Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Trip to Koudougou - Part 8

On our way back to Ouaga, Aristide told us about a Mossi chief in the town of Kokologho whose palace was a tourist attraction and worth seeing. So once we reached the town on the Ouaga-Bobo road, we made a few inquiries and found the place. For a village or even a small town, it was indeed an impressive structure considering that it was made of mud-bricks and cement!

Interestingly, the place would not even exist had the chief’s father not decided to turn from the tribal religion of his ancestors and become a Catholic. Traditionally, when a chief died, the place where he lived, no matter how grand, was left to go to ruin and the new chief (usually one of his sons) moved and built a brand new place from scratch. In this case, however, not only did the Catholic missionaries at the time help finance the building of the chief’s palace, but his son (the current chief) was able to take over this well-established place.

Upon arrival, we first had to negotiate a price with a guide, one of the chief’s ministers who would take us on a guided tour. Once this was arranged, we were allowed to enter the outer courtyard of the palace compound, with the condition that no photographs were to be taken. This outer courtyard was the place where the chief had meetings with his ministers and kept his cars. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the latter! One of these was exactly like my very first car, a powder-blue Volkswagen Super Beetle! It was also the place that contained the tomb of the previous chief, built like a large cement shrine.

From this point on, we were required to take off our shoes out of respect for the chief (whom we never actually got to meet, perhaps because it was Sunday?). Fortunately, all the floors and open spaces in the compound from this point on were cement and not bare dirt. Unfortunately, the cement in the open courtyards was pretty hot from the sun shining directly on it. Fortunately, I had socks on. Unfortunately, Kathy didn’t :( She found it increasingly difficult to walk across those open spaces from one location to the other without blistering her feet!

A large structure separated the outer courtyard from the inner courtyard. It had numerous rooms used for various purposes, one of which was a mini-museum of articles belonging to the previous chief and his wife. The first thing that struck us about this structure was how cool it was inside despite the numerous openings in the walls. This was explained partly by the thickness of the walls and partly by the thickness of the dirt and clay roof. Part of this structure had a second floor which was accessed by a very steep and narrow stairway. This was where the previous chief had his bedroom. From there, he could also walk out on the flat roof over the rest of the building for a 360 degree view of everything around him. The current chief, however, lived in a house he had built in the inner courtyard.

The inner courtyard was the living area of the chief and his family. Everything was noticeably clean and in good repair, something that is not always the case in family courtyards.

The most exciting event of the tour was the discovery of a small snake when we stepped outside the courtyard to see a reception area where the chief would meet with the local villagers at appointed times and hold festivals. Nearly everyone panicked, but a few of the men got rocks and killed it. People here are deathly afraid of snakes! Not all of them are poisonous, but many are, so they don’t take any chances!

Then, at last, we climbed back in the minibus and headed back to Ouaga.

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