Friday, 30 August 2013

Go-go to Bobo

Hearing that Bobo was much cooler than it’s Ouaga counterpart, I arrived with a jumper, wellie-boots and (as not quite believing it) factor 50 suncream.

Bobo, 356 km South West of Ouaga, is within a lush landscape, a world away from the arid central plateau of our Ouaga-home. Happily, it was fresher.

Our first taste of the lush landscape was Koro, a village set high on granite boulders. On the climb, whilst we scrabbled and slipped over the smooth boulders, we met an elderly lady elegantly descending. Impressively, she was balancing a large stack of wood on her head and wearing flip-flops.
Well-earned rest for the ICS volunteers on the granite boulders looking out onto Koro and the escarpment to Banfora.

Apart from the lady and a young family, Koro was quiet. Meandering through the deserted mud-brick houses our guide explained that the community leaves to work in the fields during rainy season. The village is divided into 3 quartiers: Dioula farmers, Bwaba farmers and blacksmiths. The guide described the usual sight of villagers preparing millet and shea butter, and smiths at work.

The meeting place for elders, may have initially seemed to be just wooden benches under a pretty canopy, but in fact it was nifty architecture. Tree trunks supported the low-hanging canopy of woven palm fronds; the low wooden beams provided a strong deterrent for discussions overheating, encouraging arguers to calmly stay in their seats.

Koumi, not far from Koro were impressive examples of traditional Bobo architecture. Homes were built with layers of thick red earth, rather than mud bricks. These homes are so special to their heritage that villagers live with a decree forbidding use of bricks.
Koumi’s traditional red-earth house.

A number of deep, mysterious holes in the ground potmark the outskirts of the Koumi. Each is where women-only workshops and gossips take place. The women descend, in order of seniority, to discuss the secrets of married life and weave palm-frond baskets. Humidity underground stops fronds from cracking.

Exploring Bobo’s city centre, I followed the sound of traditional music; a large square, lined with stalls and busy with customers. Intrigued, I went to investigate. Much to my surprise it was caterpillars! Fat, juicy, fried caterpillars in baguettes, with dips and half-kilo sealed packets for the store cupboard. This was the caterpillar festival; celebrating Bobo’s popular delicacy. Maybe even more to my surprise, my caterpillar sandwich was delicious.

Caterpillars. A traditional and popular sandwich filler.
Having my fill, we entered the old city, Dioulassoba, which is at the heart of modern Bobo. The name, Bobo-Dioulasso means ‘the house of the Bobo and Dioula’, after the peoples who settled in the 15th Century.

Dioulassoba is huddled on the banks of the river, where sacred catfish swim.
Winding our way through the narrow passages we enjoyed the live music around every corner – under the shade of a tree, in a backstreet porch or opposite an inhabited 11th Century home.

Group of friends practicing outside their shop in the old city.

Music forms a backdrop to every important event in life. But until visiting the Museum of Music, we hadn’t realized that the function of musical instruments goes beyond the notes that they make. Instruments carry deep spiritual and cultural significance. Played together, the music tells stories of history and mythology.

Returning to our Ouaga-home, we waved goodbye and clutched our souvenirs; I wonder what my parents will make of the new addition to their store cupboard? 

- Zena

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