Pat and Richard in West Africa 2011 travel blog

Tiebele painted houses

Inside one of the houses

Up on the roof where the grain is drying

The women working in the shade

Today, Monday, we hired a car and driver to take us around while our car is being fixed.

First destination for the day is Tiebele, a Kassena village about 130km away, near the border with Ghana. The Kassena are one of the groups that make up the Gourounsi people and their village is unusual in that the houses are painted by the women and their shape can be either circular, square or figure of eight, depending on the status of the inhabitants.

Entering the village there is the meeting place for the men when they have Important Things to discuss, dominated by a big mound where important announcements are made from. According to our guide book, this mound also contains the placenta of every child born inside the chief's compound. There are also graves in this area, marked by a pottery cover - quite a few people are buried in each grave, underneath the ground.

The houses are painted either in earthy brown colours obtained from the rocks, or black and white. The brown ones have to be repainted every 2 years, while the black and white ones last 10 years. They are about to start repainting here in the next few weeks.

The houses inside are very claustrophobic - to stop enemies entering, the doorway is very small (think igloo size) which you have to crawl through, then there is a wall right in front of you that you have to climb over. The idea is that enemies have to enter head first, giving the owner of the house a chance to chop his head off before he can attack! From the first room there is another tiny doorway and wall that leads into the second room, this one where they store grain and grind the flour, then another doorway and wall to the final room, where the food is prepared.

The walls are lined with calabash, a type of gourd that is used like a bowl, and pottery for storing grain. It's very cool inside the houses as the sun doesn't penetrate.

Outside again we climbed onto the roof where they dry the maize and other grain during the dry season.

Leaving the village we drove into the nearest town, Po, to find some lunch. What we hoped would be a quick stop to get some food turned into a 2.5 hour wait while they prepared our lunch - at least it was fresh, and we sat underneath the trees watching the world go by.

Back in the car again for the drive back to Ouagadougou and beyond to Manega about 50km away, where a local lawyer, Frederic Pacere Titinga, built a museum of Mossi artifacts in the early 1990's. There was not a lot there but it was interesting and contained a good collection of masks and sacred items used in funeral ceremonies. No photos allowed unfortunately.

Then it was back to our hotel for a cold beer and something to eat while Kunta went to check on the car - apparently it has been fixed but we haven't seen it yet so we have some doubts that they found the real problem. We'll find out tomorrow when the plan is to drive back to Bobo and then to a place called Banfora which is supposed to be really nice. Fingers crossed!

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