Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cote D’Ivoire's Mapouka Dance - The Roots Of Twerking (information & videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents information about & three videos of the Mapouka Dance of Cote D' Ivory (the Ivory Coast), West Africa. This post also presents information about the New Orleans, Louisiana (USA) dance "twerking" which is based on Mapouka and other butt shaking African dances.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Also known as Macouka, it is a traditional dance from the area of Dabou in southeast Côte d’Ivoire, sometimes carried out during special ceremonies. It is also known as, “La danse du fessier” or “the danse of the behind”.

This dance has a choreography that can be very sexually suggestive. The dance mostly involves women shaking their buttocks sideways vigorously, facing away from their audience. In the 1980′s, artists of the Ivory Coast tried without much success to popularize it. One of the most well known groups is Tueuses de Mapouka.

There are two forms of the dance, the original and the modern. The modern is danced mostly by young people and is considered more obscene and improper by some due to its suggestive nature.

In 1998, the government of Côte d’Ivoire decided to prohibit its performance in public. It is, paradoxically, following this prohibition that the dance now enjoys a very fast-growing global popularity, especially in the sub-Saharan countries and western nations with large Francophone communities."
"Mapouka - is an exciting dance-form emanating from Cote D’Ivoire. The dance is the traditional expression of the peoples of the Southern villages of Cote D’Ivoire--the Avikam. The dance has long been a part of the Avikam expression--quintessential to their traditional belief system and a matter of ceremony.

In the early 1990s, the dance was discovered by the outside world when a number of videos began circulating in Paris, France. What the world saw was incredible. Women moving their legs in such a manner that their behinds gyrate with minimal assistance from hips or waist. The dance emerged from a history of traditional ceremonies where the women wore long wrap-skirts. But now, it was on display in clubs and dance halls where buxom young women wiggled their bottoms while wearing shorter skirts and spandex-shorts. The dance now suddenly appeared provocative. In fact, in 1995, the dance was outlawed in Cote D’Ivoire because the authorities deemed it erotic and inappropriate. The dance has legally returned and continues to enjoy immense popularity not only in Cote D’Ivoire but also throughout West Africa."
From "Dance Has Africans Shaking Behinds, and Heads" By NORIMITSU ONISHI, Published: May 28, 2000
"The night was getting wild, the air tense with expectation, as the crowd at a military academy here waited for the show's top act, three female Ivoirian dancers known as Les Tueuses, or The Killers. Until last December, Les Tueuses, the queens of a suggestive dance craze called the mapouka, had been banned from television, judged too vulgar by the government, which was subsequently toppled in a Christmas Eve coup.

Their reputation rehabilitated under military rule, Les Tueuses finally took the stage recently, quickly shedding their diaphanous white robes in favor of blue sequined bikini tops and long skirts with, of course, never-ending slits. As uniformed soldiers stretched to keep the crowd of hundreds under control, Les Tueuses plunged into the audience, targeting a cadet here, another there, leaving the young men, and women spectators, dazed under a blur of gyration and Banned from Ivoirian television -- chased away by officials in neighboring countries like Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin -- mapouka spread nevertheless along the West African coast, from Dakar to Kinshasa, in the last couple of years. The dance -- which focuses on, though is not limited to, the surprisingly difficult act of wiggling one's buttocks without moving one's hips -- also became an endless source of discussions and newspaper ruminations on culture, sex, women and men, especially here in the Ivory Coast.

It was perhaps a measure of the fallen government's disconnection with its 16 million citizens that it tried to ban mapouka, even as the dance grew so popular that many young women desperately tried to gain weight -- the better to perform a dance that works best with an ample backside. After the military took power, it seemed that the new government's first major policy shift was directed at mapouka....

"Booty dance has been gracing the land of Africa for as long as one cares to remember. Today the sights of booty dance are familiar in the west from pop to hip hop. And of course, you have Jamaican dancehall and Tahiti Ora Vahine. Back to Africa where it all began. Some call it mapouka, some kuitata, kiuno, viuno, coupé décalé etc... the booty dance is enjoyed from traditional to modern dances. It has been seen in soukous, kwasa kwasa, musiki wa dansi, Congo has been on the forefront in integrating traditional dance with booty dance, with soukous and kwasa kwasa dance styles being the most recognized vehicles. Tanzania and Kenya drew inspiration from Congo and they too integrated traditional dance into modern music....

The mapouka became popular in the nightclubs of Abidjan before catching on abroad. Congo has traditionally been the big exporter of music and dance in Africa, and so the mapouka was something of a first for the Ivory Coast."

"Twerking is a "dance move that involves a person shaking their hips and bottom in a bouncy up and down motion, causing it to shake, 'wobble' and 'jiggle'."[1] and to "twerk" means to "dance in a sexually suggestive twisting fashion".[2]
The word "twerking" is believed to be derived from one of two sources:
1.the phrase "twerk it," which in turn was created from combining "to" and "work it."

