Senufo-Tagba of West Africa

illustrated village including buildings and a woman


hut pictograph


Houses are rectangular or square and divided into sleeping rooms and living rooms. They have mud brick walls and straw roofs. The roofs of most houses are angled to keep off the rain. The roof of the head man's house, though, is flat, and the top of the house is used for drying condiments. Everyone in the family helps to make the bricks and build a house. Construction takes less than one week. Houses can last 50 years if they remain clean and occupied.

bricks and straw
Bricks and straw for housebuilding.
man standing on flat roof
The flat roof of a head man's house.

Sleeping and Cooking Houses

Every wife has her own sleeping house and cooking house. Getting a cooking house is a sign the wife is fully accepted into the family. These houses are round and consist of one room filled with utensils, pots, bowls, baskets, food, a grinding stone, and stools for visitors. The cooking is usually done in the cooking house. For special events, when many people are expected, the cooking takes place outside. On these occasions, larger pots and utensils are used and the cooking is done by all the women in the compound together.


Granaries are slender, cylindrical buildings where dry food is stored. Most granaries are accessed from the top. A head man's granary has small steps built into the side of the building that lead to a small door at the top of the wall. Head men's granaries are not torn down, so if there is a small harvest, some of his granaries might be left empty for a season. Granaries built on a stone foundation are considered the safest.

2 geanaries
Granaries on a stone foundation.
one raised granary
The raised granary floor keeps the moisture out and lets the air in.


Another special building in the compound is the shower. It is built into an outside wall and looks like a round cooking house with no roof. It is about neck high. There is no running water in the shower. The villager brings his/her own bucket of water into the building. The soap used in the shower is often homemade.

The small, round structure is a shower.