Kissi people is an ethnic group living in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. They speak the Kissi language, which is a Niger-Congo language. The are well known for making baskets and weaving on vertical looms.
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.
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.
For many generations, the Kissi have been known as a hard working people. They are very age-oriented, dominated and led by the chief
and the elderly people. 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.
Religion and spiritual beliefs
Although many Kissi have converted to Christianity
, most of them continue to practice their traditional ethnic religion. Ancestor worship
or praying to deceased relatives is a common practice among the Kissi. 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.
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.
Notable Kissi people
- Kai Londo, great Kissi warrior from Sierra Leone who conquered a large territory and ruled with wisdom in Southern Sierra Leone.
- Joseph Boakai, current vice president of Liberia
- Tom Nyuma, retired collonel in the Sierra Leonean Armed Forces, and the current mayor of Kailahun
- Jusu Sawie, member of Sierra Leone's parliament representing Kailahun District
- Tamba Borbor-Sawyer, currently a member of parliament of Sierra Leone representing Kailahun District
- Kai Abdul Foday, member of Sierra Leone's parliament representing Kono District
- Pascal Feindouno, Guinean football star
- Sarway Dollar, Sierra Leonean football star
- Augustine Kortu, Sierra Leonean politician and the current Council chairman of Kailahun District
- Albert Foday, Sierra Leonean football star
- Simon Feindouno, Guinean football star