The Culture Of Burkina Faso

The exterior of the painted Kassena Houses in Burkina Faso.
The exterior of the painted Kassena Houses in Burkina Faso.

The landlocked West African nation of Burkina Faso hosts a population of around 19,742,715 inhabitants and covers an area of 274,200 square kilometers. Six countries border the nation: Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Mali, and Niger. 

7. Ethnicity, Language And Religion

Burkina Faso has great ethnic diversity. The Mossi is the largest ethnic community living in the country, comprising of 52% of the population. The ethnic minorities with a significant presence in the country are the Fulani (8.4%), Gurma (7%), Bobo (4.9%), Gurunsi (4.6%), and Senufo (4.5%). The legacy of the French colonial rule in Burkina Faso is visible in the country. For one thing, the official language in Burkina Faso is French. Different ethnic groups also speak their own indigenous languages. Muslims represent 61.5% of the population of Burkina Faso. Christians, both Catholics and Protestants, are also present in significant numbers. A large section of the population adheres to the traditional indigenous religions.

6. Cuisine

The cuisine of Burkina Faso is similar to the cuisines in other parts of West Africa. The staple grains of the Burkinabé diet are rice, millet, and maize. Other staples of the diet include beans, potatoes, yams, okra, peanuts, etc. Grilled meat like beef, goat, and mutton are popular. Fish is also consumed. Carrots, onions, pumpkins, cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, etc., are also used to prepare Burkinabé dishes.

A common dish of the cuisine is a cooled polenta-style cake prepared using corn, sorghum, or millet. It is called tô and is served with a vegetable sauce made from tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and sumbala. A meat side dish is also occasionally served with the tô. It is eaten with hands. Poulet Bicyclette is a grilled chicken dish that is consumed in the country. Riz gras is a rice- meat-based dish that is often served on special occasions in Burkina Faso. It usually includes generous amounts of meat and vegetables being served atop rice. Sauce gombo is a sauce made from okra. Some of the beverages consumed in Burkina Faso are degue (made from yogurt and pearl millet), zoomkoom (made from millet flour, lemon juice, tamarind, and ginger), Baobab fruit juice, etc.

5. Clothing In Burkina Faso

Traditionally, Burkinabé women adorn a long, cotton skirt that is wrapped around the west. Colorful tops are worn above the skirts. Men usually wear a cotton shirt and trousers. Embroidered shoes are worn by some men. Westernized clothes are popular in urban areas, especially in the cities.

4. Literature And The Arts In Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso has a rich tradition of oral literature. For centuries, the history of the country’s various ethnic groups was conserved in the form of folk tales and legends, poems, heroic epics, songs, and dances. Written literature started only after colonization in the country. In more recent times, the folk tales and legends and oral history of the country’s people have influenced many Burkinabé writers to publish the same. One such work is the Maxims, Thoughts, and Riddles of the Mossi which is a written record of the oral history of the Mossi people. In the 1960s, many significant plays were published by the Burkinabé playwrights.

Wooden sculptures, baskets, leather handicrafts, hand-dyed fabrics, pottery, and lost wax casting sculptures are some of the most well-known crafts of Burkina Faso. Since a large section of the nation’s population still adheres to the traditional religions, masks, music instruments, and figurines used for sacred religious rites are also produced in the country. The growing tourism industry of Burkina Faso has also spurred the growth of its handicrafts industry.

3. Performance Arts In Burkina Faso

The music of Burkina Faso is based on the folk music of nearly 60 different ethnic groups inhabiting the country. Popular music in the country is primarily in French. Stringed instruments, flutes, and drums are used to play traditional music in the country. A xylophone-like instrument called the balophon that is made with dried gourds is often used to produce music in the western part of the country. Folk dances in the country accompany the folk music and involve traditional vibrant costumes worn by the dancers. Pop, rock, and other modern forms of music and dance are popular among youth in urban areas.

2. Sports In Burkina Faso

A wide variety of games are played in the country but the most popular ones include football, basketball, martial arts, rugby, cycling, tennis, athletics, and boxing. Football is played both professionally as well as informally throughout the country’s villages and urban areas. The country has a national football team and hosted the African Cup of Nations in 1998. Burkina Faso also has a national basketball team that qualified for the AfroBasket in 2013. Although Burkina Faso’s athletes have participated in every Summer Olympic Games since 1972, its athletes have yet to win an Olympic medal.

1. Life In Burkinabé Society

The traditional Burkinabé society is patriarchal in nature. Although the urban society of the country has modernized to a certain extent, the rural society still remains quite conservative in nature. A male member, usually the eldest male, has the highest authority in the household.

Both men and women work as agricultural laborers in rural areas. However, men usually perform more labor-intensive agricultural work, hunting, and butchering. Women manage household chores and children. In the cities, both girls and boys are encouraged to attain education. Women are employed in almost all position as men but to a lesser extent than the latter.

Arranged marriages are more common in the rural areas of Burkina Faso. A bride price is paid by the groom’s parents to the bride’s family in exchange of their daughter. After marriage, the woman moves in with the husband’s family. Divorces are allowed but children from a marriage usually stay with the father’s family. Women who remarry are expected to return the bride price to the ex-husband’s family. Polygynous marriages are not uncommon, especially in the families practicing Islam and indigenous religions. Widowed women are often married off to the brother-in-law.

Extended families are very common in Burkina Faso. Often, three or more generations live together. Families of more than 8 in rural areas and more than 6 in urban areas are common. The elderly are respected for their acquired wisdom and experience of life. Infants are brought up by the mother and other female siblings and relatives. In rural areas, often the entire village participates in the upbringing of a child and instilling social values in the child. Access to quality education is poor in the rural areas but average in the urban areas.

The Burkinabès value politeness and hospitality. Elaborate greetings always involve shaking hands. Elders are treated with respect even if they may only be a few years older.


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