Saturday, September 01, 2012

In the Land of Upright People...

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Welcome to the Challenge of Travel, developed by two collaborators, Erin of Treasures Found and Marcie of La Bella Joya. Their idea, to choose one country, learn a bit about it, as if one were preparing a trip, and agree to meet with other bloggers today, was one which proved very popular. Fifty-nine participants are joining together to offer up photos, commentary and a little eye candy in the form of an original item or two created to honour their country of choice.

I chose the West African country of Burkina Faso for very personal reasons: it is a little known former French colony (which in my childhood I knew by its colonial name, Haute Volta), that I have always wanted to visit. Secondly, by odd coincidence, I actually met a young lady from Burkina Faso right here in my own town in New Brunswick (she was studying at our local French language college). She is obviously a more seasoned traveller than me!

I welcome you in Mòoré: yee-bay-go (good morning)!

Without further ado, I am proud to present:

Burkina Faso, a name translated as "the land of upright people" in two of the native languages, Mòoré and Dioula. This is one of the friendliest and safest places to travel in Africa. Both Muslims (the majority, 60%), and Christians, both also honouring traditional animist religions, coexist here harmoniously. All are courteous to one another and to visitors.

No such thing as "minding your own business": a friendly 
greeting is a social requirement!

While the country has experienced growing pains similar to other emerging African nations,  it has suffered much less violence in comparison to its neighbours. Though Burkina Faso was once ruled by warrior tribes, and endured colonial rule by France from 1898 to 1958, its people are  remarkably peace-loving and accommodating, and eagerly welcome foreign visitors.

The more densely populated central region around
the capital, Ouagadougou, is home to the mostly Christian
Mossi tribes. To the west, the Black Volta region, named
for the river, is the most culturally diverse and lushest.
The eastern regions are typically arid with more nomadic
tribes like the Tuareg.

A land-locked nation bridging the
Sahel desert to the north and the tropical
rain-forest in the south.

Burkina Faso (or Burkina) is one of the world's poorest nations, according to the UN, with an average income per person of less than $510 USD per year (and remember that's an average!) Though blessed with some natural resources, much of the land has been marginalized by ecologically unsound practices in the past. Subsistence farming is the work of up to 90% of the people, mainly raising livestock, vegetables and grain crops, which comprise a large part of their diet.

Selling fresh produce at city market in Leo, central Burkina.

The varied buildings are like a walk through time: 

Variety of architecture. From the top: 1/ Traditional homes, southern Burkina farm;
2/ modern movie theatre in smaller city; 3/ The Grand Mosque of Bobo-Dioulasso (second largest city);
4/  Cathedral of Ouagadougou, Capital Of Burkina Faso; 5/ Sudanese Style railway station Bobo-Dioulasso. 

Burkina is a member of the Francophonie, an international community of people and cultures using the French language. My country, Canada, is also a member of this group as are many European, African, and Asian countries where French is spoken and/or taught in schools. (I was surprised to learn that Romania and Bulgaria are also members, as are Vietnam, Laos, and some micro-states of the South Pacific.)

French is the language of instruction in Burkina; school is low-cost and attendance is compulsory, but due to extreme poverty and poor enforcement, only 35% of primary-age children attain a basic education, rendering Burkino Faso one of the most illiterate countries in the world (29% literacy). Outside the cities, mostly the native tongues are spoken. It makes me wonder if more could be achieved by combining French with local languages. Might be more motivational?

School in Dourtenga. I was assuming this was a primary school,
based on the children's appearance, but Burkinabé are of small stature
 due to chronic food shortages. Those French language chalk-board
lessons are on geometry equations and microbiology!

Burkina receives a large amount of foreign aid, both public and private. There are many NGOs working in Burkina Faso. "Imagination for People" is a Canadian (Québec-based) organization that facilitates, with other partnerships, hands-on improvements in many developing countries; two examples of projects include self-contained solar lighting  for remote villages still off the grid; and teaching social entrepreneurship (grass roots small business skills based on local needs). *Please note this website is in French, but does have an excellent (clickable) English translation available*. 

(From top: 1/ Villagers learn about solar lighting; 2/ Computer skills training; both photos by Sylvain Maire, Imagination for People; 3/ Women around the water pump near a Tree Nursery; 4/ American Peace Corps volunteers being taught how to graft mangoes)

Another group working hands-on in remote communities is Kiva, a facilitator of do-it-yourself micro loans. You choose a client in a developing nation, and they deliver your $25. loan, and remember, this is a loan, not a gift. These clients expect to pay you back. I'm definitely going to check that out!

