Category Archives: Photos

Gaoua

In early October last year Helen, Natalie, Benoit and I headed to the south of Burkina to explore the Lobi country. We spent three days exploring the region of Gaoua and its surrounding districts.

The first afternoon we spent walking around Gaoua itself before visiting the Poni Museum. At the museum our guide Claire provided interesting insight into the life of the Lobi people – their beliefs, traditions such as naming conventions and the realities of child initiation ceremonies and female circumcision. See Helen’s post for a more detailed recap of this educational visit.

In front of the museum were a number of examples of Lobi style living quarters. Lobi architecture consists of houses constructed in mud and have only a single small entrance at the front. There is always a ladder that leads to the roof, which they use as both a terrace and somewhere to sleep during the hotter evenings. Interestingly only the chief of the household can give permission to enter the dwelling.

On day two we made our way to Burkina Faso’s only UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ruins of Orpheni. The ruins, which have been shown to be at least 1000 years old, are the best preserved Lobi fortress in the area. The ruins consist of primarily of the remains of the stone perimeter walls, which are up to six meters high. Within these walls are visible remains of the layout and divisions of the fortress’s internal structures.

After the ruins we made our way to visit a fetisher. This region of Burkina Faso is particularly well-known for its fetishers. While I am not 100% sure how to translate fetisher into English, I think it’s basically equivalent to witch doctor. Each fetisher usually has an extensive collections of fetishes. A fetish is a statue or object with magical power, usually to protect the users from evil spirits or to attempt to control one’s destiny. People go to see fetishers for a wide variety of reasons such as to wish for protection, health, prosperity etc. For each request a sacrifice (chicken, goat, sheep or cattle) according to the severity of the matter at hand is made. The highest type of sacrifice one can offer from what I understood is a dog (my apologies to all dog lovers/owners for highlighting this fact & I agree it’s not pleasant to imagine). Another thing not 100% pleasant was the visit to the small, dark, humid, blood & feather/fur covered, fetish filled room where the fetisher performs his rituals. While interesting to see, as Nathalie pointed out it was a little scary and had the air that we were in a horror movie. I have to agree with her here I felt the same about the experience.

On the third day we visited another couple of villages, Doudou and Gbombolora. In Doudou we had the opportunity to learn how the women of the village search for gold in the river. This is really painstaking work and in this particular village only the females are permitted do this. In Gbombolora we were warmly welcomed by the head of the village who was also a wonderful story-teller. He recounted the amazing history of his family; his father had been a famous elephant hunter and his grandfather who had somehow managed to have 39 wives and 174 children. See Helen’s post for a detailed account of the story of Mr D and his family.

Before getting on the bus to return to Bobo we finished the weekend with a visit to the central market in Gaoua. The market offered shoppers an extensive array of pottery and baskets as well as the standard array of foodstuffs, drinks and other assorted items usually found in the Burkinabe marketplaces.

Over the weekend we also had a couple of breakdowns, a regular and expected occurrence in Burkina given the state if the vehicles and the routes. The first was merely a flat tire and the second was when we came to grounding halt on our cross-country route returning from Gbombolora. We found ourselves lodged on a large rock hidden in the grass. Additionally, on our way to visit the fetisher we were stopped by the frontier police/military as we neared the border of the Ivory Coast. This was because our taxi driver had “forgotten” to stop and give our intentions to the gentlemanrie as required. Helen performed a wonderful what I would call “pièce de theatre” to luckily get us off with just a warning.

For other takes on our weekend check out Nathalie’s post in french and Benoit’s artistic take in both word and photo format. Some of my pictures of the weekend can also be found here.

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Banfora

One weekend in early November we were fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Banfora with friends, Stephan & Neusa and their two children Ulysse and Agathe. Banfora is a picturesque town set amongst an expanse of sugar cane fields about 1-1.5 hours away from Bobo-dioulasso. As it’s near the border of the Ivory Coast the region in general is a lot lusher than the majority of Burkina.

