Tiebele and the amazing houses of the Gourounsi people
Soon after our visas were ready we were off to Po, through arguably the wettest region of Burkina. As this is the wet season and august is the wettest month of the year, the combo yielded some endless downpours that soaked us for days. Pitching a tent under the rain is a bit of a hassle, but it was nice to be cold for a change. As depressing as grey skies might normally be, they are still breathtaking beautiful in Burkina.
Breakfast in Po: omelet, tea, mutton soup.
The commune of Tiebele is reached via an offtrack piste. Over 100000 people live here in 67 villages. The area is famous for its mud architecture, that remains to be admired only within the small “royal” compound.
The compound is home to 300 people, the 54 families forming the extended “royal” family. The Kasena people who are part of the Gourounsi, have created some of the most beautiful examples of vernacular architecture. Their traditional houses are built in bank (mud mixed with cow poo) and have smooth shiny facaded decorated with unique frescoes. The married women use nere oil as a veneer to polish the outside walls, then apply different designs using all natural colors: laterite for red, basalt for black and kaolin for white. Unfortunately the traditional ways are still alive only within the compound, outside it s wall only a handful of homes bare the intricate frescoes that are modernized with black bitumen brought in from Ghana.
The entrance is the also the divination area, where the elders congregate and where animals are sacrificed for the benefit of the entire community. After this sacred area there is small field where the animists are buried in 15 people vertical graves. The closed graves are leveled and marked with a stone, the small … are still “in use” with the pot serving as symbolic door.
There are two types of houses: rectangular (for unmarried young men) and figure 8-shaped (with an entrance salon, a room for the woman and a winter kitchen). There are no windows, only indirect lighting. The entrance door is so low that you must bend to get in and it is followed by a 60cm wall that would cause any intruder to stumble and be easily killed. The darkness inside and the nere veneered walls also support the defensive nature of the Gourounsi homes, which have karite wood roofing and terraces for drying the spices and grains.
The buildings with straw roofing are granaries.
Huge clay pots handmade by women in the neighboring village of Boudou are used for cooking or storing
A display of typical Gourounsi symbols. From right to left: the fishing net; tribal signs (traditionally used as identity cards, now used as beauty marks by some women); macrame for the calabash pots.
Handmade mill for millet (white stone) and for peanut paste
The Kasena woman on the roof is 82
From Tiebele we continued east on the 18km piste, then turned left and rode 20km more to Zabre, where the massive downpours and the river had made the road impassable. We took again a left turn and 25km later we were in Dondeou, still far from the sealed road, and too tired and too wet to continue riding through slippery mud and puddles.