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Nowhere in (West) Africa

My adventure with traditional Mossi people in Burkina Faso

Join me on my journey into a bewildering and fascinating country near the Sahara. I experienced the life of the Mossi people in rural Burkina Faso and would love to share with you how they live and how they stay connected with their roots while integrating aspects of modern life. What are they proud of and what do they struggle with? What did I struggle with as a European depriving myself from all common things that I’m used to in everyday life? And maybe most importantly: My experiences made me wonder: How can, should or do I and how do we, as a human community, want to live or not?

Quick Intro: How the heck did I end up in 'Burkina ...what'?

I came to Burkina Faso -- a country as unfamiliar as its name to quite a few ears as I noticed -- for the first time in 2006 to participate in a youth exchange programme that I and my colleagues from the youth magazine “Freihafen” in Hamburg had organized by ourselves. Many new experiences, many new faces – one of them was the Burkinabe lady Margo. Even though I liked her, I’d say it was rather love at ‛second’ sight. We became good friends only when I got back to Burkina for an internship at the youth organization “L’oeil des jeunes” (French: The eye of the young people) during my semester holidays just a year later. When I finished my internship and had left Burkina, I moved back to Germany, and after some time I moved to Portugal, and later to India. Margo moved to Belgium, married her Burkinabe boyfriend who was already living in Brussels and in the meanwhile became parents of two cute four and eight years old daughters.

“I wondered if we hadn’t been a little too enthusiastic

Margo and I always stayed in touch. She had visited me in Hamburg and I went to meet her in Belgium. But what about Burkina Faso? “Je reviens”, I come back. These words I said in a convinced manner, as I truly believed in them, when my internship and my stay in Burkina were coming to an end in 2007. We both had – with tears in our eyes – promised to each other that we would meet here again, one day, and reunite in celebration with our future husbands and children. In the meanwhile, though, after I had left, and years had passed, there were times when I wondered if we hadn’t been a little too enthusiastic. Until last year – already eleven years later – when Margo told me she would go again with her family for her “every-two-to-three-years-visit” to her homeland in 2019.

Photo by Jennifer Nausch. All rights reserved.
Returning to a remote beloved place in celebration of a friendship

It was now or never

I knew, it was now or never and I worked quite hard on myself to really commit to this plan one year in advance – a real challenge for someone who has gotten used to “go with the flow”. I felt a visit after 12 years would be even more interesting as so much must have changed. But the nostalgia about Margo’s and my promise was key – returning to a remote beloved place in celebration of a friendship. Without husbands (her husband had duties in Belgium and I have not been married) or no children (at least for me) – but hey, didn’t we come close to our imagined scenario!?

I thought spending time together with Margo's daughters (who are, in a way, my goddaughters) in a country that asks you to bond together would be so special. I wanted to experience Burkina also through their eyes. Belgium born with African roots – how would both of them experience the native place of their mom and dad?

How would my new “I” match with the heat, rhythm, poverty and vivacity of this country?

I was equally curious about myself. How far has my own perspective changed, now being 34 and not 21 anymore? Am I still as excited, flexible and adaptable? Even though I have lived in other countries, I doubted I would be as open as I was with 21. I was even a little bit afraid it might become a very exhausting journey. And yes – this trip has challenged me in all possible ways. I am neither the chameleonlike adaptable person, nor the extraverted girl who doesn’t mind being in the center of attention anymore. I have changed.

How would my new “I” match with the heat, rhythm, poverty and vivacity of this country? And how would the new Burkina relate with the new “me”? How would I manage to spend 15 days out of 4 weeks without basically all that makes me feel comfortable in my everyday life? Without hardly any possibility to retreat and to be alone for some time? Without tap water, shower or a toilet? Without Internet and mobile phone connectivity? Without any of the food I am used to? Without anyone who shares a similar cultural background? Without a language that I speak or at least feel comfortable with? I was ready to find out the answers, to face some unknown truths about myself and to come back with new questions in mind.

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