In spite of its many challenges, Burkina is renowned for its key cultural activities, including the  International Arts and Handicrafts Trade Fair, held every two years in the capital (coming up in November 2012) which attracts participants from all over Africa, and the world. For anyone wanting to sample West African music, drumming and crafts, Burkina is THE place to go. Whether the traditional or the more contemporary, the Burkinabé embrace film festivals, hip hop demonstrations, and jazz recitals as well as the more historic Festival of Masks  (this link is to the Flickr page of photographer Anthony Pappone, from March 2012... amazing masks, very much worth viewing!)

The term "mask" refers to the whole costume. I am trying to imagine jumping around like they do in those huge outfits in 100°F+ temperatures! Here is a little video showing a performance:

Lovers of  the natural world are in for a treat as well. The three National Parks of Burkina are wonderful destinations for viewing a great variety of birds and animals in their natural habitat.

Leopard; Guinea Baboon; White Pelican; African Bush Elelphant;
Hippopotamus; Snake Eagle; Crocodile

Though just slightly larger than the U.S. State of Colorado, Burkina is divided into thirteen regions and forty-five(!) provinces. IMHO the biggest problem facing the country is their over-sized bureaucracy, with the inevitable corruption that occurs. After all, in few places on earth is the discrepancy between rich and poor more immense. The ordinary Burkinabé is honest, hard-working and willing to share what little he has. Most unrest here has been a result of escalating food prices, and lack of work. While often this was caused by uncontrollable events in neighbouring countries, the fact remains that Burkina's infrastructure has grown at a painfully slow rate. More recently, the Burkina government has taken important measures to improve transportation, health care, safe water supply and other important public needs. So much more remains to be accomplished!

The motto on their Coat of Arms.
They have done remarkably well on the unity.
They have some work ahead of them 
on the progress and justice.
Dear reader, you have probably taken note that my emphasis has been on social and economic challenges in Burkina Faso, rather than on the customary tourist attractions. If I am fortunate enough to visit this unique part of the world, I will plan on staying for a while, digging in and making myself useful. After all, I haven't yet given up on the idea of placing my mark somewhere on the planet, and Burkina is a great place to make a difference! 

Now for a little bling, inspired by the colours, textures and spirit I have admired in my study of this nation of contrasts. I am calling it "Land of the Upright". Since my post is already waaay too long, I'll probably share some details later this weekend.

From the top left: 1/ and 6/ Porcelain elephant and roots button, both Nancy  Schindler,  Round Rabbit; 2/ Flower Jade Stars,; 3/ and 4/ Polymer clay tube beads and Africa map pendant, my own work; 5/  Bronze sun pendant, Lesley Watt, THEAtoo; 7/ Krobo recycled glass beads,  Soul of Somanya, Ghana, West Africa.

Now check out all these intrepid world travellers!

*YOU ARE HERE*       Burkina Faso
Niky Sayers   Egypt
Therese Frank    Kenya
Raychelle Heath     Lesotho
Joan Williams      Mauritania
Sherri Stokey     Senegal
Regina Santerre    Seychelles
Raida Disbrow   Tanzania
Kristi Wodek    Zimbabwe  

Sally Russick  Brazil
Melissa Trudinger   Mexico
Tracy Stillman       USA

Sandra Wolberg    India
Tanya Goodwin       Japan
Susan Kennedy      Japan
Beth Emery    Japan
Lisa Cone    Japan
Tanya Boden    Japan
Inge von Roos    Laos
Erin Prais-Hintz       Nepal
Dee Elgie      Phillipines
Carolyn Lawson   South Korea
Lisa Stukel  Sri Lanka
Elly Snare       Thailand

Shelley Graham Turner    Austria
Mallory Hoffman    Bosnia Herzegovina
Paige Maxim    France
Jenny Davies-Reazor     Germany
Sharyl McMillian-Nelson      Greece
Evelyn Shelby       Iceland
Holly Westfall   Ireland
Rebecca Siervaag     Ireland
Toltec Jewels       Ireland
Lee Koopman Ireland
Laren Dee Barton      Italy
Cindy Wilson       Norway
Kathleen Lange Klik        Poland
Shaiha Williams      Portugal
Jennifer Justman         Romania
Elsie Deliz-Fonseca   Spain
Lola Surwillo      Sweden
Kim Hora       Switzerland
Leanne Loftus       The Netherlands
Patti Vanderbloemen   The Netherlands
Marcie Carroll       Turkey

