In past posts, recent Ball State alum and Fulbright recipient Ritassida Mamadou Djiguimde has discussed his experience in American academia as well as his return home to Burkina Faso. In this post, Mamadou concentrates on his hometown, Bobo Dioulasso, via an extensive photo essay tour in which he provides dozens of photos from around the city as well as his explanation of each. Continue to the post to see and read about some of the city’s highlights as selected by Mamadou.
Bobo Dioulasso is located in the South West of Burkina Faso. A literary translation of the name “Bobo Dioulasso” from Dioula (regional language also known as Mandingo) into English is “The house of the Bobo and Dioula”. Both Bobo and Dioula are the names of ethnic groups we encounter in the South West of Burkina Faso. Those names also correspond to the languages spoken by the respective ethnic groups. Today, Bobo Dioulasso counts about 500,000 inhabitants. In addition, we come across all the other ethnic groups of Burkina Faso in Bobo Dioulasso; that is a testimony of integration in Burkina Faso. The city was founded by a group of settlers who came from the “Mandé” in the Mali region. Today, the city lies around villages located downtown where rituals, cultural ceremonies, and mask festivals are performed. The symbol of Bobo Dioulasso is “the cat fish” because of the sacred cat fish present in the main stream that crosses the city. Since I cannot provide you with a thorough description, the pictures below will probably tell you more about the city.
The City Council of Bobo Dioulasso. The city council has been rebuilt in the past ten years. The decoration (red, green, yellow) you can see toward the top of this picture represents the colors of the Burkina flag. The city council is composed of a mayor and counselors elected by different districts of the city. The elected major and counselors serve for a renewable 5-year term. Because of the size of the city, it has been further divided into sub- city councils, which are in charge of about 120,000 inhabitants.
The gate of the residency of the governor of “Hauts Bassins”. The Burkinabѐ territory is divided into regions, and each region has a sort of headquarter which is usually the most populated city of the region. Burkina Faso counts thirteen regions, and “Hauts Bassins” represents the region in which Bobo Dioulasso is located. Besides, each region is headed by a governor appointed by the president.
The Old Mosque of Dioulassoba. In the Dioula language, Dioulassoba means the big=ba house=so of the Dioula. It is one of the oldest districts the city of Bobo Dioulasso was built around. The old architecture of the mosque is a testimony that it is one of the oldest mosques of Burkina Faso, and that makes it a national monument. If you come to Bobo Dioulasso without visiting the site of the Old Mosque, it is as if you have never been there. It is worth underlining that the Old Mosque is entirely built with woods and mud. No cement or iron has been used for its construction.
The museum of Bobo Dioulasso. Personally, I have never visited this museum because it is not in the habit of a common Bobolese to visit museums. But I do know for a fact that the museum is a site which attracts tourists. Talking about tourism and culture, it can be argued that Bobo Dioulasso is the cultural center of Burkina Faso. There are masque festivals every year as well as many other different kinds of festivals. Besides, the villages in the heart of Bobo Dioulasso have always been places for touristic attraction.
The railroad station of Bobo Dioulasso. The railroad was built during the Burkinabѐ revolution under President Thomas Sankara. Since Burkina Faso is a landlocked country, the railroad is what guarantees the transportation of most goods from the coastal country (Ivory Coast) to Burkina Faso. The recent crisis that shook Ivory Coast had serious drawbacks on the Burkinabe economy. We could neither import nor export using the railroad. Every good had to be transported by trucks, and that caused inflation in Burkina Faso at the time of the Ivorian Crisis hence crippling the economy of Bobo Dioulasso and of Burkina Faso. It is also worth mentioning that the railroad company provides few jobs for the Bobolese.
The central market of Bobo Dioulasso. The central market was rebuilt within the past fifteen years because of disorder and accommodation issues. Here is still how it looks. On the picture, we can see people riding mopeds, some driving, a taxi pulling over, and people pulling their carriage to transport their goods in and out of the market. The interior of the market has, however, a better organization. It is divided into smaller shops run by individual traders. People selling the same articles are gathered at the same spot. In the market, the prices of items are determined by your bargaining power. For that matter, it is crucial to have an idea of the price of the item before deciding to buy it; otherwise you will end up paying way more than you should.
