"Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable"  

George Bernard Shaw 



Mural Art can be found adorning the walls of many earthen homes across the world. From the Indian subcontinent to Africa, The creative expression of the women brings their walls alive. Common to all traditions is the deep symbolism imbued in each element. In Tiebele in Burkina Faso the mural art is created with geometric designs, symbolising  leadership, wealth, togetherness and hope. All desirable attributes crucial to ensuring harmony in their community. 


Tiebele -  The Tragic Effect of Terrorisom & Modernism on Art & Tourism


The Kassena King’s compound in Tiebele - Burkina Faso is one of the most photogenic examples of African mural art. If you have seen images of the mural artwork of Tiebele chances are it was from the homes of this extensive family.


Construction of the houses is carried out by the men, whilst the elaborate ornamentation is the sphere of the women. Rounded or less commonly square homes with small arched doorways and no windows provide the canvas for the striking geometric artworks. Black, white and red are the colours of choice due to their abundant availability nearby.


Geometric Mural Art Africa


Not surprisingly these photogenic villages have become tourist hotspots. Drawing crowds from across the oceans to experience their beauty in person. Unfortunately though, Burkina Faso has been wracked by security issues for years now. ISIS has control over much of the  Sahel in the northern part of the country. Tourists have well and truly been scared off.


Without the usual steady stream of tourist dollars the residents of the King’s complex have lost interest in the upkeep of their murals. The time consuming nature of the mural work combined with a steady outflow of people from their earthen homes into lower maintenance modern concrete houses has seen the village fall into disrepair.

The Mural Art of Tiebele is falling into disrepairTiebele Mural Art is missing the toruristsTiebele Murals


At the time of our visit the community had recently received funds from the tourism department to restore some of the buildings and compound walls. Men were busy reconstructing walls. Women had come together to restore the mural on the boundary wall. All ages, the young and old alike are experts in these techniques. For now knowledge of this tradition remains strong within their community. This recent grant from the tourism department a crucisl step in conserving the artwork and the earthen homes. 


Prepping the wall for muralsBlack outlining Tiebele Murals


These beautiful murals serve not only to beautify the homes but also act as a sacrifical layer protecting the earthen homes from the monsoon rains. Traditionally these murals would be repainted every year just after the monsoon period. When they are not the eaerthen homes become highly siusceptible to damage from rains. Ultimately leading to their collapse. 


The small doorway is the only opening to breach the thick curvaceous walls. A fired clay pot is cut in half and inserted in the roof to allow strategically placed shafts of light to permeate the cool dark interior without allowing the excessive heat outside in.The matriarch and most revered artist in the community still lives in her traditional home. Perhaps one of the most striking natural homes I have experienced anywhere. Really it has to be experienced to be believed.


Play of light inside the oldest home in Tiebele\\|Interior with Arched Doorway Tiebele Murals


It is evident that tourism can play a vital role in the conservation of these traditional art forms. When local communities receive economic benefit through various activities related to toruist visits, there remains an impetus to ensure the upkeep of the Murals. However solely relying on tourism remains risky. Political instability, terrorism, global financial crises or even COVID can quickly put an end to tourist visits for often long durations. Ensuring an enduring commitment to these cutural practices requires strong leadership within communities. 

As outsiders we can only show these communities our respect and admiration for their precious cultural heritage. Offering an alternative dialogue to the domiant discourse telling rural communities that they need to modernsie and emulate urban (or western) ideas of linear development. 

If you would like to learn mural art from these talented women we can arrange a group or private  Mural Art Workshop. 

Contact Us to learn more.