When you are on the road between Gaoua to Banfora than you should pay a one hour stop at the ruins of Loropeni. The ruins can be dated back to the 11th century, the ruins belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009, it was for Burkina Faso the first listed site.
On the area you will find impressive upto 10m high walls, remains of a former fortress, built by most probably the Kulango's or Loron's to protect the trans-sahara trade . Parts of it are stupendously good preserved. A bigger part of the interiors are still covered. The bricks, consisting of ironstone, are stapled by a mixture of mud, straw, shea-butter and honey.
While in the region, have also a visit to the close-by "Village of Obire and the Sanctuaire de Roi Gan"
If you like to see and to hear something about the Gan kings, than you have to come to Obiré.
27 rectangular sanctuaries, restored by 'white men' can be marveled and when you are lucky, his majesty King Gan the 29th will guide you through personally . We were not that lucky, we had to be satisfied with one of his wives, but to our fullest satisfaction. Unfortunately, we could not get the names of the ancient highnesses as they were simply forgotten by the Gan's.
Luckily, King Gan the 29th invited us for an audience underneath the big village square tree. We introduced ourselves, exchanged greetings and talked about this and that and learned that the King like to visit Europe and looked into our eyes - he needs a invitation letter :)
After we exchanged our name cards we were invited for a bowl millet beer.
A interesting preserved ancient site, a interesting kingdom, a interesting King - nice to have seen it !
While in the region, have also a visit to the close-by "Mysterious Ruins of Loropeni"
On almost every market artisanal baskets are offered. How they are produced, you can see watch in Houli, close to Gaoua. Lobi women waiting for you the show you the technics and of course they like you to buy some as a souvenir directly from the origin.
Perfect craftsmanship and worthwhile to see it's development.
While you are there, take the also the opportunity to visit the closed-by Carver of Tambeli and the Diviner of Kampti
If you are visiting Gaoua, than it is worth to do a half day trip to the close-by village of Kampti.
And if you are not fearful, pay a visit to the famous diviner of Kampti. Around and inside his house you can see a lot of Fetish statures, they are still subject to practice the fetish cult to preserve the traditional animism. Evidence are the remains of the sacrifice, i.e. the blood of chickens and millet gruel. You will dream of in the next nights ;)
On your way back to Gaoua you should not miss to stop at the Fetish figure scarver of Tampeli at the right hand side of the N 12 and a little bit more down the road you can watch the basket making women of Houli
While your stay in Gaoua, also a further well worth seeing is how and where the wooden Fetish figures are made. One of such places is Tambeli. There you can watch the carver at his work. Don't expect high valuable arts, but a solid craftsmanship.
The carver is happy to sell you his artisan works of art at reasonable prices. He has statues in many sizes - also one fitting into your suitcase
While you are out there, don't miss to visit the Basket making Lobi women in Houli and the Diviner of Kampti
The Lobi houses or dwellings are marked as large rectangular or polygonal compounds. The mud-bricked outside walls are washed with mud with tiny windows and a small entrance. The interior consist of different rooms, like the kitchen, a storage room, a room for the fetish statues, room for the animals and the sleeping rooms for the kids and one room for the second (etc.) wife. From outer a ladder from notched branches leading up to the roof.
The roof is like a terrace and accommodates in most cases the rectangular dormitory for the chief - the master over all - the property, the animals, the kids and the wives.
We managed to pay the guide some money and depart with another group who had invited us to join them for the ride back into town. Along the way, the driver took us to a small stream where a couple of Lobi women panned for gold. We were asked not to take photos of these women working, not because they worked bare breasted and in shorts, but because they didn't want their claim to be taken by others. The women were very animated by our visit and explained with enthusiams through the guide that after all the household chores and cooking were done, they were allowed by their husbands to work several more hours panning for gold. Whatever the gold specks they found they could keep for themselves.
The European/American Aid agencies have done a wonderful job of reaching out and placing fresh water wells in many villages. These are hand operated, in this case with something resembling a bicycle, and produce healthy bacteria free water from the earth. As a consequence, the attitude among the Lobi and other tribes toward Americans and Europeans is quite good. Seeing my curiousity, my guide and his friend were quite to show how it worked. The cleaning of hand-me-down garments from the USA and Europe are but one of many uses encouraged by the ready supply of water.