The Stadium “Sangoulé Lamizana” of Bobo Dioulasso. As a matter of fact, Sangoulé Lamizana was the second president of Burkina Faso, and this stadium was named after him. The stadium has been built to seat the 1996 African Soccer Cup, which took place in Burkina Faso. Prior to that, Bobo Dioulasso had no stadium of this kind. Today, some of the rooms of the stadium serve as classrooms for the “Université Polytechnique de Bobo”, which has difficulties building classes to face its growing number of students. The outside of the stadium at night time serves an open air bar and a projection place.
The main entrance of the place which headquarters “La Semaine Nationale de la Culture” or the National Week of Culture. The “Semaine National de la Culture” takes place every two years. During this festival that lasts a week, the exposition and sale of cultural items is made by artists from all over West Africa. Among participants, there are some who expose traditional clothes, some traditional medicines, objects of pottery, traditional soaps with therapeutic qualities, traditional handmade leather shoes, etc. A growing aspect of this festival is food and drinks. More and more, people come to the festival to taste traditional food, eat grilled meat, and drink. The exposition aspect is slowly degrading.
A mosque in the city of Bobo Dioulasso. Most of the mosques in Burkina Faso have a similar architecture. There are hundreds of mosques in the city. The majority of the inhabitants of Bobo Dioulasso are Moslem. Even though most Bobolese or Burkinabe would call themselves Moslem or Christian, it is worth underlining that traditional religion (the religion that existed before the arrival of Islam or Catholicism) occupies an important place in our religious belief.
The cathedral of Bobo Dioulasso. The second dominant religion in Bobo Dioulasso is Catholicism. It has been introduced about century ago by missionaries who came from Europe. Beside Catholics, there are also Protestants and Jehovah Witnesses who constitute all together the big Christian family. In Bobo Dioulasso and in Burkina Faso in general, religious groups have always maintained a peaceful atmosphere. After all, it is common to find a family in which all of its members are not practicing the same religion. This is evidence that religious tolerance is quite an assurance in Bobo Dioulasso and in Burkina Faso.
The Cinquantenaire Monument. Here is the monument symbolizing the fiftieth anniversary of Burkina Faso’s independence. It is made of a torch which lights at night time, five stallions that are the symbol of Burkina Faso, and fifty catfishes symbolizing the fifty years after independence. The fiftieth anniversary of Burkina Faso’s independence was celebrated in December 2010 in Bobo Dioulasso, and this monument has been built for the occasion.
Blaise Compaoré (The president of Burkina Faso) and Mouhammar Kaddafi (The then president of Libya). These statues are the testimony of the good relationship that existed between Burkina Faso and Libya. The relationship between Burkina Faso and Libya is an old one and started with former Burkinabѐ presidents. These statues are also symbolic of the vision Kaddafi and Blaise Compaoré had to create an African Union.
Women’s Monument. Literary translated from French into English, this monument is named “Women’s place”. It has been built during the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of Burkina Faso which took place in December 2010. Before the celebration of the 50th anniversary, the monument at the women’s place was the statue of a woman holding a broom. But it has been changed today into a woman holding a torch. This change is significant in such a way that womens’ traditional role as housekeepers is gradually changing in Bobo Dioulasso and in Burkina Faso in general. With more girls going to school and having different occupations in the society, their role as housekeepers is slowly changing.
A public garden in front of the town council. There are few, if not any, good size public gardens in the city of Bobo Dioulasso. I do not really know why but as the city is growing at a faster pace, it should be the duty of the city council to create some green spaces or public gardens across the city. If not, there would be a time when it is going to be difficult for Bobolese to enjoy green spaces.
BOA (Bank Of Africa). Just looking fifteen years back, the city of Bobo Dioulasso only had about three banks. Today, the city counts about thirteen banks and some with many agencies throughout the city. This shows the pace at which Bobo Dioulasso is growing. In the past, most people would rather keep their money home because they did not trust banks; today the majority understands that banks are safe places to keep money.
Bourse du Travail. This place often serves as a meeting place for different syndicates. The outside serves a gathering place for strikers whenever there are demonstrations. Demonstrations are common in Bobo Dioulasso and in Burkina Faso generally speaking. On March 2011, the city of Bobo Dioulasso was shaken by a military riot which crippled it for about four days. Bad working or living conditions are usually the reasons for demonstrations.
A street of Bobo Dioulasso. The streets of Bobo Dioulasso are occupied by pedestrians, motorcycles, people pushing carriages, and few cars. The main means of transportation in Bobo Dioulasso and in Burkina Faso generally speaking are mopeds. It can be argued that there are many mopeds as there are adults in Bobo Dioulasso and Ouagadougou. Mopeds are widely used because they are cheaper than cars and can go anywhere in the city without major problems. However, mopeds represent a danger for users because of frequent traffic accidents.
