The Tamberma village,

La Terre des Origines

The Tamberma village,

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These round straw huts are typical of northern Togo, near the border with Benin. Housing is only encountered at the Tamberma tribe (which means skilful mason). They settled in the region four centuries ago from Burkina Faso. The Tamberma, also known under the name of Batammaribo from Togo, were distant descendants of Emperor Mossi, Mogho Naba. We often forget that Black Africa had some very mighty dominions during its Golden Age (between the Xth and XVth centuries).

The surviving tradition, built on political organisation, was not immune to disruption resulting from incessant confrontation with the Western and Islamic civilisations. Some sources have reported a deflection of the Tamberma opposition from Islamic oppression, but imminent famine because of soil depletion is another equally plausible explanation.

Whatever the cause, the uniqueness of their village structure is not only the perfect regularity of the structure, but also in the complete and pervasive coexistence of the living arrangements of the local population and the sacred entity, invisible yet omnipotent. This is very clear on location, notwithstanding all of the culture poles that have evolved since time immemorial in fallow virgin places, where the initial implantation has been maintained, the houses remain inspired by the sacred, palpable, not immediately comfortable but inevitable, and with an undeniable influence to do and think. The home and the immediate family are of paramount importance to the Tamberma. This is also clearly reflected in the floor plan of the houses: a round straw hut, with adjoining bedroom and kitchen areas, located in some sort of turrets, which then runs into a tank, which leads the water to the outside. From the outside the construction looks like a miniature fortress with only one point of access. The design did serve a protection function against external dangers, but it also served as a shelter from the heat. The windowless Tamberma houses were gloomy, but fresh.

The one-way air circulation provides fresh air at night, while also evacuating the smoke. Heat absorption in the walls is also minimal due to the thermal inertia factor of the soil used. The ground floor is the domain of the animals and the spirits of the dead, while the residents live on the first floor, preferably in rooms with access to the terrace.

It is customary to leave rooms backwards to leave any unpleasant surprises behind. Scattered here and there we find earthen cones on the ground, which were used as some kind of naked granaries, while others served as an earthen altar for both the living and the spirits. The southern part of the house is reserved for men, the northern part for women. The largest tekyanto is dedicated to their ancestors.

Extensive excavation work exposed the complex structure of the Tamberma houses, which was first determined by the diurne and nocturnal activities of the population. The artist decided on this architecture style to showcase the refinement, in all of its simplicity, to show the perfect interpretation of the requirements, which are present to the same degree in Dogon buildings. The furniture present here is of an unprecedented multicultural richness, with objects from the Voodoo culture of Benin, the Dahomey culture prior to the conquest of Haiti and the depth of African history relating to the slave trade.

The Tamberma village, in image

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