Cour royale de Tiébélé
Cour royale de Tiébélé is part of the Tentative list of Burkina Faso in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
The Royal Court of Tiébélé represents a form of vernacular architecture and traditions from the 16th century. It comprises a large compound of painted houses, which are traditionally decorated by the women. The buildings are made of earth, wood and straw.
Map of Cour royale de TiébéléLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
I visited Tiebele in April 2023 on my final day in Burkina Faso. Being not far off the main highway to Ghana, it was still safely accessible and was done as a day trip from Ouagadougou (~4 hours each way) before my flight out that night. The drive out there in a private car was pleasant enough but I was surprised to find that Tiebele was bigger than I thought and looked like a growing village typical of the region. The Cour Royale de Tiebele is just a tiny traditional compound tucked away within the larger settlement. I had erroneously assumed it would be more isolated.
The royal compound of Tiebele is home of the king and royal family members of the Kassena people who have lived in this region of northern Ghana and southern Burkina Faso for centuries. The king still holds some symbolic/ritualistic powers and general influence over the villages in the area and still maintain their traditional homes. One has to question the wisdom of the royal family living without electricity, running water, etc as the rest of the village hopes to modernize around them but in any case they can't be accused of living it up at the expense of the population around them.
On arrival we got a local guide, a young prince of the royal family, to show us around. The compound is small and the visit lasted maybe 45 minutes with lots of explanation about the symbology of the painted patterns seen all over the homes. Each home is built in a traditional style and hand painted every year or 2 (ideally) though many are now in disrepair and faded. Even the shape of the homes signifies the type of person living within (ie. circular for bachelors, rectangular for young couples, etc). I was lucky to see a couple groups of women painting a few of the homes. I also entered one. They are quite small inside with no windows and a very unique entry feature, they have very low entrances forcing a deep crouch followed by a low wall immediately inside the doorway. This awkward entry protects the home from both animal and human invaders.
I have mixed feelings about this site. It will continue to remain one of the more interesting attractions in Burkina Faso and I enjoyed the visit, but I don't know enough about the region or culture to comment on its OUV. The site is also not well maintained with a lot of litter and abandoned homes as well, a condition likely to continue to get worse in a country going through some very hard times.
Visited March, 2014. Easily access from Po via local public transport (around 30 km one way, although apart from market days you will have to wait - other possibility is a motorbike).
Tiebele is a Kassena village, local ethnic group that live in the area from around 15 century AD. Traditional houses (sukhala) in what was called Cour Royale de Tiébélé are painted mostly by women using red, white and black colors. Chief's compound is located a bit from village center, there is an entrance fee (2000 CFA + obligatory guide - negotiate hard as that may be overpriced - I paid another 2000 CFA for approximately 1 hour walk, it is better if you speak some French. It is not possible to make pictures even from outside without buying a ticket (there is always someone / local who warn you not to do it).
The site itself is not very well maintained nor preserved and comparing to other similar areas (Koutammakou, Tongo-Tenguzuk in Ghana) is very small, just a single compound covering approximately 30 houses including those distroyed.
There is a possibility of finding accommodation in Tiebele, around one km from the site - nice local hotel that is built in the style of local mud houses. Hotel is basic - showers and toilets outside, water from the backet, restaurant on the spot.
For the way back, if you want to use local transport, it may take hours, otherwise there are occasional motorbikes.
2011 Added to Tentative List
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