the leadership of Koney Nyavolè and Avolè, created a field without first knowing what to plant there. After slaughter and burning, they searched in vain for seeds of food and food plants. From this field, which never reached the planting stage, grew thaumatococcus danielli (mora nee molokoa). It was while digging up these herbaceous plants that they discovered gold.

The symbol of the Azanwoulé is the yam. Cut in half, it represents the breaking of ties and intact unity. The yam fits in sacrificial dishes as a sign of closer ties. The women of this family are specialists in threnes (ezounle menli). The Azanwoulé made it a powerful means of support for the whole community in all adversities and in great misfortunes. 

About the West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship

The West Africa Visual Journalism Fellowship supported three emerging photographers to produce a visual storytelling project of their choice in West Africa. The stories were produced during 2019 and 2020, after a short pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The three fellows received a production fee of €5000 and a grant of €5000 to help cover their expenses while they were producing their story. Additionally, the fellows took part in workshops and received mentorship through the development of their projects. Three mentors supported and advised the fellows along the way: Emilie Regnier, photographer; Nii Obodai, photographer and educator; and Marc Prüst, visual story editor. Learn more