[1960s–1970s Archive of Missionary Linguistic activities in Côte d’Ivoire, i.e., The Ivory Coast].
Archive of illustrated African-language grammar textbooks and African-language missionary religious periodicals, photographs, and related ephemera documenting an evangelical and linguistic outreach to the Senufo people in the Kohogo region of Côte d’Ivoire (The Ivory Coast).
Although French is the national language (the Ivory Coast was a French colony until 1960), there are over 70 separate native languages spoken in Côte d’Ivoire.
In the present group the Senari language becomes an evangelical tool in the two illustrated language textbooks, each titled Sebe-seli-wi, and the 22 issues of the illustrated religious periodical, Syɔ̃ Tãhagami. Of the textbooks, one appears unrecorded. And we find no issues of the Senari-language periodical, Syɔ̃ Tãhagami, recorded whatsoever.
The textbooks were written by Namogo Silué et les Missionnaires Baptistes, edited by Wesley Sadler, and illustrated by Melodie Ailanjian. Both appear under the imprint of Mission Baptiste, Korhogo, Côte d’Ivoire. They are written entirely in Senari. Stapled to the front cover of the 1961 publication is a printed or typed note in English that reads in part, “’The Beginning Book” or primer. It covers all known combinations of consonants and vowels in the language, so if this is mastered, anything written in the language may be read.” It goes on with several demonstrations of how to use the primer. Editor Wesley Sadler (1909–1994) was a noted Lutheran missionary and African-language linguist; he championed the need for training in modern descriptive linguistics among Christian missionaries in Africa.²
The twenty-two present issues of Syɔ̃ Tãhagami include articles on contemporary events and persons as well as on religious themes and were issued between 1964–1977. They are not consecutive. Initially, issues came out monthly, but then moved to six times a year. The articles or stories appear to be easy to read, often biblically-based stories, for those beginning to read the native language.
Of the 28 large black and white original photographs, fifteen of them bear an ink stamp on the back indicating they were from the “Centre de Publications Évangéliques in Abidjan” [Côte d’Ivoire]. Two have an ink stamp on the back of the “Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society…Wheaton, Illinois” (then, the home office), with a 1966 date and the indication that the photographer was named Baker. The other photos are not stamped, but three are titled below the image: “Father and Son”, “Pastor’s School”, and “Camp Mount Korhogo”. The photographs portray Africans working in a print shop; white children (kids of missionaries?) in several settings; Africans reading, eating, and playing; and buildings in Kohogo and Abidjan, including a Christian book store in the latter city.
Also seen in the collection are 28 hand-lettered words in English (with some French and Senari words) on individual cards for use on display boards, most likely when making presentations about the work of the Ivory Coast missionaries. Thirty-two commercially printed postcards depict various places in Côte d’Ivoire.
The archive’s provenance can be inferred from internal clues. A studio portrait identified as “Linda Sharp I.C. [Ivory Coast]” and the names “Melba” or “Melba Mears” are written in ink on several issues of Syɔ̃ Tãhagami. Both women have an Oregon connection. The Central Oregonian (Prineville, OR) on November 3, 1966 printed a notice that a Prineville native, Linda Sharp, who had been attending Arizona Bible College in Phoenix, would be working as a missionary in the Ivory Coast for the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society. Ms. Sharp was a trained nurse. A search for Melba Mears turned up a newspaper reference of a “Melba Mears of the Ivory Coast” appearing at a church service in Albany, Oregon in March, 1968.
The Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society (known since 2005 as WorldVentures) was formed in Chicago in 1943. Among the thrusts of the Mission Society’s work were evangelism, medical work, the establishment of local churches, literature work, and literacy.¹
A useful archive of Senari-language publications (all apparently unrecorded save for one title) and documentary photographs, etc. offering a view into the linguistic work of missionaries in the Ivory Coast during the 1960s and 1970s.
Description: [1960s–1970s Archive of Missionary Linguistic activities in Côte d’Ivoire, i.e., The Ivory Coast].
Contents: Two 4to. volumes of Sebe-seli-wi (Korhogo, Côte d’Ivoire: Mission Baptiste, 1960 and 1961, each 76pp), primers in the indigenous language of the Senufo people in the Kohogo region, Senari [With:] 22 issues of Syɔ̃ Tãhagami (plus two duplicates) 1964–1977, a religious periodical in Senari with later issues published under the imprint “Imprimé par la Mission Baptiste, Korhogo,” each issue approx. 8 x 6 inches, mostly 16 pages each with some earlier of 8 pages [With:] 28 b&w photographs and 2 contact sheets (ea. approx. 8 x 10 inches) [With:] 1 small portrait photograph; 32 mounted color postcards; 28 hand-lettered words in English, French, and Senari on cardboard strips, most fabric-backed [With:] a 58 x 43 inches orange-colored piece of cloth bearing a repeated color-printed design and the phrases “Abidjan pour Christ”, “Jésus est vivant”, and “Dieu te parle ecoute le! Maintenant” [With:] and a 12½ x 17¾ inches pictorial map on leather showing the country of Cote-d’Ivoire (The Ivory Coast) and its principal cities, products, and resources. All in very good or better condition. Housed in an archival box.
Notes. 1. Mithun, comp., African Programs of U.S. Organizations: A Selective Directory (Washington, D.C., 1965), p29. 2. Wesley L. Sadler Literacy Collection [Finding Aid, Seminary Archives, A.R. Wentz Library, United Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg + Philadelphia] accessed online. N.B. Neither of the present Senari-language textbooks edited by Sadler appear in this finding aid. OCLC records two copies of the 1960 edition of Sebe-seli-wi (UCal. and UCLA); no copies of the 1961 edition.