Cour Royale de Tiébélé – Nahouri, Burkina Faso - Atlas Obscura

Cour Royale de Tiébélé

Nahouri, Burkina Faso

In this African village, the walls of the chief's compound are painted with beautiful traditional designs. 


Tiébélé, which is roughly 12.4 miles north of Ghana’s border, is known within the small West African country of Burkina Faso for its sukhala, the elaborately painted walls of the houses and outbuildings within the community chief’s complex. The village is home to the Kassena ethnic group, which has lived in this area since the 15th century.

The patterns on the buildings within the Cour Royale de Tiébélé, which are usually painted by women, are an important example of the Kassena cultural legacy. Traditional designs are created by hand in black, white, and red colors, with lacquer prepared from beans. Adorning the walls with these artistic creations is a community activity, with upwards of 15 women working on any given building. It isn’t just houses that receive this special treatment. Mausoleums for the dead are decorated too.

The architecture of the buildings themselves is typical of the larger Gurunsi ethnic group. The walls are thick and have minimal windows, for defense against both people and climate. The buildings were historically created using soil, straw, and cow dung, though nowadays mud, brick, and stone are the more common materials of choice.

Know Before You Go

There is a direct bus to Tiébélé from Ouagadougou three times per week (Tuesday, Friday, Sunday), departing from the bus station Ouagainter.

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