Over the weekend we went for a rickety wooden canoe (or pirogue) ride on Lake Tengrela, a lake known for its hippo herd. Unfortunately lake levels were too high (due to it being the end of the rainy season) for us to have any chance of spotting hippos that day.

We also spent a morning at the impressionable Domes of Fabedougou. These bulbous rock formations are thought to be around 1.8 billion years old. Interestingly apparently there is a geographically identical feature in Western Australia, the Bungle Bungle Range which draws thousands of tourists each year (unlike Burkina’s domes).

Photos of our visit to Banfora can be seen here and here.

Koumi

One Sunday in October a group of us went to visit the village of Koumi, a small traditional Bobo village not far from Bobo-dioulasso. We were quite a large group of tourists, myself & Benoit, Helen (the trip was in her honour as it was her birthday), Eve, Simon & family and Neusa & her two children making us 12 in total.

In Koumi the houses are constructed banco style, using layers of red earth rather than mud bricks. These earth houses are made in, usually five, layers (or courses). The villagers are in fact banned from building with the more modern and more waterproof mud bricks. Sadly, as a result many of the earth brick houses have been left abandoned as villagers moved to housing areas without this restriction.

Another interesting facet of the visit was the scattering of mysterious holes on the outskirts of the village. These holes lead to women-only caves. Each family in the village has one and the women descend in order of seniority into these underground grottos to gossip, weave baskets, and pass on family secrets and traditions.

Photos of our visit to Koumi can be seen here and for an interesting French account of the visit see Simon’s post here.

Dafra

The same day we visited the village of Koro we made a second stop. This time it was to visit the sacred fish pools of dafra (Bobo for catfish). The sacred pools are located just outside Bobo-dioulassa and are a place where the Bobo people go to worship & provide offernings/sacrifices (chicken, sheep, cow etc) to these overfed looking catfish.

On entering the region a sacrifice needs to be acquired (we opted for a chicken) and local guide engaged. Once we had chosen our chicken & guide we then made our way to the entrance of the sacred pools. The entrance is a half hour walk from the parking area and this scenic walk provided panoramic views of the area and arriving harmattan . Before entering the sacred area you must first remove any red clothing or accessories as apparently the sacred catfish do not like this colour. After arriving the formalities of sacrificing the chicken (something I have to admit I was not able to watch) were needed before we could to offer it up to the catfish. The catfish of course devoured it hungrily as can be seen in Benoits pictures here .

Eve and family also went to visit the weekend after we did and have some great photos posted here as well.

Koro

One Sunday along with Thales (a VSO volunteer visiting Bobo for the weekend) we went to visit the village of Koro. Koro is a small village of around 3100 inhabitants situated 15km from Bobo-Dioulasso. The village is constructed on a steep stub of granite and as a result provided panoramic views of the surrounding valley. While it was build high for strategic purposes this poses a daily inconvenience to the villagers. Their water supply is situated at the bottom and is retrieved by a constant stream of women carrying large containers of water (on their heads nonetheless) up the steep path to the village.

The village is divided into three distinct parts, “le quartier des paysans”, “le quartier des forgerons” and “le quartier des Dioula”. The first two, the farmer’s district and the ironmonger’s district are inhabited by members of the Bobo ethnicity, one of Burkina Faso’s animistic ethnicities. The third is home to a number of members from another one of Burkina’s 60 odd ethnicities, the Dioula. Traditionally known as traders or merchants the dioula are usually either Muslim or Catholic.

Some of Benoit’s pictures of Koro can be seen here and mine here

Photos: Week One

A few photos from the first week in Ouagadougou.

The hotel in Ouagadougou - Le Village Nong Taaba

Bungalows

Bungalows

Resturant & dining area

Barbed wire Burkina Faso style (this was on the walls around the hotel)

The new volunteers - Bertrand, Sabrina, Thales, Laure, Isabelle, Arnel, Togba, Leo, Marco, Benoit & moi

Breakfast time on the last day in Ouaga (Benoit, Marco, Leo, Leo's minder for the week, Sabrina, Thales, Laure, Isabel & Arnel)

The street in front of the hotel & VSO Office