The Djoula (also known as Jula or Dyula) originally came from the Mande Empire in Mali over 600 years ago. Their name means “itinerant trader,” and they were active in the gold trade in the ancient Ghanaian and Malian empires. The Djoula closely identify with the Maninke of Guinea.
The majority of the Djoula of Côte d’Ivoire live in the northwestern corner of the country, but many live in cities. Other Djoula are scattered among five neighboring countries.
Large clans are associated with various skills and occupations such as the fishing and blacksmith trades. Each clan has a strong association with an animal totem such as the crocodile, snake, elephant or deer. Clans have special relationships with other clans, and marriage between cousins is not unusual. The Djoula hold strongly to the virtuous concepts of dedication to family, obedience, and honesty, precepts motivated by a driving sense of human dignity.
Educational Opportunities: The government provides primary and secondary education. Côte d’Ivoire law dictates that children of any religion must be accepted into the school system; it's available to all who can afford it, regardless of faith. A family may be able to get one child through school, and that child can eventually support the rest of his family.
In 1960 the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire in French) gained its independence from France and implemented a new civil code. In contrast with all traditional forms of social organization, the new code abolished the bride price, tightened divorce laws, and outlawed forced marriages. This new civil code is not enforced within Djoula villages. While they are subject to the government of Côte d’Ivoire, village culture still rules the hearts and minds of the Djoula people.
Djoula society had begun to flourish as early as the 1400s when European merchants explored the Ivory Coast. The Portuguese plundered ivory and gold. Later, Dutch and English explorers implemented the more lucrative slave trade. In 1908 Côte d’Ivoire was colonized by France.
SIM is involved in spreading the Good News of Jesus' love among the Djoula through various methods of evangelism, including teaching English, church development, Bible studies, friendship evangelism, construction work, health work, and tract distribution. An estimated 65% of the two million Djoula in Côte d’Ivoire still have never heard the Good News. Two SIM couples currently work with the Djoula of Côte d’Ivoire.
In 1993, the complete New Testament was published in the Djoula language. While other portions of the Bible have been translated, the Old Testament is still in progress. Work is also in progress to translate the Bible into Bambara, a dialect of Djoula. Audio recordings of the Gospel are available.