Marlene Cupo Federated States of Micronesia
Ine Vande Cappelle   Fiji
Tammie Everly        Guam
Alice Peterson      Kiribati
Elisabeth Auld      Nauru
Susan McClelland      New Zealand
D Lynne Bowland        New Zealand
Denielle Hagerman  New Zealand
Rebecca Anderson      Papua New Guinea
Mischelle Fanucchi    Samoa
Kari Asbury   Solomon Islands
Cece Cormier       Tonga
Emma Todd   Tuvalu
Debbie Price        Vanuatu  


  1. OMG!! Your necklace is so awesome!!!Love the elephants!! so perfect! The pendant is just stunning! How could you make that! Perfect! What a great design and your post is fantastic!

  2. Yeah! I get to be the first to comment on your terrific post. I'm so happy you choose this country. There are so many similarities to Ghana, a southern neighbor to Burkina. And I'm so in love with the Krobo glass beads. I'll be going back in October and will be on the look out for more of these beauties to bring home. Love your design for the necklace and the combination of all the different elements. Kudos!

  3. A fabulous necklace - and a very interesting post!

  4. Your love of this country is evident in the all encompassing post. It is an impressive work, more than equalled by your jewelry creation. Congrats!

  5. Very interesting background information on Bukina Faso. Your necklace is beautiful!

  6. Thank you SO much, Mon, for this fascinating post, and an equally fascinating piece of jewellery!

  7. Thank you for such an extensive and informative post. I had never heard of this country before and now I know a little more about the world I live in. Your necklace is fabulous. Love the focal and those gorgeous African glass all works so well together.. a happy and vibrant piece.

  8. an amazing piece of jewelry! beautiful and organic.. i love it! the post was wonderful, too.

  9. truly did your homework and I am impressed with your post! Your piece reflects all of the wonderful colors of your images - beads from Africa, how beautiful! I must admit, my favorite part of your post was your last second to the last paragraph - and how you want to "leave your mark somewhere on the planet"...that is so inspiring to me and I hope you get to visit!

  10. Loved this post. Very well researched & written - thoughtful. I also love your jewelry piece - especially the Africa pendant.

  11. What an amazing blog! You certainly provided a wealth of information about this place! I loved the slide show. How those dancers summoned so much energy and enthusiasm in the heat with those elaborate (and heavy) costumes is beyond me! Your piece is incredible. You have definitely captured the color and heart of your chosen place.

  12. Oh my goodness! Miss Monique! I am so inspired by all that you wrote here! You have a wonderfully giving heart and talented hands! This piece really does capture the vibrancy and spirit of this nation. I really learned so much from you. And I just know that you will one day travel there and make a huge difference. I love your Africa pendant. That is so very clever and beautiful! And that elephant... well, my daughter is a nut about them and I would love to find one of those from Miss Nancy! I am truly blown away by how you chose to approach this challenge and I am so happy that you joined me on this virtual world tour. Now I need to go and get a passport because I would so love to visit this land! Enjoy the day! Erin

  13. I was intrigued to read about Burkina Faso - I had little real knowledge. I found your post long, in a good way! It increased my anticipation for your necklace. Wow. Perfection. The bronze and trade beads - traditional African materials, the cute little elephant, but your polymer map! Wow!Design wise - I really liked the different length of layers, and think the more sedate strands of chain and stars anchor the piece, balancing the riot of gorgeous color!

  14. Monique , Thank you for an interesting perspective, a good geography lesson, and for sharing your beautiful creation. Your attention to detail is evident in this lovely piece.

  15. I love your necklace and it was wonderful to hear about Burkina Faso. Your Africa pendant is gorgeous and I love the way you incorporated the trade beads and all of the other types of beads in your work. I will be awaiting your next post to see the train of thought behind the construction of your necklace.

  16. I was so excited to see your post. Not long ago our Sunday School learned about this country as part of our funraiser for Heifer International. Like you, it made me want to go there and 'dig in' to make a difference.

    I love the photos and facts you shared about this country. And the wonderful piece you made surely represents the country so well!

  17. What a beautiful post about Burkina Faso - I didn't know much about it and am so glad I ready your lovely post! Your piece is gorgeous too, and I love your polymer African pendant!

  18. A wonderful idea to include your Africa pendant--I'm sure the Bukinabes would appreciate that (I'm thinking of a favorite Amadou et Mariam song....). Just lovely with all the other elements of your necklace, especially those vibrant krobo beads! I've had students from Burkina, but I still learned a good deal from your thoughtful post.

