I was always very sensitive on the matters of local architecture. I also always believed that every place is speaking its architecture. From the grey italian “borghi” to the white of the mediterranean sea and the olive green of the cycladic stone and even to the white of the pentelic marble of Parthenon, every land pretty much had told us how it would like to be constucted.
“Burkina Faso is by no means an area frequented by tourists, but at the base of a hill overlooking the surrounding sun-drenched West African savannah lies an extraordinary village, a circular 1.2 hectare complex of intricately embellished earthen architecture. It is the residence of the chief, the royal court and the nobility of the Kassena people, who first settled the region in the 15th century, making them one of the oldest ethnic groups in Burkina Faso.
The village keeps itself extremely isolated and closed to outsiders, most likely to ensure the conservation and integrity of their structures and to protect the local traditions. There is interest in developing the site as a cultural tourism destination to generate economic resources for conservation but it is a delicate process.
Travel blogger, Olga Stavrakis from TravelwithOlga.com also visited the site in 2009 and recalls her visit. She writes: … It was only through a process of year long negotiations that we were permitted to enter the royal palace the entrance of which is pictured here. They were awaiting us and the grand old men of the village, the nobility, were all seated waiting for us. Each of the villages has muslims and animists (local religions) and no one much cares who believes in what. However, we were told in advance that we must not wear anything red and we may not carry an umbrella. Only the chiefly noble family is permitted that privilege and to do so would constitute a great affront to our hosts…
Go through the gallerie:
A royal residence in West Africa is not what we might think of when we imagine royal palaces. In Tiébélé, the Cour Royale is made up of a series of small mud brick structures inside a compound, covered with natural clay paints in elaborate geometric patterns to differentiate them from the homes of the common people. The chief’s house has the smallest door for protection.
Some of the most elaborately decorated houses however are not actually living quarters but mausoleums for the dead, who are laid to rest in the same compound. The photograph by Rita Willaert below is an example of one of the village mausoleums.
Some of the art is symbolic while a lot of it is purely decoration– all a result of the traditional skills of the isolated Kassena culture.”
Photos: Rita Willaert