The Dena, a fascinating toy from the boys
the Toura village of Dantomba, Cote d'Ivoire

The Dena is unique to the Toura People who are located in the rain forest of West Central  Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast).  Today there are only about 35,000 Toura mostly living in small villages.  Dantomba, with a population of about 300, is a typical Toura village.

The Toura People depend on the seasons to bring rain for their crops. It is believed that If the boys whipped their tops, called the dena, during rainy season, the skies would close up and refuse to soak the rice fields. The dena are only allowed to spin during dry season the season of harvest. To use the dena it takes many hours of practice and the reflexes of the young! My attempts were met with much laughter.

The dena is usually made from a stick of wood and cut to shape with a knife. Some are single piece construction while others use two pieces -- one the large flywheel and the other the shaft.  The flywheel is 2-1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. The overall length is 4 to 5 inches.

The whip shaft is about 12 inches long with a heavy cord secured to one end.  The free part of the cord is about 24 inches long.

The techniques used to whip the tops are illustrated in the slow motion (1/4 speed) video.  Download Dena-slowmotion-720p.mp4  (2:38 65mB)

Have fun!

Carl and Arline

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