Another street next to the roundabout of the monument of the “cinquantenaire”. As you can see, it is not easier to drive through Bobo Dioulasso because of the quality of streets and the fact that they are often overcrowded. Most of the cars used in Bobo Dioulasso and in Burkina Faso in general are second hand cars. Our standard of living does not allow the majority of people to purchase new cars.
A primary school in the city of Bobo Dioulasso. This is basically how most primary schools in Burkina Faso look like. Almost all primary schools in Bobo Dioulasso have six levels (classes). French represents the language which is used to teach. In past decades however, bilingual schools have been opened to experiment whether teaching using local languages could be more efficient. Bilingual teaching consists of using French and another local language that pupils are familiar with to make teaching easier. Bilingual schools are shown to be more successful in terms of reaching their goals than regular primary schools.
Another view of the same primary school. Primary schools in Burkina Faso suffer from a lack of didactic materials. The plethoric number of students often makes learning really hard. It is common to have a classroom with more than 100 pupils for a teacher. Despite the efforts of the government to furnish some schools with didactic materials, it is often hard for many parents to afford textbooks or other didactic materials for their kids. In addition, schools do not have libraries for kids to explore. This partially hampers their development as learners, and, as a result, many drop out before reaching high school.
Collège de Tounouma Garçon. This is a high school in one of the villages that was there before the city gets installed. Collège de Tounouma Garçon is run by “Frères de écoles chrétiennes”. This is a Catholic religious group called “brothers,” and their main aim is to contribute to the intellectual as well as the spiritual growth of children. Catholic schools are renowned for their high rate of success in tests that take place nationwide. Only students with high test scores are able to attend these schools. It is also common to see children of wealthy people in these schools because of their elevated school fees. I myself went to Catholic schools, including the one on this picture for seven years.
A Karaoke Competition organized by my English Club at “Lycée Privé Le Savoir”. On the picture, we can see a student singing in the middle of a crowd which came to see the activity. I initiated these kinds of recreational activities as a means to make teaching English easier and fun. In high schools, most students do not understand the importance of the English language. Apart from Ghana, Burkina Faso borders French speaking countries; that contributes to make English the bête noire of students. It is only when Burkinabѐ travel a little farther away from the West African region that they realize that English is the bridging language of the world.
Espace Medical de SYA. This is a private medical center run by a group of medical doctors. In Bobo Dioulasso as in Burkina Faso broadly speaking, private medical centers commonly called “clinics” offer better services than public ones. Private medical centers are better equipped, and the physicians working there better paid than those working for public medical centers. Unfortunately, the majority of Bobolese cannot afford to go to private medical centers because of its elevated cost. In addition, most Bobolese do not have a regular health check up. It is only when they are seriously ill that they go to medical centers.
Pharmarcie Hayatt. This drug store locally called “pharmacy Hyatt” is located in district 21 of Bobo Dioulasso. Drug stores are almost everywhere in the city of Bobo. Most drugs can be purchased without a prescription; that is to say that auto medication is a serious threat forBobo Dioulasso’s population. Besides, they are individuals with no training whatsoever who sell drugs by roadsides. The local government has tried to fight those individual drug sellers, but lots of work still needs to be done.
The water reserve of Sarfalao. There are few water reserves like this one across the city of Bobo, and this one can serve many districts. Drinkable water is a major problem in Burkina Faso generally speaking and especially in rural areas where access to drinkable water is a challenge. In cities, it is less of a problem than in villages. This water reserve also serves as an advertizing space for companies. On the top part of it, we can see the advertisement of a phone company.
Transport inter-Urbain: bus company “CST”. Bus companies play an important role in the city of Bobo Dioulasso because they are the transportation means which connect different cities across Burkina Faso. Most people use them because they are cheaper than airline companies which connect only two cities in Burkina Faso. Even though some efforts are being made by the government, the quality of inter-city roads remains a major problem.
“Theatre de l’Amitié” of Bobo Dioulasso. Theatre de l”Amitié is an amphitheatre of about 3000 seats, which is usually used for cultural activities like dance competitions, concerts, children shows, etc. For a long time, this amphitheater was the only public place with as many seats. Today, the city of Bobo has other public places of the same kind. After all, Bobo is renowned for its engagement in cultural activities and its talents in various artistic domains.