  19. This looks great! Very Africa, great job!

  20. What a color riot. I love how you pieced everything together.

  21. You did such a great job! This necklace totally captures the inspiration theme. Love the whole post:)

  22. What a lovely necklace! It includes lots of the elements of you research, yet it also reflects what is certainly your own creative flair!

  23. Thank you for this very interesting and educational post and not it is not too long, you had my attention. I loved it all, especially the mask dancing. Your necklace does capture the colors and spirit of the nation beautifully. Happy travels.

  24. what an amazing job you did. Your necklace really shows the colors of your country. Great job.

  25. Monique! What a lovely piece, and I learned so much from your post!

  26. I just loved your post. I have learned so much about your country and now I want to visit.

  27. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful photos and information about your chosen country. Your necklace is beautiful!

  28. wow! your pendant is awesome!!! love the entire necklace!

  29. Your necklace does a wonderful job representing your chosen country. I really like how you added the dark spot on the pendant to show where Burkina is on the continent and the little elephant bead is really cute.
    Very interesting post, love reading about other countries.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  30. Thank you for the lesson on Burkina Faso. Amazing pendant that you created.

  31. Hi Monique,
    Thank you so much for taking me on your trip to Burkina I enjoyed learning about the people and the culture. Your necklace is beautiful I love the pendant and the crystal that marks Burkina, and all the other elements that represents Burkina.

  32. What a wonderfully educational post :) I adore the necklace you made. I am a big fan of collage and this piece really speaks to me. I cannot imagine how many hours you put into that pendant! Absolutely beautiful!

  33. Such beautiful pieces you made and put together to represent this country. The Pendant of Africa is amaizng. I had a smile when I saw your fur baby on the side.

  34. Thoroughly enjoyed reading about your country. Very educational and put together in a very organized format. Your necklace is stunning. Love the focal polymer piece that you created. All of your elements work so nicely together for a well thought out piece. Great success!

    1. Thank you for your visit and thoughtful comments! I have been replying privately to most comments on this stream, but as your Blogger profile is private, I hope you will read this response.

  35. Monique, you made me want to visit. You did a great job with this post and your necklace. I love that Africa map bead - you are sooo talented!! If you get any more info on that loan program please share it!

  36. This is absolutely incredible. I am humbled by your focus on the difficulties the country faces, showing deep into the country's heart. Thank you for sharing so much about Burkina Faso and your necklace is really beautiful!

  37. It is amazing what you've done here! What an enlightening and insightful commentary! And your necklace represents the country so very well and is beautiful--all the more so because of what you've just taught us. Thank you so very much! I hope you get to go there some day!

  38. such fresh faces and happy smiles and so very friendly.Bright vibrant piece.Love and hugs Tanya

  39. Love your faux trading beads and your map of Africa is a gorgeous focal piece! I really see africa in the necklace! I actually stopped here early on my tours but didn't comment as I wanted to read the entire post! Quite fascinating thanks for the tour!

  40. Oh wow Monique so stunning. I saved you for last stop on my tour of the world and what a treat! I just love what you explored of the country and how you interpretted it into jewelry. I can't wait to hear all the nitty gritty

  41. This is absolutely fabulous! Thank you for following my blog, because in trying to find out a bit about you, I've discovered this wonderful blog in return. By the way, I love your beads, including the magnificent, extruded Africa bead. Really great work.

  42. Thank you for sharing so much about the political and socio-economical structure... I enjoyed your research.
    I like the African/multicultural/colorful feel of your piece. Very fun. That Africa map bead you made is astonishing. Beautiful work. I've only begun polymer clay work, and I hope that one day I can make something that cool! =)

  43. Such a beautiful and thoughtful post ... I am so grateful to have learned so much about Burkina Faso. And your necklace? Stunning! I love everything about it, but am totally in love with that amazing pendant!

  44. Your design beautifully represents the varied aspects of Burkina Faso. The map pendant is absolutely amazing; a work of art in itself! I think the people of Burkina would be very proud of how you represented them and their land.

    Thank you for all of the information you provided about this place and it's people. I hope good things for their future.

  45. I enjoyed your take on Burkina Faso and your necklace is an artistic masterpiece. Well done.

  46. What a stunning piece! That pendant you made is incredible. Wow!


I love your comments and read each one! I am happy to reply to anyone who has an email attached to their profile, and I love doing just that (plus I was brought up to say "thanks" LOL). I don't usually reply here on the blog, but I will if you are a "no-reply blogger" with a question. Know that I appreciate EVERYONE who takes time to drop me a line!

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