Atelier de Formation et de Promotion des Artisans

In 1996, Ten Thousand Villages began purchasing handmade crafts from artisans in Burkina Faso, with the assistance and coordination of master artisan Sissao Hamidou. In the years following, MCC Burkina Faso, a relief, development and peace agency of the North American Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches, played a central role in purchases from these artisans by transferring payments and assisting the group.


By 2013, the artisan group organized itself into a more formal entity called “Atelier de Formation et de Promotion des Artisans.” Mr. Hamidou continues to manage Ten Thousand Villages’ orders for this group and the artisans are the same individuals we have been purchasing from for over a decade. With the group’s advances, Ten Thousand Villages began writing orders directly to this association.


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The Land of Upright Men, Land of the Incorruptible

Burkina Faso ranks 159 out of 162 countries on the United Nations Development Program scale, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. Just over 26 percent of the population is literate; 45 percent live below the poverty line. Despite a lack of material resources, the people of Burkina Faso boast rich traditional crafts and history. Burkina Faso, which means “the land of upright men, land of the incorruptible,” demonstrates the strong heritage they claim.



Sere Seydou, an artisan working with Le Village Artisanal de Ouagadougou in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, creates elaborate bird masks. As a first step, Seydoug goes out into the countryside and cuts the “white wood” for the masks. He allows it to dry for two weeks and then hand carves the mask in his village, outside of Ouagadougou. Then he transports the masks to Le Village Artisanal de Ouagadougou where he paints the mask traditional colors of black, red and white. First, he creates the black paint by mixing ashes from the oven wall with potassium and water. Then he paints the entire mask to protect the wood. Next, he makes the red paint by crushing red rock and mixing water and glue.



To make the white paint he burns and then crushes cow bones and mixes them with chalk and a little glue. He sets the colors by applying a mixture of potassium and soap.



Traditional regulations govern how and where the bird mask is made. The rough cut of wood must take place outside of Ouagadougou. The carving can only happen in a specific village outside of Ouagadougou and the painting can only happen in Ouagadougou.

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