post 8 :african design origins

The west african Kassena people build their houses entirely of local materials: earth, wood and straw.  The homes are built with protection in mind, whether that be against the climate or potential enemies. Walls are over 25cm thick and the homes are designed with a small opening or two to let in just enough light  to see. Front doors are only about tall, which keeps the sun out and makes it difficult for enemies to enter.


Tiebele  home of the Kassena people, one of the oldest ethnic groups that had settled in the territory of Burkina Faso in the 15th century and are  known for their amazing traditional architecture and elaborately decorated walls of their homes.


Once built it is the woman who make the beautiful geometric murals on the walls , they use  colored mud and white chalk. The motifs and symbols are either taken from everyday life,beliefs or from religion  The finished walls are then carefully burnished with stones, each colour done separately so that the colors don’t blend together. Finally, the entire surface is coated with a natural varnish made by boiling pods from the African locust bean tree


The designs also protect the walls themselves, this  is usually done just before the rainy season and helps to protect the outside walls from the rain, enabling the structures to last longer.


Burkina Faso is  one of the poorest countries in the world , But they are culturally rich,  decorating the walls of their buildings is an important part of their cultural legacy in this area of the country. Wall decorating is always a community project done by the women and it’s a very ancient practice that dates from the sixteenth century AD.


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