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An African village in Burkina Faso called Tiébélé, was first settled in the 15th Century and is now home to the Kassena people, their chief, and royal court. The 1.2-hectare commune is one of oldest ethnic groups in Burkina Faso. The village also holds immense culture and creativity and photographer Rita Willaert together with travel blogger Olga Stavrakis, was lucky enough to be some of the few people allowed to visit the isolated site in 2009. The two captured the uniqueness of the village in several of their photos to show the world. 

Willaert’s captured the unique way of living in the village where local traditions have been protected for centuries. 

Stavrakis elaborated on their experience of visiting the village and even mentioned that before they arrived they received a dress code. “We were told in advance that we must not wear anything red and we may not carry an umbrella. Only the chiefly noble family is permitted that privilege and to do so would constitute a great affront to our hosts.”

One might think that a royal village will be ostentatiously costly and luxurious, however the Tiébélé royal residence is made up of a series of small clay houses which have been hand painted in various different geometric patterns and symbols. These patterns are one of the visual indicators that differentiates the royal homes from that of the “ordinary people.” 

Another visual that makes this royal village different is that huts’ door size. The Tiébélé chief has the house with the smallest door, for protection. Some of the most elaborately decorated buildings are mausoleums, where the residence lay their dead to rest.  

The village also live with the minimum of things that are needed to do the basic things for example the royal clay homes have a simple kitchen inside which is kitted out with just a few clay and iron pots. “Most meals are cooked in one pot over a brazier,” explains Olga, while adding that meals usually consisted of “a starch foofoo or thick paste like porridge which is then dipped into a sauce of vegetables and peppers. The richer the family the more goes into the sauce.”

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