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There are sixty five (65) different ethnic groups that are well-integrated and live harmoniously in Burkina Faso. Each group has its own traditions and customs.

1 – Organization and Social Relations

Social organization in Burkina Faso is regulated by relational and behavioral codes extremely complex and specific to each group. There are two types of traditional society in Burkina Faso: those without centralized social organization and those with hierarchic organization and which recognize the supreme authority of a traditional chief or king.

In the traditional society, each individual has his own space and those who do not possess their capacities to be autonomous are supported by the active members of the family: a salary of a civil servant makes a living for up to 14 people. Each person in Burkina Faso accepts to bear the responsibilities of his relatives.

2 – Oral Tradition

In Burkina Faso just like in other part of Africa, the transmission of knowledge and history has been accomplished through oral tradition. Generally speaking, the elderly, but also all adults have the duty to pass history, legends, folktales, etc. to younger generations.

- Joking Extended Family: It is a type of specific relation to certain ethnic groups and which allows them to exchange words and behaviors amongst themselves. Words and behavior that they should not be expressing toward other persons with whom such relation known as “joking extended family” (parente a plaisanterie) does not exist. Here are the ethnic groups having a relation of joking extended family: Samo-Mossi, Gourounsi-Bissa, Samo-Bissa, Peul-Bobo, Lobi-Siamo, etc.

It is indubitably accepted that the joking extended family system is one of the factors that plays in favor of stability and peace in multicultural societies such as Burkina Faso.

3 – Dances and Traditional Music

The most atypical ritual dances in Burkina Faso are funeral dances, dances during marriage and baptism. However, there are also dances representing daily life scenes: hunting, farming activities … they are all moments of great happiness.

All ceremonies, no matter religious or not, are accompanied by music with most of the time percussion instruments: Djembes and balaphons.

4- Rituals and Ceremonies

Burkinabe are very discrete as regards sacred and unnatural rituals. Consumption and mercantilism have not led to the disappearance of ancestral values to which people in Burkina Faso remain still attached. These traditions are composed of many kinds of ceremony, from popular feasts to the most discrete initiation.

- Sacrifices: in Burkina Faso, several ethnic groups still do scarifications on their members. However, such practice is about to disappear. These tattoos have diverse functions: to show one’s identification to a particular ethnic group or to show one’s social status, etc.

- Ritual Feasts: Several ritual ceremonies are held each year in Burkina Faso. The most common rituals are those undertaken for the gods of the earth. Each do one or several sacrifices aimed at having the traditional fetishes (objects imbued with spirits) protect the village and the family. The location of the sacrifices is secrete and specific to each village and family.


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