The Ethnic Groups and Cultural Insight of Burkina Faso.3 min read


Burkina Faso has a population of about 17.3 million. The two major ethnic groups are the Mande and Voltaic although there are other ethnic groups that are classified as minority. About half of the population is made up the Voltaic who claim they were descendants of great warriors that migrated from the northern part of Ghana to Burkina Faso in 1100AD.

When they had settled in the land, they formed a big empire which is said to have lasted for more than eight hundred years. The people from the Voltaic Mossi ethnic group were led by Mogho Naba. There is an estimated of about 69 different languages that are spoken in Burkina Faso.  Sixty of these languages are said to be indigenous.  About forty per cent of the entire population speak Mossi, mainly around the central part of the country and in Ouagadougou the capital. The Gurunsi speaking population are scattered across Burkina Faso.

The Mende ethnic languages are popularly and widely spoken in the Western region of the country. The major one being the “Dyula” otherwise called Dioula or Jula. Other languages in this region include the Marka, Samo and Bobo. However, widely spoken in the northern part of the country is the Fula, the Eastern part speaks Gourmanché while in the South, the Bissa language speakers dominates.

There may be many languages in Burkina Faso; however, French remains the official national language used in all public institutions across the country.  About 60.5% of the population are Muslim while Christian makes up 23.2%. The traditional worshipers are about 15.3%. Majority of the Muslims are Sunni while a small portion is shia. Majority of the Sunni Muslims recognises and associate with the Islamic order Tijaniyah Sufi. The Christian population has about 19% of it being catholic and the remaining 4.2% being Protestants.

Riz Gras (Fat Rice a Staple Cuisine in Burkina Faso) Photo Credit: CookedEarth

Before independence, oral tradition characterized the Literature in this West African country. This tradition had major influence on famous writers in Burkina Faso even after its independence in 1960. There was a significant increase in the numbers of authors in the 60s with a huge number of published playwrights recorded. The development of literature in Burkina Faso in the 70s and 80s continued to grow with many writers publishing their books.

Most theater performance in Burkina Faso incorporates colonial influences while significant efforts had been made to educate the people on the need to create a unique national theater. Most ethnic groups in the country carry out traditional ceremonies dancing with all forms of masks.  In terms of Art, Burkina Faso has a very rich artistic heritage.  In Ouagadougou for example, there is a huge community for artists. The art works that are produced are basically used in promoting the culture and tourism industry.
The Main Staple Cuisines of Burkina Faso
Just like any other West African cuisine, most staple food in Burkina Faso are made of potatoes millet, sorghum,  peanuts , beans, okra and yams. Fish, eggs and chicken are major sources of protein.  Palm wine or Banji is a typical local drink that is made of fermented sap from the palm tree. Zoom kom is another common drink made from cereal and grains. It has a characteristics white color and mostly best drank cold. In other parts of the country, Dolo is heavily patronized.  Dolo is made from millet fermented for some days and processed to extract the drink.
In terms of the film industry, Burkina Faso has contributed significantly to the development of the   film industry in West Africa. In general, their contributions to the growth of African cinema kick-off in 1969 when they established FESPACO (Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévision de Ouagadougou).  Most filmmakers from Burkina Faso are internationally recognized and have received accolades across the globe.

Do you know?
That the Federation of Panafrican Filmmakers for many years had its headquarters in Ouagadougou and even though the Secretariat was moved and established in South Africa in 2006, the Federation of Panafrican Filmmakers still remains in Burkina Faso.
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