Ougadougou

I took a four hour bus drive to the capital, Ougadougou, sitting next to a fascinating linguistics professor from Holland, who comes every year to Burkina and visits the villages just to listen to the different languages. As if learning french wasn't hard enough, every town immerses you in a totally new local dialect. He estimates over a thousand different languages in Africa.

 

This is Ouga's grand mosque; Burkina is still heavily muslim and there are mosques everywhere.

Many of Ouga's streets are lined with tiny stores selling every imaginable commodity. The sidewalks are littered with mini-commerce; people hawking everything from tissues to cotton buds to fluorescent light tubes. Everyone's busy trying to sell something, trying desperately to make some money.

 

 

Burkina has a healthy appetite for the arts -- hosting the annual african film festival. This fellow is stretching goat skin over a djembe drum in an artists colony situated in the heart of town.

Burkina is a bit of a contradiction politically. When I arrived I sensed a stable, responsible political environment that fostered personal and national pride. People talked of the wonderful president Sankara and how he turned the country around in a kennedy-like "what can you do for Burkina" type philosophy. It turns out that the current president was not only Sankara's best friend, but also his murderer. I found myself in a city that awoke almost daily to spirals of black smoke scattered over the cityscape where the students were burning tyres and causing roadblocks. In this picture above you can see the riot police on the right and the street blocked by the remnants of a student protest. The students saw me take this photograph and came running to confiscate my camera, demanding if I was working for the BBC. Apparently they were demonstrating the assassination of a popular journalist. I pleaded ignorance and a desire to explain their cause to americans back home and they seemed satisfied to let me go on my way.

 

You can't take pictures of the presidential palace, even though I really tried to convince this presidential guard to let me snap just a quickie. We joked around for a while, but they were so serious about who I was and what I was doing that their brevity caused me to joke I was with the CIA. Bad idea. Took me 30 minutes to persuade them otherwise, even though they claimed that they too were working for the CIA. Maybe they were.

This is the grave of the popular first president, Captain Thomas Sankara. Behind his grave, lies the bodies of the seven army chiefs assassinated with him that day. These graves are on a messy, deserted patch of land on the edge of town. My guide was nervous and told me to be very quick -- we couldn't be seen hanging around there otherwise there would be trouble for us.

 

Just outside Ouga is a granite sculpture garden. Each year, artists from all over the world come for a festival of carving, just working on the granite boulders where they lie on the ground.

 

 

A huge 3-story statue caught in the warm evening sun

This statue commemorates all the work and money that went into eradicating river blindness in Burkina.