The land of honourable people.
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Burkina Faso is the third country in our #56DaysofAfrica series.
Before it adopted its current name, Burkina Faso was formerly known as the Upper Volta. The country at first was attached to Upper Senegal–Niger (now Mali) as part of the reorganisation of the French empire in 1904. It was then organised as a separate colony, called French Upper Volta, in 1919. It eventually partitioned between Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, and French Sudan in 1932.
It was reestablished in 1947 as Upper Volta to become an overseas territory of the French Union, with a self-governing colony. The assembly in 1957 received the right to elect an executive council of government for the territory, which at the end of 1958 was transformed into an autonomous republic within the French Community. Upper Volta gained their independence on 5 August 1960 with Maurice Yaméogo as their new founded President.
After its independence, the country experienced repeated military coups during the 1970s and 1980s. One of the most well-known coup d'état organised by Blaise Compaoré made Thomas Sankara president on 4 August 1983 at the age of 33.
Africa's Che Guevara
Thomas Sankara was a Marxist–Leninist and pan-Africanist who was viewed as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution. Due to his beliefs, he was sometimes referred to as "Africa's Che Guevara". Sankara's revolution in the 1980s had a profound impact on the nation's national identity.
In 1984, Thomas Sankara's revolutionary government changed the name Upper Volta to Burkina Faso. The word Burkina comes from Mòoré word meaning “honourable people,” and Faso comes from Dioula language meaning fatherland. Translated, Burkina Faso means “the land of honourable people". He adopted radical left-wing policies and sought to reduce government corruption.
His government was responsible for several concrete achievements: the vaccination of 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles and housing projects, planted over 10 million trees to prevent the Sahel and the enforced the promotion of women’s rights. He outlawed female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy. He was the first African Leader to understand why women were critical to Africa's transformation and the first to appoint women to key political positions. It is said that he wanted a fairer, proud, independent Africa that was equipped to tackle its challenges.
On 15 October 1987, Sankara was killed by the troops of his old friend and colleague, Blaise Compaoré. Sankara's violent death made him a martyr for his ideas; he remains an idol among the youth in Burkina Faso and other parts of Africa.
For the culture
The Capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou. Written as “Wogodogo” in the Mòoré dialect, “You are welcome here at home with us”.
Burkina Faso is a multiethnic nation with about 60 ethnic and linguistic groups. The major ethnolinguistic group of Burkina Faso is the Mossi. More than half of the population are Muslim and about one-fifth of the Burkinabé are Roman Catholic, and one-sixth follow traditional religions.
Burkinabé cuisine is similar to their West African neighbours. Some local favourites include tô (dough topped with vegetable sauce), Babenda (bitter greens such as spinach, kale, mustard greens, or swiss chard), fufu (boiled yams or plantains made into dough), ragout d’igname (beef and yam stew), and soupe, along with popular rice dishes like riz sauce and riz gras, which are typically white rice served with either tomato or peanut sauce and flavoured stock.
Burkina Faso hosts one of the largest African film festivals in the world. The Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) was established in 1969 to promote African filmmakers and facilitate the screening of all African films. It is held every two years in Ouagadougou.
Burkina Faso in no way inferior to its neighbouring countries when it comes to landmarks. In the southeastern region of the country, stands Cour Royale de Tiébélé which is known for its sukhala. Sukhala are elaborately painted walls on the houses and outbuildings within the community. They are normally painted by the women of Kassena and it is seen as a cultural legacy. Traditional designs are created by hand in black, white, and red colours, with lacquer prepared from beans.
An outstanding example of Sahel-style mud architecture is the Grande Mosquée Mosque in Bobo-Dioulasso. It was built in 1893 and is located in the centre of the city. Despite Burkina's lack of access to the coast, its geological formations (Sindou Peaks), stunning parks (Nazinga Reserve), colourful markets (Gorom Gorom), quaint towns (Bobo-Dioulasso), and architectural marvels (Grande Mosquée) are more than enough to make anyone feel welcome.
The "land of honourable people" has a history of revolutionary leadership by Thomas Sankara and the empowerment of women and youth that was far ahead of its time. We cannot wait to continue to share more about Burkina Faso in the coming days.
A note from the Africa Matters Team: Upon conducting research on Burkina Faso it was fairly difficult to find resources that highlighted the beauty of the nation. Many sources referred to Burkina Faso as "the poorest nation in West Africa", "poorest nation in the world" and even "underwhelming". It is disheartening that in 2020 we continue to see many African nations perceived as poor and stricken. We are aware that we have issues on the continent but that is not the epitome of what Burkina Faso is or any other African country for that matter. We are a people rich in culture and history. We are artists, fashion designers, entrepreneurs and much more. That is why we continue to push towards changing that narrative by empowering and upskilling youth to improve their communities to eradicate this negative notion.
"We Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For"