The Ivory Coast, known more commonly by its French name Côte d'Ivoire, was seen as a model of stability and prosperity for much of the latter 20th century, with a relatively strong economy and a secure government led by post-independence leader Félix Houphouët-Boigny. However a coup in 1999 and an armed rebellion in 2002 split the country and prompted a violent civil war, stirring up latent ethnic animosity against the Muslim minority in the North. An uneasy peace was brokered in 2004, but the scars of this conflict still linger in the Ivory Coast. In 2010 a contested election left the country on the brink of further civil conflict and led to President Laurent Gbagbo being transferred to The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity. Mike McGovern’s Making War in Cote d'Ivoire analyses the ongoing uncertainty in the country.
The culture of the Ivory Coast is deeply influenced by the French who colonised the country from the mid 19th century until 1960 and left an indelible mark on the country linguistically and socially. Prior to colonisation The Ivory Coast was populated by several kingdoms, with distinct ethnicities and cultural traditions, and signs of this amalgamation are still evident today. Traditional culture still persists and the Ivory Coast art scene is particularly influenced by the imagery and icons of religious and spiritual ceremonies, especially the pervasive use of masks. This is evident in the work of Ivorian artists such as Christian Lattier, Jems Robert Koko Bi and Frédéric Bruly Bouabré.
The contemporary literature of The Ivory Coast is particularly strong and receives a wide publication in the French speaking world. Writers such as Ahmadou Kourouma and Véronique Tadjo have also been published elsewhere and have garnered a reputation for their powerful take on Ivorian life. Kourouma’s best known works are The Suns of Independence, Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote and Allah is Not Obliged, all of which engage with the violent history of West Africa and the legacy of colonisation. Véronique Tadjo is a prolific writer who has written widely about various African countries and the notion of a Pan-African identity. Tadjo’s most celebrated works are In the Shadow of Imana, The Blind Kingdom and As the Crow Flies. Marguerite Abouet’s Aya series of graphic novels also illuminates ordinary life in The Ivory Coast in a unique way, as does Tony D'Souza’s novel Whiteman.