After browsing around the mud structures alone, a various family members showed various degrees of interest in my visit. They were not engaged in any particular activities except entertaining the children. The family consisted of an older mother with several daughters and sisters, who themselves had children. The men were gone for the day, except one young man who appeared very serious when he appeared. I became concerned that my visit was an intrusion, but then despite the seriousness in his look, he became interested in the camera and in showing me around. A young woman who appeared to be his sister also became interested in the camera, but I had a difficult time extracting smiles from either of them in their portraits. But, I somehow learned from them and an older woman that I was indeed welcome. The older children and women were more fully dressed than in the first household I had visited, but their again their clothes were worn factory produced garments that had either been purchased in town or donated to them. Thus, I saw no traditional clothing and would presume that traditionally at least they would wear very little if anything in this hot dry climate. In the photos, notice the scar on the cheek which is a Lobi tribal mark.
The Lobi homes were distributed throughout a small valley. On one corner of the valley was the village headman, or king, who lived a lifestyle much improved over those whom he ruled. Because there was another small group of tourists, we talked for only a moment to obtain permission for futher visits around the valley. As the guide settled himself down to singing songs to himself and then entertaining a child, I managed to visit several sisters who also had a number of children. Their homes were more numerous than in the first household I had visited and in better states of repair. The purposes to served by the structures shown here are numerous, including grain storage and basic shelter from the sun and rain. The inhabitants were an extended family that shared some resemblance and overall appeared slightly better dressed and fed than the more outlying household that I had visited first.
My pesty Lobi young man finally persuaded me to rent out a couple scooters. After some delay, we proceeded out of town and up into a hilly area, stopping at various villages. The villagers were considerate, considering the inept introductions made by our guide. At one point, after we had parked the scooters, the guide rush ahead, and so I had the chance to ditch him for a visit to a particular household minus his interference. Two women were watching over a large number of children in a very simple, many would say impoverished, lifestyle. The homes were simple mud brick in need of repair. Younger children were completely naked, and some of the older boys and girls wore very worn T-shirts that appeared to be from some clothing donation program. Nobody wore shoes or sandals of any kind. One woman, who greeted me and then relaxed to breast feed a child, wore a simple but brightly colored cotton dress, while the other had only a little fabric tied loosely around her waist, nothing covering her breasts. Neither woman appeared in the least concerned about their nakedness until I began to fiddle with my camera. Communication was difficult, and the woman were at first afraid, and then after I showed them some images on the camera LCD screen, they became more interested. I tried to demonstrate how to pose for a portrait shot, but found only limited success with the children who were very excited and silly. The bare breasted woman wasn't shy for my having seen her, but didn't want her portrait taken with breasts showing. I wasn't exactly sure why, but I'm generally interested in facial features anyway and she was a good model for me. I had to leave when the guide came back mad at me for having gone my own way. So, we had only a brief moment for photography, but I stayed long enough to create prints of the pictures taken with the women. Then, through the guide I thanked them, and we left for another home.
As said, there are a wide variety of interesting locally produced foods to observe being sold at the Gaoua marketplace, and the adventuresome will try eating some. Most living in this area should have plenty to eat as I didn't see any real shortage of food.
The Lobi are reclusive and communication difficult even for those that speak French. I tried to capture a few portrait photos of this proud people. Not all those attending the market are Lobi, however, we didn't visit long enough to distinguish between the many tribal groups that live in the area. However, I'm pretty sure that those I picture here are Lobi.
In addition to selling produce, condiments, and meats, the Gaoua open market also has a covered labyrinth of a wide variety of consumer goods, electronics, and clothing, much of which is cheap junk. The more interesting stuff sold are the native products sold by Lobi in the open area under the trees. Much of the fabric sold here is African print cotton fabrics produced by India and China. Most of the manufactured consumer goods are cheap Chinese imports.
The marketplace of Gaoua is in the center of town and can't be missed. We walked around people watching and examining the unusual array of produce and foodstuffs being sold. There are a wide variety of grains and nuts which are completely unfamiliar to those from Europe or the USA, for example, and other produce are familiar ingredients in American Soul Food cuisine, owing to importation of these foods to the Americas by slaves leaving West Africa during the 16th through 19th centuries.