Background on Burkina Faso
What is now Burkina Faso has been continuously inhabited for at least 14,000 years. The main indigenous population of this Sahelian region were the Yonyonse, who remained for thousands of years until they were displaced by the Mossi people of what is now Ghana only a thousand years ago. The Mossi established several kingdoms; the first, Tenkodogo, was founded in 1120 and ruled by Naaba. The Dogon, who'd inhabited areas in the north, left between the 15th and 16h centuries. Two more Mossi Kingdoms followed and dominated the area for about 800 years until 1896 when France invaded and established a colonial occupation. Upper Volta, as it was then known, gained independence from the French in 1960. As is the case with most post-Colonial countries, the years since have been dominated by dictatorships, wars and coups.
Yet despite being plagued by poverty, unemployment and strife, Burkina Faso inarguably has one of West Africa's most vibrant cultures. Literature, primarily transmitted orally until collected in the 1930s, has long been a central part of Burkina Faso's culture. A strong theater tradition owing to both Burkinabé traditions and French influences has also been a major aspect of Burkinabé's cultural life. With over 60 ethnic groups, no one sort of music has yet dominated Burkina Faso's musical scene, although American and European pop are the most popular. Since 1969, Burkina Faso has been one of, if not the, dominant powers in Africa's film industry.
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Malians outside a cinema
Culturally, however, it's quite rich. Like its West African neighbors, it's also highly diverse. Most of its people are Bamana. There are also large populations of Soninke, Khassonke and Malink are all Mandé. There are smaller numbers of Peul, Voltaic, Songhai, Taureg, Bozo, Dogon, and Moor. Altogether, more than 40 languages are spoken.
During the Colonial era, cinematic images of Africa and its people were entirely the work of Western filmmakers. The Tarzan movies, African Queen, King Solomon's Mines and others were usually filmed on soundstages half a world away from Africa and made little to no effort toward authenticity, instead trading in exoticism aimed primarily at exploiting Western tastes.
Senegal gained its independence from France in 1960. Like most West African countries, Senegal is highly diverse. The Wolof, Peul, Halpulaaren, Serer, Lebou, Jola, Mandinka, Moors, Soninke and Bassari are all long established in the country. There are also substantial populations of French, Mauritanians, Lebanese and Vietnamese. Three years after independence, the first Senegalese film was made by Ousmane Sembene titled L'empire sonhrai, which would set the standards for a uniquely African cinematic language that would establish Senegal as the capital of African Cinema.
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