The Tamberma Valley is in northern Togo, about 80km north of Kara and close to the border with Benin. It is a beautiful landscape of grassland and small trees, scattered with huge ancient baobab trees, where the Batammariba people settled centuries ago.
I had the privilege of visiting the area and being shown round some of the distinctive two-story mud houses, each built in the style of a small fortress. It was a long drive to get there on a blisteringly hot day, but well worth the experience.
Typically, the ground floor of each house has an area for cattle to sleep with the head of the household, a place for chickens to roost and a small cooking area. Upstairs, there are small rooms for women and children to sleep in. A storage granaries with two or three sections inside for corn and beans etc and flat areas for drying food.
I was shown around several of these houses by a young lady who had grown up in the area. Of particular interest were the fetish symbols, such as clay shapes outside the houses and animal skulls hung up inside. My guide also showed me how to get into the small hole to one of the children’s bedrooms by sliding in feet first. She slid in gracefully, but I was somewhat less elegant and my guide had to pull my feet in as I was getting stuck!
If you have the chance to visit any traditional houses in West Africa, I would recommend that you remember three things:
This is someone’s home, their place of comfort and security, and it is not a museum. So treat it with the same respect as you would wish visitors to treat your own house.
Greet the owner of the house and ask permission before you take any photos.
You are almost certainly richer than the householder will ever be, so I am sure they would appreciate a small gift or a small amount of money before you leave.