This week we are going to West Africa to visit the landlocked country of Burkina Faso. It is bounded by Mali, Niger, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo. Its name roughly translates to “Land of the Honest People” J The capital, Ouagadougou, translates literally to “You are welcome here at home with us”!
Burkina Faso was a former French colony and gained its independence in 1960. Back then, it was known as Upper Volta. It adopted its current name in 1984. It occupies an extensive plateau, with a grassy savanna in the north and sparse forests in the south. The climate is generally sunny and dry. The three principal rivers – Black Volta, Red Volta, and White Volta – converge in Ghana in the south to form the Lake Volta. There is great seasonal variation in the flow of the rivers, such that during a dry season some rivers become dry beds. The karite (shea tree) and the baobab (hibiscus tree) are native to southern Burkina Faso. Animal life includes buffalo, antelope, lions, hippos, elephants, crocodiles, and monkeys. There is also a diverse population of birds, insects, and fish.
Citizens of Burkina Faso are collectively known as Burkinabé, but they belong to various ethnolinguistic groups. The major ethnolinguistic group is the Mossi, which has a rich history with the region they inhabit in central Burkina Faso. French is the official language, although it is not widely spoken. Moore, the language of the Mossi, is more well-known. Dyula, one of the languages spoken by the Mandé peoples, is widely used in commerce. As for religious beliefs, more than half the population is Muslim. Around one-fifth is Roman Catholic, and one-sixth follow traditional religions. The remainder is mostly Protestant or nonreligious.
Approximately nine-tenths of Burkina Faso’s population is engaged in subsistence agriculture or livestock raising. Surplus cotton, shea nuts, sesame, and sugarcane are exported. However, minerals are the chief sources of potential wealth. Gold is one of Burkina Faso’s main exports, followed by cotton and animal products. It also has a large deposit of manganese in the northeast, which is one of the world’s richest sources of manganese.
Burkina Faso is rich in folkloric traditions due to its ethnic diversity. The Mossi enjoy creating antelope masks that can be as tall as 2 meters (7 feet). The Lobi are also well-regarded for their artistry in making bobo butterfly masks and wood carvings. The biennial Pan-African Film Festival (PAFF) and the International Crafts Fair are popular, as they celebrate Burkina Faso’s artisans. Every year since 1992, the PAFF showcases over 150 new films and over 100 artists and unique craft persons from around the world to showcase the diversity and complexity of people of African descent.