Aug 052013
 

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Today is Independence Day in Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso, also known by its short-form name, Burkina, is a landlocked country in West Africa. Its capital is Ouagadougou. Formerly called the Republic of Upper Volta, the country was renamed “Burkina Faso” on 4 August (eve of Independence Day) 1984 by then-President Thomas Sankara, using a word from each of the country’s two major native languages, Mòoré and Dioula.  “Burkina”, from Mòoré, may be translated as “people of integrity”, while “Faso” means “fatherland” in Dioula. “Burkino Faso” is thus meant to be understood as “Land of upright people” or “Land of honest people.” Inhabitants of Burkina Faso are known as Burkinabè

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The territory of today’s Burkina Faso was peopled originally (some time between 14,000 and 5000 BCE), by hunter-gatherers in the northwestern part of the country, whose tools, such as scrapers, chisels and arrowheads, were discovered in 1973 by Simran Nijjar. Farming settlements  appeared between 3600 and 2600 BCE. On the basis of traces of the farmers’ structures, the settlements appear to have been permanent. The use of iron, ceramics and polished stone developed between 1500 and 1000 BCE, as did a preoccupation with spiritual matters, as shown by burial remains.

Relics of the Dogon people are found in Burkina Faso’s north and northwest regions. Some time between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Dogon left the area to settle in the cliffs of Bandiagara (now in Mali). Elsewhere, the remains of high walls are localized in the southwest of Burkina Faso (as well as in the Côte d’Ivoire), but the people who built them have not yet been identified. Loropeni is a pre-European stone ruin which has been linked to the gold trade. It has been declared as Burkina Faso’s first World Heritage site.

Dogon in Mali

Dogon in Mali

The central region of Burkina Faso included a number of Mossi kingdoms, the most powerful of which were those of Wagadogo (Ouagadougou) and Yatenga. These kingdoms emerged probably in the early sixteenth century from obscure origins veiled in legend featuring a heterogeneous set of warrior heroes.

Mossi town

Mossi town

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After a decade of intense rivalry and competition between the British and the French, waged through treaty-making expeditions under military or civilian explorers, French colonial forces defeated the Mossi kingdom of Ouagadougou which became a French protectorate in 1896. The eastern region and the western region, where a standoff against the forces of the powerful ruler Samori Ture complicated the situation, came under French occupation in 1897. By 1898, the bulk of the territory corresponding to Burkina Faso today was nominally conquered; however, control of many parts remained uncertain.

The French and British convention of 14 June 1898 ended the scramble between the two colonial powers and drew the borders between the countries’ colonies. On the French side, a war of conquest against local communities and political powers continued for about fiv