Celebration of national culture in Burkina Faso

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A flag map of Burkina Faso (image: courtesy of GDJ)

A people’s culture is one of their most treasured assets or possession, and it would not be wrong to say that culture represents the soul of a community. Two terms which always make readers and speakers wonder if there is a nuance between them, since semantics posits that they are closely related, are culture and civilization. I am of the view that the former falls within the latter. What I notice generally as a misunderstanding or definition of civilization is the total of all characteristics or features that distinguish a group of people and as such, civilization grows and changes with time, by sharpening itself and demonstrating signs of progress or advancement in a society. Some of the commonest are African civilizations, Roman or Greek civilization of a certain period, the Mongolian civilization, etc. On the other hand, a civilization often dwindles, weakens or becomes moribund. In each of these cases, culture is obviously present, as a constant implicit component. Therefore, it does not make sense to state that a people is “uncivilized” as we often hear, when some people look condescendingly at another group of people. Every human society has a civilization, the only coherent point is that civilizations are different, and one civilization may be more advanced than another one, and even at such a level, one must be careful because comparing civilizations is not an easy task. Differences in world civilizations are among the most beautiful and valuable things on earth.

Culture is, therefore, a component of civilization and it can easily be perceived to be the set of habits, practices or artefacts related to a people. That way, one can posit that art is a part of culture. A general fact is that culture is dear to every human group. They defend their culture vigorously, protect it, and take pride in it. It is unimaginable to think about a people who are not proud of their culture and the excess of pride in one’s culture or, nation or provenance unfortunately leads to negative feelings that often opposes people, creates conflicts or wars; that predisposition is “narcissism”.

In Burkina Faso, a biennial event was put in place in 1983 to celebrate the national culture. The event is called “The National Week of Culture” (SNC) and it brings key elements of culture together, involves a degree of competition at local levels and the winners at that stage make it to the final. That final competition is hosted by the commercial hub of the country in the second largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso. It might help to recall that the “one week long” celebration of Burkinabè culture is one of the offshoots of the 1983 revolution. That revolution birthed a “cultural revolution”, which is marked by efforts aiming to advance and enrich Burkinabè culture while preserving it.

This year’s cultural celebration will run from 27 April to 4 May. In order to include as many cultural “components” as possible, regional contests were organized between October and December 2023. The Burkinabè diasporas in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire participate in the contests. Ms Christiane Sanon, one of the members of the organizing committee, congratulated the local authorities and artists for the joy and interest they showed for the cultural celebration, starting from the regional levels. Regarding statistics, Ms Sanon had this to say: “456 groups of different types of art, 65 artists in plastic craft, and 757 sports persons among others took part in the first round or the regional contests, around the country. Out of these, the best comprised 48 dishes and drinks, 288 wrestlers, 39 archers, 79 literary French works competed for a prize and only one book written in a national language competed for a literature award. This last details denotes the legacy of French assimilation which produced citizens who pride themselves in a culture and language which is not theirs. The saddest thing is that on top of it all, they look down upon their languages and cultures. Let us hope that the radical linguistic policies adopted recently by Mali and Burkina Faso will contribute to deflating or erasing this canker of identity. The supreme status of French language was considerably reduced in those countries recently, and national languages got a higher status in that process.

Some 1,535 artists took part in this year’s event which is the 21st one. The main challenges are insufficient budget, security concerns and others. Mr Betamou Tamini, a member of the organizing committee, pointed out innovations in this year’s feast: A call center was put in place, coupons were carefully secured for the competitors’ meals, traditional music was added to the category of Arts and Literacy, internally displaced children were allowed to compete, a colloquium was organized to ponder the 40 years’ experience of the festival, and a catalogue of images made available. The images are of the main groups competing, the tourist sites, the location of hotels and restaurants in the vicinity. The theme of this year’s event is “Culture, Memory and the Patriotic Determination to Create a new Burkina Faso”. Among the invited countries are Niger – the guest of honor – Mali, Guinea, Brazil, Russia and North Korea. The new allies of Burkina Faso are now known per this list of countries. A radical leftist orientation is certainly at the heart of the country of the incorruptible Man. A thorough analysis would be useful at the end of this cultural feast, which is a laudable example that should be emulated. Africa would benefit from many such cultural celebrations. Africa is still underselling herself and experiencing low self-esteem.

Moussa Traoré is Associate Professor at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

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  1. Culture is what showcases our identities as different people whose to one whole, Africa. This is worth emulating by all countries. I remember Ghana used to celebrate NAFAC as a national cultural festival but it’s been quite a long time ago since the last was held.

    1. 🙏🙏🙏🙏👍 that is meaningful, the African culture feast, so that we ‘ll really know How to keep our culture for ever and distinguish from those who dream for the fail of the entire Africa.

  2. This is the way forward for Africa, cherish your culture. If the respect of national culture is there, then, no African country will entertain the so called “LGBTQ+.
    Kudos to Burkina Faso 🇧🇫 👏

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