Friday, April 6, 2012

Arts and Crafts: Weaving and Carving

 Loom for the Handicapped

I have seen several types of weaving being done here. The traditional style of weaving is done on a hand loom,, but here is a modern improvement, specifically for the handicapped folks. There are quite a few folks here who have lost the use of their legs due to polio and there are associations that have a goal of making these folks self sufficient.

Here is one of the men demonstrating the loom for me.

A big difference between this and other looms used here is that you do not need to use your feet to work with this one. In his right hand you can see the shuttle he uses to throw the weft thread back and forth as he weaves. 

More Sophisticated Looms

South of Ouaga there is a woman’s group that another volunteer works with. Elizabeth and I visited their workshop. Here you can see the shed in which they work and how they keep the tension on the warp threads as they work weighted down with a pile of rocks. Primitive, but very effective.

It was interesting to see that the kinds of looms they were using were like those I saw on a visit to Greenfield Village, the living history museum in Greenfield, Michigan.
As you can see above they sometimes use very bright colors, but some are much more subtle. This is one of the looms with four harnesses attached to pedals. By pressing different combinations of the four peddles with your feet you can make quite intricate designs.

Carved Masks

Masks play an important part in the traditional religion. They are used in various ceremonies, but they are also a popular tourist item, so many artists make them for the tourist trade. Here are a few that were on display at the place we stayed in Bobo.
 Here are some that were for sale at the gift shops near the Sabou sacred crocodiles.

By the way, one of my readers told me that there is a picture in the April 2012 National Geographic that shows a couple of children in Burkina Faso dressed in some of the more elaborate masks, not those made for tourists.  Check them out on the back side of the front cover, I believe.

Other Wood Carvings

Animal carvings are another popular tourist item. The carvers insisted that they were all ebony. I had to go check out the meaning of ebony, and found it means any dark wood and not the wood of any particular tree.
 The human figure is a popular subject as well


Traditional African drums are sometimes made from the things in which women pound millet. They are made from tree trunks, hollowed out so there is a depression in one end. As the women pound, the depression gets bigger. Here are a couple of my neighbor women pounding millet in one of these big mortars.
To make a traditional drum you just take one of these old mortars and stretch some kind of animal hide over it. That is the kind I saw at the music museum on Ouaga. In recent years, the drums have kept the same general shape, but they are now made from fresh wood, and carved specifically for this purpose.

Here is a baby one that I have hanging on my wall.
Here is a short video clip of people playing drum.  The man closest to the camera is playing the djembe and the woman in yellow is playing one made from a big gourd. The rattle is a gourd covered with shells strung on a net around it. Click the link below to see and hear about 12 seconds of drumming.

Rock carvings

Near Ouaga is a place called Leongo that has been set aside for rock carving. As in many place around Burkina, there are lots of granite boulders poking up out of the ground. Someone got the idea of turning a bunch or stone carvers loose on this outcropping of rock, and the result is a very interesting tourist attraction. Every two years carvers from all over the world are invited to come, select a rock, and carve whatever they like. There are lots of carvings in a wide variety of styles. I will show you just a couple of examples.


Jewelry is the kind of thing that is easy to take home as a souvenir. At the Artisan Village and at the gift shop at the home of the sacred crocodiles you find many choices. Things may be small like this little blue choker,

Or more elaborate, like this necklace and earrings. The earrings and large piece on the necklace are wood.
 Here is a selection of necklaces on display at the artisan village
And some bracelets, too.

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