The main gate of “institut Français du Burkina Faso”. This site was previously called “centre culturel français” but it has been recently baptized “institut français”. This is the only site in Bobo which offers a public library. It also offers free projection sessions, conferences, and concert for the inhabitants of Bobo. It is pretty sad that there is not an American center in Bobo Dioulasso; American institutes are all located in the capital city Ouagadougou.
An inside view of the French Institute. As we can see, the institute is equipped with an open air place where visitors can buy drinks or eat snacks (left). We can also see the main entrance of the library (straight ahead). Next to the French institute is a French school where children of most French or other international visitors mostly attend. The educational system in that school is different from that of the other Bobo schools. They follow a French curriculum, which allows them to pursue their studies in France or other countries with fewer difficulties.
The advertisement board of the French institute. There is displayed the title of the coming up projection sessions. The fact that the board faces the main road makes it easier for passers- by to see the schedule of the institute without having to visit its site. It is worth noting that there are plenty of advertisement boards on the main streets of Bobo Dioulasso that are run by the city council.
The view of another roundabout in Bobo Dioulasso. At the center of this roundabout stands a monument in a conic shape. This monument has been built during the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Burkina Faso’s independence. At night, it lights up, and we can distinguish the flag of Burkina Faso on it. All this testifies that the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Burkina Faso has allowed the city of Bobo to have new construction and monuments.
“Palais de la culture” of Bobo Dioulasso. This building is still under construction but will be ready for use very soon according to authorities. It has a big conference room and many small ones. It will be used to shelter most of Bobo Dioulasso cultural activities, conferences, meetings in the near future.
Brakina. It is an industrial plant that produces beer. There is a whole district of Bobo Dioulasso called the industrial zone where plants such as cotton cleaning plants, oil production plants, etc are located. Besides government jobs, these plants provide jobs for the youth of Bobo Dioulasso. Unfortunately, there are not enough to fight the soaring unemployment rate in the city.
Bijouterie moderne du Faso. That is a small shop that sells jewelry. In Bobo Dioulasso, most people create their own commercial centers. Shops selling different items can be found anywhere across the city. There are not really big commercial centers where all the stores are concentrated. This does not allow the local government to properly collect taxes because not everybody who sells is declared as a trader.
A gas station. As we can see, there are what we call “Pompists” meaning the guy who sell gas in every gas station in Bobo Dioulasso. Self service is not an option since we cannot pay for gas using bank cards. Every thing has to be paid with cash or in some cases with a check. Still most people would not take a check because of the fear of being decieved or simply because they cannot read.
IBA HOTEL. The city of Bobo Dioulasso has about twenty hotels. It is worth underlining that hotels are quite new phenomenon for Bobolese. While visiting an area, most Burkinabѐ would rather stay at a relative’s than stay in a hotel. With modernization and everything changing, the need for hotels is slowly growing.
The gate of a common residential house in Bobo Dioulasso. As we can see, this is how the gate of residential houses look like in Bobo. Even though there is an effort to build good houses, the roads that pass in front of them are so eroded by the rain that there are almost unusable. This is a problem which is common in the city as a whole. There are not enough water evacuation canals to protect the roads.
Here is a lady washing clothes in her yard. As the picture shows us, this is how most people in Bobo Dioulasso wash their clothes. They use containers with soap bars and wash the clothes with their hands. When it is washed and rinsed, the clothes are exposed to the sun using a wire which is attached to two pools.
Trash. This is a place in the city of Bobo where people throw their trash. As we can, plastic products are the most present in this trash. Plastic bags are real threats to Bobo’s environment. Something needs to be done because plastic bags are seriously endangering our lives. People who are not aware of this danger would burn them polluting even more the environment.
Trash. Pollution is a real threat to the Burkinabe society in general. There are associations who buy used plastic bags in order to decrease their number. As they are cleaning the environment, no further action is done by authorities to reduce its emission. Whenever you buy something in a store, it is wrapped in a plastic bag; if there was some form of tax on plastic bags, that would contribute to decrease their number, and most shoppers would be obliged to go green.
Note: I have written this article because during my stay at Ball State University, I could not find pictures online to illustrate my answers whenever I was asked a question about my city. I have taken almost all the pictures myself and the comments at the bottom of every picture represent my own point of view. I am sure that it does not include everything about the city, but if you have questions, feel free to ask them.