The Tata in Togo, February 2023

Tata Traditional Houses

The final chapter of this journey is set in northern Togo – a small country on the West African coast sandwiched between Ghana & Benin. While many West Africans live in big cities attracted by the prospect of jobs, a significant number still live a more traditional lifestyle in small villages. I visited the communities of the Tamberma tribe who live in unique mud castles.
The architecture was an innovation in the 1700s to provide better security for families as tribal warfare and slave raiding was rife. The castles or ‘Tata’ as they are known are double storey and completely enclosed with small portholes to enable arrows to be shot from the inside at would-be attackers. The house design is split into kitchen and animal lodging on the ground level and an upper terrace with sleeping chambers and granary silos.
The adobe construction is rendered with a paste of cowdung and shea butter and then the walls etched with geometric designs. The upper terrace rooms and silos are topped with  thatched cones – functional yet giving an appearance of grand turrets. The buildings are simply beautiful.
Each family will usually tend their own plot of land to grow corn, sorghum with small animal holdings and the villages are surrounded by mango and cashew trees. The landscape is unmistakably African though- dotted with towering baobab trees.
Although these villagers have very little money they get most of what they need from the land with extra provisions bought and sold at the local market. As many people in first world countries look towards more sustainable ways of living and some are turning to subsistence lifestyles perhaps the answer can already be found in the past?
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