Gaoua is the capital of Lobi country (area of Brukina Faso where live the Lobi ethnic groups). It is located in the south of the country, some 450 kilometres from the capital (Ouagadougou), and just 40 kilometres from the border with Ivory Coast. It has 56,000 inhabitants, distributed between the first city mentioned above and 56 hamlets.
Various ethnicities live in the region: Lobi (51%), Birifor (47%), Peuhl and other minorities more like Dioula, Mossi, Dagara, Gan, Dorossy, Bissa, Dafing and Lela, all of which have their own languages and cultural characteristics.
The read area on the map is the high-risk zone that appeared with the instability that has experienced the country since the Burkinabé uprising in October of 2014.
Gaoua spreads horizontally and somewhat disorgnised. It is a small and quiet town between green hills (particularly during the rainy season).
Its hamlets, in keeping with tradition, are made up of "Sukalas", fortress houses built according to very specific benchmarcks. For example, the construction of the family houses cannot be carried out without leaving at least the distance of an arrow shot, which is why the hamlets are not very compact.
The Sukalas are built on two necessities:
1. On the one hand, the defensive function, that is why they have a front door in a V shape: to force the potential enemy to slow down when entering. Inside, there are various rooms, the walls are usually high and there is also room for livestock, barns, and water tanks. The ceilings are low and there are concealed corners to prevents the invader's mobility.
2. On the other hand, the religious function. The Lobi are animist. Animism (from the Latin anima, soul) is a concept that encompasses several beliefs in which both the objects (those of everyday use or those reserved for special occasions) and any element of the natural world (mountains, rivers, the sky, the earth, some specific characteristic places, rocks, plants, animals, trees, etc.) are endowed with a soul or consciousness of their own. In Africa, animism is at its most complex and complete version, and includes the concept of magara or universal life force, which connects all animate beings, as well as the beliefs in a close relationship between the souls of the living and of the dead.
The figure of fetishes is fundamental. All of the Sukalas have a room for the fetish family where the "spiritual leader" is in charge of the sacrifices, offerings or prayers. This room has an opening that communicates directly with the "main fetish" located outside of the Sukala, which also communicates with a fetish located on the terrace. This fetish is in charge of the sending of messages to the sacred forest, and to other fetishes.
Nowadays, religion has become an indispensable element in the Lobi culture, for whom it turns out to be an aspect of vital importance. Sometimes, these riturals, fetishes and constructions can seem incomprehensible to our western mentality, so we must have an open mind to let ourselves be taken back to ancestral times. Thus, when one leaves the Lobi country, they feel an emptiness, and a need to come back to rediscover new secrets.
Gaoua is a town of mistery, of legends, and of hidden secrets. It is the heart of the Lobi.