A Quick Overview about the Kissis

Originally, the Kissi came from modern-day Ivory Coast and migrated to neighboring countries. Today, there are approximately 176,000 Kissi living in Liberia. The Kissi are mainly found in Lofa County, Liberia, and other neighboring countries such as Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The Kissi dialect is divided into two groups: the northern dialect of Kissi, which is spoken in Guinea and Sierra Leone, and the southern Kissi dialect, which is spoken in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Kissi are known as hard working people who specialize in weaving and basket making. They are also known for their great expertise in iron work. In the past, Kissi ironsmiths produced the famous “Kissi penny,” iron money that was used widely in West and even Central Africa. 

Primarily, the Kissi are farmers. They grow crops, including rice, which is their staple crop, onions, peppers, cotton, corn, bananas, potatoes, melons, coffee, and beans. They are also fishers and hunters. Agricultural work is shared equally by Kissi men and women.

Most Kissi have converted and identify as Christians, however, many of them continue to practice their traditional, ethnic religion. Praying to the deceased and worshiping their ancestors is commonly practiced among the Kissi. The Kissi believe that ancestral spirits act as mediators between them and their god of creation. The Kissi live in perpetual fear of the supernatural and, as such, wear amulets for protection against evil spirits.

Notable Kissi from Liberia include Joseph Boakai (former Vice President of Liberia), and Rev. Moses Fayia (one of those who brought Christianity to Kissidom, including the Lofa District in Liberia and the forest region in Guinea).