Burkina — North, South and in between
“We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or out of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity… Women hold up the other half of the sky” Thomas Sankara
After two months and almost ten countries, I have perfected a routine. Once I cross into a country, first, I change a small amount of money (in case I get ripped off on the rate, it’d just be 10 or 20 bucks). With money in hand, I find the nearest telecommunication shop (there are always plenty even in the smallest of markets) and buy a sim card. I then start going through my contacts in the city to let them know I have arrived. After crossing into Burkina, in a city called Dori, I walked a few steps away from the bus stop to purchase a sim card.
Dori is a beautiful small Fulani town with striking similarities to a small town in Guinea, called Pita, where I spent my early childhood. I spent two days in Dori and explored the town mainly on foot. The day I arrived, there was a rain-forest like breeze blowing through the town after a heavy rain.
I visited a municipal radio station that I had heard about. I met with folks who worked on setting up radio stations in rural communities throughout West Africa in the 80s as a way of strengthening indigenous African languages. Growing up in Fouta Djallon, there was nightly radio station called “Radio Rurale Labe” we listened to — and here I was sitting in the Sahel Reserves in Northern Burkina Faso where this elderly man was recounting stories about his travels to Labe in Fouta Djallon, working on that radio station. Small world indeed!
We had an hour long conversation in Pulaar and we understood each other almost perfectly — a Burkinabe Fulani and a Guinean Fulani! After a couple days here, I packed up and headed to Ouagadougou — Burkina’s capital city.
The first cultural shock for me, both in Niger but more so in Burkina, is the number of women riding motorcycles and bicycles. The city of Ouagadougou seems to have been built with cyclists in mind. Almost all majors roads that I saw had their own lanes for motorcycles and bikes. At a traffic stop, I counted three out of five riders were women of all shapes, sizes and faiths.
There were young women with their fancy shoulder bags zipping past elderly ladies on their bikes. Coming from the other direction would be a woman in a hijab and others in niqabs. There were women with babies strapped on their backs cruising down Avenue de la Revolution.
I was especially in awe of the super skilled middle aged women who had huge buckets on their heads that they are not holding! I later learned that a lot of them are actually vegetable vendors and that’s their merchandize — which means they do this for a living — ALL DAY!
Ouaga is a city of music and just walking around, you will find plenty of venues with live music from evening to early morning. I happened to arrive in the city on the first day of a three day music festival. I don’t know what I enjoyed more — the dozens of artists or the tasty food by street vendors set up all around Revolution Square. I setup my recorder to capture some of the music while I ordered brochette, attieke with grilled fish! I extended my stay in Ouaga for another night!
My next destination is Bamako in Mali. However, to avoid a 17+ hour bus ride, I decided to break up the trip and spend a couple of days in Burkina’s second biggest city in the south west of the country called Bobo Dioulasso.
Eid is in the air here in Bobo and the market is buzzing! After nearly 30 days of fasting, visibly exhausted parents are dragged from the clothing section to the shoe section by hyper energetic kids who can hardly contain their excitement about Eid outfits. As for me, I planned ahead. I had my outfit made back in Nigeria and Eid will be in Bamako InshAllah! Off to Mali.