Kissi people

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Orchestre d'un chef du pays de Kissi (Guinée) (cropped).jpg
Orchestra of Kissi musicians in 1900
Total population
c. 1,224,545
Regions with significant populations
 Guinea798,429 (6.2%)[1]
 Liberia250,273 (4.8%)[2]
 Sierra Leone175,843 (4.5%) [3]
Kissi, French, English, Krio
Christianity, Traditional, Islam[4]
Related ethnic groups
Mende people, Loma people, Kpelle people, Mano people, Kono people, Vai people, Gbandi people

The Kissi people, are a West African ethnolinguistic group.[5] They are the fourth largest ethnic group in Guinea, making up 2% of the population. Kissi people are also found in Liberia and Sierra Leone. They speak the Kissi language, which belongs to the Mel branch of the Niger–Congo language family.[6] The Kissi are well known for making baskets and weaving on vertical looms.  In past times they were also famous for their ironworking skills, as the country and its neighbors possess rich deposits of iron. Kissi smiths produced the famous "Kissi penny,"

The Kissi people are also called Assi, Bakoa, Den, Gihi, Gisi, Gissi, Gizi, Kisi, Kisia, Kisie, Kisiye, Kizi, or Kalen[7][8]


According to The Peoples of Africa, Kissi tradition considers that before the seventeenth century they inhabited the Upper Niger region. Supposedly they lived south of the Futa Jallon until the Yalunka people expelled them. After 1600, they migrated westward, expelling the Limbas in their march, but were under constant threat from the Kurankos.[9]

Resistance to French conquest by Kissi Kaba Keita[edit]

In Guinea, the Kissi warrior Kissi Kaba Keita managed to unite many Kissi chiefdoms under his reign and resist French conquest for many years. Before French attacks, he had rallied the Kurankos of Morige and the Leles of Yombiro. When the French arrived in 1892, he had to let the relatively autonomous chiefs of the respective areas defend themselves. Due to the French's technological superiority, Kissi Kaba resorted mainly to guerilla tactics, thus delaying their conquest of his kingdom. Still, by 1893 he realized that his resistance would fail and subjected himself to the French, who then recognized him as chief of the northern Kissi territory. However, his relationship with the French gradually worsened, which led to them appointing his rivals in a number of his chiefdoms, and eventually to his execution in Siguiri.


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 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 livestock, which is usually cattle and goats. Cows are considered valuable animals, not for their milk, but as religious sacrifices.

Social systems[edit]

Kissi children in Kissidougou (2019)

For many generations, Kissi are well known as 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, and 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 them into adulthood. Afterwards, the young adult 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[edit]

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. Many carved soapstone figures and heads were produced by the Kissi people in the past prior to colonial contact with the Europeans. It is not clear why they were made; some scholars argue that they form part of ancestor worship while others say they may represent gods to increase agricultural yields. A large number can be seen in the British Museum's collection.[10]

Kissi Surnames[edit]

  1. Balladouno
  2. Beindouno
  3. Bengoutieno
  4. Bolossiandouno
  5. Bongono 
  6. Bongouno
  7. Bouédouno
  8. Boundouno
  9. Bourouno
  10. Bramadouno
  11. Cécémadouno
  12. Danfagadouno
  13. Dembadouno
  14. Doufangadouno
  15. Dougbouno
  16. Dougouno
  17. Douno
  18. Doussandouno
  19. Fancinadouno
  20. Fangadouno
  21. Fangamadouno
  22. Feindouno
  23. Fouédouno
  24. Frangadouno
  25. Fremessadouno
  26. Gbandélno
  27. Iffono
  28. Irandouno
  29. Kabadouno
  30. Kadouno
  31. Kagbadouno
  32. Kakpadouno
  33. Kamano
  34. Kamadouno
  35. Kambadouno
  36. Kambedouno
  37. Kandawadouno
  38. Kankadouno
  39. Kankodouno
  40. Kantabadouno
  41. Kantambadouno
  42. Kassadouno
  43. Kassossodouno
  44. Késsémadouno
  45. Kikano
  46. Kogbadouno
  47. Kombadouno
  48. Komano
  49. Kondano
  50. Kondiano
  51. Kondouno
  52. Koniono
  53. Kotémbadouno
  54. Kotémbèdouno
  55. Koumassadouno
  56. Koumbadouno
  57. Koundiano
  58. Koundouno
  59. Kouteno
  60. Lélano
  61. Léno
  62. Malano
  63. Mamadouno
  64. Mamboliano
  65. Mandouno
  66. Mano
  67. Mansadouno
  68. Massadouno
  69. Massandouno
  70. Millimono
  71. Millimouno
  72. Mongono
  73. Moudékéno
  74. Moundékéno
  75. Moussatèmbèdouno
  76. Oliano
  77. Ouamono
  78. Ouamouno
  79. Ouéndeno
  80. Ouéndouno
  81. Sagno
  82. Sandouno
  83. Saninkoundouno
  84. Sayadouno
  85. Sayandouno
  86. Semadouno
  87. Sembèno
  88. Sevadouno
  89. Sewadouno
  90. Simbiano
  91. Solano
  92. Somadouno
  93. Somodouno
  94. Sondouno
  95. Songbono
  96. Sossoadouno
  97. Sossouadouno
  98. Souadouno
  99. Soumadouno
  100. Soumano
  101. Soyadouno
  102. Soyandouno
  103. Tagbino
  104. Tamba
  105. Tambadouno 
  106. Tédouno
  107. Teliano
  108. Tèmbèdouno
  109. Tèmèssadouno
  110. Teinguiano
  111. Teinkiano
  112. Tiguiano
  113. Togbadouno
  114. Togbodouno
  115. Toguiano
  116. Tolno
  117. Tonguino
  118. Toumadouno
  119. Toumandouno
  120. Toundoufédouno
  121. Toundouno
  122. Tounguino
  123. Woromadouno
  124. Woromandouno
  125. Yaradouno
  126. Yarandouno
  127. Yilandouno
  128. Yokrodouno
  129. Yombouno
  130. Youmbouno
  131. Zéno

Notable Kissi people[edit]


  1. ^ "Guinea - The World Factbook". Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  2. ^ "Liberia - The World Factbook". Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  3. ^ "Sierra Leone 2015 Population and Housing Census National Analytical Report" (PDF). Statistics Sierra Leone. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  4. ^ "Liberia Liberia Ethnicity". Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  5. ^ Peter Austin (2008). One Thousand Languages: Living, Endangered, and Lost. University of California Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-0520-25-560-9.
  6. ^ Bankole Kamara Taylor (2014). Sierra Leone: The Land, Its People and History. New Africa Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-9987-16-038-9.
  7. ^ George Tucker Childs (22 July 2011). A Grammar of Kisi. p. 1. ISBN 978-3110-81-088-2.
  8. ^ RAMEAU, BnF [1]
  9. ^ James Stuart Olsen (1996). The Peoples of Africa: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary. Greenwood Press. p. 290. ISBN 978-0313-27-918-8.
  10. ^ British Museum Collection

External links[edit]