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Welcome to Africa’s unique painted village

Welcome to Africa’s unique painted village
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Tiébélé in Burkino Faso is home to decorated mud houses unlike any other you have seen.

Probably the Most Beautiful Village in Burkina Faso

‘Set in the heart of the green and low-lying Kassena country, Tiébélé, 40km east of Pô on a dirt track, is famous for its sukhala – colourful, windowless traditional houses. Painted by women in geometrical patterns of red, black and white, using guinea-fowl feathers, the houses offer an antidote to the monochrome mudbrick villages found elsewhere in BurkinaFaso.’  Lonely Planet.

The uniquely decorated mud houses of Tiébélé are unlike any others in Burkina Faso The houses offer an antidote to the monochrome mudbrick villages found elsewhere in Burkina Faso. Source: Facebook/BrightVibes

An ancient practice dating from the sixteenth century

In the south of Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in west Africa, near the border with Ghana lies a small, circular village of about 1.2 hectares, called Tiébélé. This is home of the Kassena people, one of the oldest ethnic groups that had settled in the territory of Burkina Faso in the 15th century. Tiébélé is known for its amazing traditional Gourounsi architecture and elaborately decorated walls of their homes.

Burkina Faso is a poor country, even by West African standards, and possibly the poorest in the world. But they are culturally rich, and decorating the walls of their buildings is an important part of their cultural legacy in this area of the country. Wall decorating is always a community project done by the women and it’s a very ancient practice that dates from the sixteenth century AD.

The Kassena people build their houses entirely of local materials: earth, wood and straw. Soil mixed with straw and cow dung is moistened to a state of perfect plasticity, to shape almost vertical surfaces. Today this technique is replaced by the use of mud brick molding walls with foundations resting on large stone. Tiébélé’s houses are built with defence in mind, whether that be against the climate or potential enemies. Walls are over a foot thick and the homes are designed without windows except for a small opening or two to let just enough light in to see. Front doors are only about two feet tall, which keeps the sun out and makes enemies difficult to strike. Roofs are protected with wood ladders that are easily retracted and the local beer (dolo) is brewed at home.

Source: AmusingPlanet All Images: RitaWillaer

They use different local natural materials for colouring, from grounded earth to volcanic rock. At the very end varnish is used in order to extend the life expectancy of paintings. Still, because of rainy season, after few years decorations vanish so women usually renovate house exteriors every four years. Paintings are usually done after harvesting, between February and March.
Every painted house in Tiébélé village is unique. Wall painting is a community project done by local women. They use different local natural materials for colouring, from grounded earth to volcanic rock. At the very end varnish is used in order to extend the life expectancy of paintings. Still, because of rainy season, after few years decorations vanish so women usually renovate house exteriors every four years. Paintings are usually done after harvesting, between February and March. Source: RitaWillaer

The motifs and symbols are taken from everyday life, religion and belief.

After construction, the woman makes murals on the walls using coloured mud and white chalk. The motifs and symbols are either taken from everyday life, or from religion and belief. The finished wall is then carefully burnished with stones, each colour burnished separately so that the colours don’t blur together. Finally, the entire surface is coated with a natural varnish made by boiling pods of néré, the African locust bean tree.

The designs also serves to protect the walls themselves. The decorating is usually done just before the rainy season and protects the outside walls from the rain. Adding cow dung, compacting layers of mud, burnishing the final layer, and varnishing with néré all make the designs withstand wet weather, enabling the structures to last longer.

Explore Tiébélé and check out lots more photos of the amazing painted village on Instagram

Source: AmusingPlanet

Each painted house has many different geometrical and illustrative drawings. Many Kassena people are still practicing animism as their main religion. They believe that everything possess soul, even animals and plants and they worship them in different ways. Every drawing has its own meaning, most often are: wisdom, fertility, friendship, leadership, afterlife, alliance etc.
Wall paintings in Tiébélé village have a very rich symbolism Each painted house has many different geometrical and illustrative drawings. Many Kassena people are still practicing animism as their main religion. They believe that everything possess soul, even animals and plants and they worship them in different ways. Every drawing has its own meaning, most often are: wisdom, fertility, friendship, leadership, afterlife, alliance etc. Source: RitaWillaer

The drawings and their meanings:

Here are some of the drawings and their meanings:

  • Stars and moon: sign of good and hope
  • Semi-circle: calabash, one of the most important and used object in everyday life of Kassena people
  • Arrows: defence, warriors
  • Three-cross stitch: chicken for ritual sacrifices
  • Crocodile and snake: sacred animals that keep away bad luck and disease
Source: SafariJunkie

Through cultural tourism, Kassena people are trying to generate and improve local economy. Although it is not very easy to reach the village of Tiébélé, it is totally worth it.
Not something you see every day Through cultural tourism, Kassena people are trying to generate and improve local economy. Although it is not very easy to reach the village of Tiébélé, it is totally worth it. Source: RitaWillaer
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