Burkina Faso couple - Image by US Mission to the United Nations Agencies in Rome

Burkina Faso couple - Image by US Mission to the United Nations Agencies in Rome


My dear readers, Burkina Faso is a small and land-locked country in Africa having the latest population figures of just over 17.3 million. Although, Burkina Faso is a declared Secular state, yet majority of the people are Muslims and out of the remaining, approximately 24 percent of the population maintains traditional indigenous beliefs.  Christians are also living in significant numbers in this poor African state. The country is divided into 13 administrative regions.  Burkina Faso has tropical climate and have harsh and hot climate most of the year.  People are called as Burkinabe.  There are some ethnic groups as well in Burkina Faso, out of them, two are considerable; the Voltaic and the Mande (whose common language is Dioula).

Traditional dress of Burkina Faso, which is modest and fine in general is being promoted today at national level - Image by Diogène1
Traditional dress of Burkina Faso, which is modest and fine in general is being promoted today at national level – Image by Diogène1

It is very important to note a popular saying in Burkina Faso that “50% are Muslim, 50% are Christian, and 100% are animist”. This shows the wide level of acceptance of the religions amongst each other. Muslims and Christians also value ancient animist rites. With this small background, let’s come to the topic i-e, traditional dress of Burkina Faso which is modest and fine in general. It means that usually people of Burkina Faso prefer to wear loose fitting garments due to the brutal sun and also reflecting the domination of Islam in the country. There general clothing behavior is being well-dressed and somehow to present themselves with modish and elegant appearance.

An typical Burkina Faso girl in traditional outfits. Image by Adam Jones, Ph.D. - Global Photo Archive
An typical Burkina Faso girl in traditional outfits. Image by Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive

Burkinabe are genuinely inclined towards neat and clean clothing and poverty hasn’t put any hindrance in this attitude. Although their way of life is very simple but still they are more than happy with their cultural clothing. As far as their traditional dress is concerned; the influences of Arabic, European and indigenous clothing patterns are prominent on this article. People are seen with the mixed ways of clothing whether in men, women, young or children. There are differences in the clothes of the people belonging to different religions and ethnicities. Almost there are some significant distinctions in the textiles of all ethnic group and community. We’ll try to mention the key features of the traditional dress of Burkina Faso as below.

The women of Burkina Faso - Image by Rita Willaert 2
The women of Burkina Faso – Image by Rita Willaert 2

The women of Burkina Faso traditionally wear an outfit consisting of four pieces clothe in a matching print. The wrapped skirt is known as pagne over which they wear a loose fitting top and normally cover their heads by a head kerchief. There is also a second wrapper which is folded around the waist, particularly by the married Burkinabe women which is used to carry babies on the back. It is not essential for the young girls to wear the conventional styled blouse, instead they prefer to wear T-shirts with a smaller head-covering. T-shirts usage is very common and during work almost all women prefer wearing the t-shirts. On special occasions, the tailored blouses are worn having colorful and magnificent patterns and markings. Their dresses are also adorned with fabric rosettes, ruffles and lace.

Traditionally, there are two kinds of handcrafted textiles. Dan fani (cotton textile) and tuntun fani in Burkina Faso - Photo by Rita Willaert
Traditionally, there are two kinds of handcrafted textiles. Dan fani (cotton textile) and tuntun fani in Burkina Faso – Photo by Rita Willaert

It is pertinent to mention that traditionally, there are two kinds of handcrafted textiles. Dan fani (cotton textile) and tuntun fani (type of textile which is the mixing of cotton and silk). In the local language fani means tissue. Dan is to weave and each ethnic group has its own way of dan fani and tuntun fani.

A Burkina Faso farmer collecting fruits - Image by CIFOR
A Burkina Faso farmer collecting fruits – Image by CIFOR

Burkinabe men are usually seen in the western clothes like jeans and t-shirts as casual wear and in the formal or official wear, they can also be seen wearing fine suits as well. The trousers are normally tailored and a short or long-sleeved buttoned up jacket worn as a top. These suits are made with bright printed fabrics or the traditional pagne cloth.

Traditional drumer from Burkina Faso - Image by Dietmar Temps
Traditional drumer from Burkina Faso – Image by Dietmar Temps

Men from Burkina Faso sometimes wear the long tunics over the drawstring pants. This tunic is generally collarless and has a breast pocket on one side. Usually these tunics are white in colors but you’ll also see the men wearing the tunics embellished with colorful patterns and fabrics. Small white or pill-boxed hats are also a considerable item in men’s clothing.

The people of Burkina Faso use the conventional masks and stunning dancing costumes to please their gods and spirits. Photo by CIFOR
The people of Burkina Faso use the conventional masks and stunning dancing costumes to please their gods and spirits. Photo by CIFOR

The costumes worn by the indigenous people of Burkina Faso, especially during their rites are also worth seen. They use the conventional masks and stunning dancing costumes to please their gods and spirits. Native dancers are formally dressed up in gorgeous way to obtain the blessings from the spirits.

Burkinabe girls - Image by kcadpchair
Burkinabe girls – Image by kcadpchair

Traditional dress of Burkina Faso, which is modest and fine in general is being promoted today at national level by the government by organizing different events and festivals. There is also an annual solidarity month during which the clothes are distributed among the poor people and families by the government and many non-governmental organizations. The traditional and local way of handcrafted textile is also being uplifted by engaging the people related to this field not only in urban but also in rural areas.

A wrapper which is folded around the waist, particularly by the married Burkinabe women which is used to carry babies on the back. Image by Gates FoundationA wrapper which is folded around the waist, particularly by the married Burkinabe women which is used to carry babies on the back. Image by Gates Foundation
A wrapper which is folded around the waist, particularly by the married Burkinabe women which is used to carry babies on the back. Image by Gates Foundation

For more interesting posts with the same subject on the Lovely Planet Website, please click the following links;

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