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Banco Fanicos: My memories of Africa

Updated: Jan 26

When I came home from school, we always passed in front of the Banco (a river in Ivory Coast, near Abidjan), and the sight of these men, washing the laundry in laughter and good humor always fascinated! The multiple and vibrant colors of the laundry drying on the grass... The showers of water caused by the vigorous gestures of the fanicos... Their bursts of laughter and their songs... These memories of Africa that remain...

Laveurs de linge dans le banco : souvenir d'afrique

At the time, it was part of everyday life for me... But now that I've grown up, it sticks in my memory... An indelible memory... And I am now aware of all these trades that still exist there, and that we no longer find here !

So I'm going to introduce you to Banco's Fanicos - one of my memories from Africa :

"Fanico": this means "washer of clothes", in the Malinké language. Those are the washermen of Abidjan. Because it is other people's laundry that they wash.

Un laveur en train de frotter le linge sur son pneu - souvenir d'afrique

North of Abidjan, in the Banco Park, the river bearing the same name is the scene of an unusual activity. Every morning, the fanicos storm the Banco basin, a forest massif in the heart of Abidjan, to wash the laundry previously collected from households in working-class neighborhoods. Soap, water and elbow grease, there are several hundred men washing clothes in the middle of the river. Challenging work carried out almost exclusively by men because of the arduous nature of the job.

les fanicos du banco et leur linge : souvenirs d'afrique

Over time, the technique has become established: The fanicos, in muddy water up to their knees, rub and hit the laundry on a large stone or a concrete block placed on a truck tire. A sufficiently heavy tire placed at the bottom of the stream. They work side by side, whether the laundry next door is heavily soiled or in the process of being rinsed.

The artisanal soap commonly used, called kabakourou (“pebbles” in the Malinké language), is a mixture of caustic soda and palm oil brought to a boil and manually turned into a ball at the end of the process. It is its hardness and resistance to wear that earned it this nickname.

un travail collectif pour les grosses pièces à laver : souvenirs d'afrique

le linge qui sèche au soleil sur l'herbe : souvenirs d'afrique

The clothes hanging on the grass at midday present a concert of bright and sparkling colors with the action of the blazing sun.

And from an ecological point of view ?...

Imagine that the same water is used to wash and rinse clothes. Strange no? This water must have virtues that we do not know. She never gets dirty for them! In the rainy season, the Ebriée lagoon, which joins the banco, regains its rights in this area. The fanicos then benefit from the renewal of the quality of their washing water. We must therefore wait for the rain so that this water, in which the laundry is done every day, is renewed a little... When we also know that the Ebrié lagoon is heavily polluted by garbage discharges, waste water and other household waste, we wonder, between the water brought by the lagoon, and that of the lake of the fanicos, which pollute the other!?... The lagoon only has to manage to purify itself, otherwise it discusses it with the sea which can possibly relieve it!?...


Given the low cost of services, this activity is popular, and has its clientele, especially men living alone. They make serious savings, because running the washing machine is expensive (electricity is still a luxury over there).

Hope you enjoyed this article? Do not hesitate to write to me if you want to discuss it !?

If you want to know more on my memories in Africa , it's here :

And if you just want to discover the rest of my blog, it's here :

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