2012 World Monuments Watch
From the base of a small hill overlooking the flat, sun-baked earth of the West African savannah, the Cour Royale de Tiébélé lies within circular, walled confines measuring roughly 1.2 hectares (2.9 acres). The complex serves as the official residence of the pè, or community chief. Resplendent designs in black and white embellish the earthen architecture of Tiébélé and reflect the building traditions of the Kassena people who first settled Burkina Faso in the fifteenth century.
Despite the absence of a new leader following the death of the last pè in 2006, regular maintenance of the site by the community has helped preserve this exceptional example of Kassena culture and the traditional skills associated with its preservation. However, Tiébélé faced challenges in sustaining the integrity of its structures by the time it was included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch. These included flooding, erosion, and planning for tourism management. There was interest in developing the site as a cultural tourism destination to generate economic resources for its conservation, but encouraging visitors while protecting local culture and tradition requires a delicate balance. The objectives of inclusion on the Watch were to promote awareness about the site and to build support for its long-term stewardship.
At the Cour Royale de Tiébélé, the community commemorated Watch Day in October 2012 with a ceremony and a contest to design and create traditional Kassena murals on the earthen structures. In addition, local women trained a younger generation in the traditional Kassena designs by restoring the decorated surfaces of one of the compound’s buildings.
Since the Watch
Following the 2012 Watch, local advocates were successful in raising funds for conservation at the Cour Royale de Tiébélé. The Institut du Patrimoine Wallon, a Belgian heritage institution, hosted a group of local women in Belgium and made several missions to the site for analysis and conservation work. Improvements to drainage and land security as well as development of conservation and management plans were carried out at the site. At the end of the two-year Watch cycle, we awarded a Certificate of Exceptional Accomplishment to the Cour Royale de Tiébélé in recognition of these outstanding efforts toward positive change. The certificate was accompanied with a $2,500 award.