2.a portmanteau of twist and jerk.[1]

Twerking (as a modern dance) originated in New Orleans, Louisiana. Ties have been made to many traditional African dances.[3] An example of such traditional dances is Mapouka."

WARNING: Most videos of Mapouka and most videos of Twerking are very sexually suggestive and therefore may not be appropriate for children's viewing.

Example #1: mapouka sud


adjapo2001, Uploaded on Sep 13, 2010

Troupe artistique " Zaossou" d'Abidjan
My guess is that this is either the traditional way of performing Mapouka or similar to the traditional way of performing that dance.

Example #2: [Cote d'ivoire] Les tueuses -- Ahou

missyolga, Uploaded on Jul 6, 2009
Les Tueuses ("The Killers") are a trio of young women who helped popularized the modern, more provocative form of Mapouka, although there are dancers who perform even more provocative forms of that dance than Les Tueuses.

Example #3: Les tueuses du mapouka - Ahou concert

saelys, Published on Aug 30, 2012

Les tueuses du mapouka - Ahou concert

Click A Video Of "Regina" by Angolan Singer Socorro & The Differences Between Traditional Angolan Dancing & Twerking

Also, click this link to find videos of traditional African dances that don't involve shaking your booty:

Thanks to those who are featured in these videos. Thanks also to those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the producers and YouTube publishers of these videos.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. published this post after reading this racialicious post:

    A commenter to that post asked whether it was cultural appropriation for White women to twerk.
    Here's the comment that I wrote in response to that question: [posted with minor a revision & without the link to this pancocojams post]

    In response to your question about twerking and cultural appropriation, the author of this [racialicious] post indicated that twerking "has become a fabricated indicator of 'authentic' black womanhood" and that the majority of Hip-Hop videos of twerking featured Black women. Those points are different from a whether or not it would be correct to consider non-Black women twerking cultural appropriation.

    In my opinion, any person from any race, ethnicity, or culture can perform the movements to any non-religious, leisure, fad dance and cultural appropriation becomes an issue mostly with sacred traditional dances, partly when people aren't aware of or respectful of those traditions. Thus, for example, it's acceptable for Black people to dance (the European originated dance) Ballet and for non-Black people to dance (the West African dance) Yanvalou.

    That said, wearing blackface, brown face or yellow face, and/or wearing certain types of clothing or costumes and other accoutrements such as a bindi or head feathers when they perform a dance from another culture can make that performance of that dance an example of cultural appropriation.

    With regard to twerking, the Ivory Coast [West Africa] traditional dance Mapouka is probably the source or one of the sources of the New Orleans originated twerking dance. However, in large part because of the spandex and short shorts that are worn in the newer Mapouka dance [in the Ivory Coast and elsewhere], Mapouka has become much more sexually suggestive than it originally was.

    In conclusion, I don't think it's cultural appropriation for Black people outside of the Ivory Coast ethnic group from which Mapouka comes to dance that dance. Neither do I think it is necessarily cultural appropriation for any person to twerk. And for the reasons the author of this [racialicious] post articulated so well, and for other reasons, I definitely don't think that twerking should be considered a mark of authentic Black womenhood.

    1. I'd like to revise one of my last points to this:

      In conclusion, I don't think it's necessarily cultural appropriation for Black people outside of the Ivory Coast ethnic group from which Mapouka comes or for non-Black people anywhere to dance Mapouka.

  2. In re-reading my comment, I realize that my mention of the West African dance "Yanvalou" could be interpreted to mean that I place that dance it in the category of "non-religious" dances. Actually, Yanvalou is a Haitian religious dance with West African roots. Click this link for a pancocoojams post on Yanvalou dance videos:

    Also, I realize that my mention of Ballet could be interpreted to mean that I think that Ballet is only performed as a non-religious dance. I know that isn't the case. I should have given something like "Soukous" as an example of a non-religious African dance and "the Quadrille" as an example of a non-religious European dance.

    My badly phrased point was that I believe that it wouldn't be cultural appropriation for people of any race, ethnicity, or religion to perform the movements of any social, leisure dance such as twerking. Also, my point was that I believe that the term cultural appropriation might be applied but doesn't always apply to non-members of a particular race, ethnicity, or religion perform movements to religious or otherwise traditional dances. However, I also believe that people outside of the culture which originated those dances might be able to perform those dances if they do so with knowledge and with respect.

    Also, context is important. In my opinion, performing booty dance moves such as the Ivory Coast Mapouka, the Jamaican dance "winin', and the African American dance "twerking" might not just be cultural appropriation but are straight out vulgar when those dances are done in public places such as stores and bus stops.

    This makes three comments from me. I hope that other people post their opinion about this topic.