Amazing round village called Tiebele located in the west African country of Burkina Faso, So about 20 km north of the Ghanian border. It occupies an area of approximately 1.2 hectares and Tiébélé is known for their amazing traditional Gourounsi architecture and elaborately decorated walls of their homes. It is inhabited by people of Kassena, who first settled the region in the 15th century, the oldest ethnic group in Burkina Faso. 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 defense 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, people who continue to build on this extraordinary technology. This is a very ancient practice that dates from the sixteenth century AD.
Decoration of houses with frescoes, motivate the people of Kassena and its life and religion, women are engaged in this art work. This is not just decoration - a protection against rain. Dressmakers applied drawings, mixing dirt, chalk and manure. Each color is then polished stones, and at the end of the surface is covered with natural lacquer, specially prepared from the beans. [First Image credit Rita Willaert]
Women Gourounsi have a great manual dexterity and are really very gifted in the use of colors, symbols and traditional forms, since girls are initiated to the art of decoration. The painting is a group activity during a working day from ten to fifteen women complete the decoration of a single room; few realize the designs and provide other painting, food and music The drawings, sometimes in relief, are composed with abstract geometric patterns and stylized figures of animals like crocodiles, lizards, snakes, etc.. Ancestral symbols that depict centuries old, imbued with symbolic meanings associated traditional animism. Each decoration is unique and unrepeatable, although the signs are mythological applicants, the combination of designs and colors every time it is re-interpreted by women who are free to improvise and follow their creativity.
The colors used are black, white and red, the colors are made using local natural materials such as clay, kaolin and coal. To facilitate the application of color women use improvised brushes formed by guinea fowl feathers, sticks or small stones. The activity is held every year after the season of heavy rains, in conjunction with repairs needed to the walls in clay. In particular Tiebele of Burkina Faso decorations are performed during the annual cultural festival which includes non-stop musical performances and other activities; in such circumstances, the women Tiebele rival in creating wonderful drawings encouraged with the offer of local beer, stopping only to sing and dance with the bands of musicians that run through the narrow streets of the village. The task of women is very laborious and involves numerous stages of work: is first regularized the wall surface with bare hands by applying a mixture of clay and dung Zebu, once dried, the bottom is treated with a layer of laterite red that is used as the basis for the formation of the drawings. A finished design, are passed through the edges of the figures, everything is finally fixed and polished with a waterproofing treatment produced from the leaves of acacia or butter cartitè.
Image credit Roberto G.D. Mortarino
Image credit Pépé Gégé
Image credit Pépé Gégé