Earlier this month I had the trip of a lifetime. After a 2-week assignment in Greece I went to West Africa for another shoot in Dakar, Senegal after which I did some personal travel. One of the trips was to accompany my partner on a visit to Manega, a rural village in Burkina Faso, where she lived for 2 years as a community health volunteer for the Peace Corps ten years earlier.
It was an incredible opportunity to meet a rural African community who welcomed us as family. There were so many highlights perhaps the biggest was meeting the village Chief, who spoke only the local language of the Mossi, called Moore. We presented him with a bag of kola nuts, basically a round pod the size of a walnut that’s smooth and bright pink. You break it apart in your hand and chew on the pieces. It imparts an intense burst of caffeine and a bitter earthy flavor and in West Africa is given to village chiefs as a sign of respect. In honor of our visit back to the village the Chief bestowed us with a live rooster. From what I was told, this is a symbol of how moved he was by our journey to Manega.
Manega, Burkina Faso, West Africa
Christina Gomez-Mira visiting the village Chief of Manega
Video of Ourgou Market
For most rural villages in Burkina Faso market days happen every 3 days. For Manega, people walk or bike to the closest market, which is 3 kilometers away in another village called Ourgou. I want you all to keep in mind that the heat index while we were there was 115 degrees Fahrenheit; at times, it felt as if I was stewing in my own body fluids. But beyond this, it was so amazing to be dropped in the middle of West African culture and see just how differently and beautifully the world vibrates and moves from what I know.
There were so many new foods and ingredients, it’s a crazy feeling to walk through a market and have most of the items be completely foreign to you. I was on sensory overload.
I sampled the local beer, called dolo, made from fermented millet and served in a calabash, costing 50 CFA, which is roughly 20 cents. During market days, the men drink it all day until it’s gone.
Of all the people I met while in West Africa, Burkinabes have to be the most hospitable and welcoming. Seems fitting since the name Burkina Faso means “land of the upright people” in the two main local dialects, Moore and Dioula.
hand brooms, baobab leaves (used to make a sauce for toh) and millet
galletes (millet cakes)
soumbala (fermented locust bean used as a seasoning for sauces)
dolo (local beer made from fermented millet)