Burkina Faso is a landlocked country located in West Africa. It became a French Protectorate in 1896 and today most natives speak French as a second language. Per capita income is less than $700 a year with most Burkinabé involved in agriculture.
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Called the Cour Royale de Tiébélé, these houses lie within circular, walled confines measuring roughly 1.2 hectares (2.9 acres). The complex serves as the official residence of the pè, or community chief.
Designs in black and white embellish the earthen architecture of Tiébélé and reflect the building traditions of the Kassena people who first settled in Burkina Faso in the fifteenth century.
Despite the absence of a new leader following the death of the last pè in 2006, the site has been regularly maintained by the community. History and legends of the Kassena people are shared through the paintings. Figures of animals are shown on the walls, including the sacred crocodile in ancient times who helped villagers cross a mighty river.
The women (and only women perform this role) are responsible for painting the walls once a year or every other year.
The women use a paint composed of dirt, chalk and clay, followed by polishing, and then a lacquer made from a local plant. Houses are built with clay with a tiny entrance used to deter attackers and keep out the broiling sun.