Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Mossi are a Voltaic-speaking people located mostly in the West African county of Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta). Most Mossi live in extended families and earn their living cultivating millet and sorghum. Many also augment their income by participating in local market trading and wage labor. The Mossi are historically noted for their empire which lasted for at least five centuries until conquest by the French at the end of the nineteenth century.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Africa --Western Africa


Burkina Faso

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

In addition to this culture summary, the FA28 Mossi collection consists of 10 documents, all of them in English, covering historical, cultural, and geographical information on the Mossi people from their first conquest by French colonialists in 1896/1897 to the emergence of Burkina Faso as an independent nation in 1961.

The earliest account of pre-colonial Mossi culture and society in the collection was compiled by Mangin, a Catholic missionary (Mangin 1921, no. 2) who worked among the Mossi at the turn of the 20th century. The collection also includes two documents, both of them focusing on political and social structures as observed in 1908-1916, by Tauxier, a French colonial administrator with long association with traditional Mossi leaders (Tauxier 1912, no. 6; Tauxier 1917, no.7).

The remaining seven documents were compiled by two American anthropologists, Elliot P. Skinner and Peter B. Hammond, based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Ouagadougou and other parts of Mossi country mostly in 1954-1957. Skinner's works explore change and continuity in Mossi culture and society by focusing on a variety of themes including religious conversion (Skinner 1958, no. 5), administrative structures and patterns of succession to traditional political offices (Skinner 1960, no. 6), relations with European rulers and political developments prior to independence (Skinner 1964, no. 7), trade and markets (Skinner 1962, no. 8), and urbanization and modernization (Skinner 1974, no. 9). Hammond's works consist of two published articles. The first article discuss social change among a Mossi group who were dislocated from their traditional homeland for permanent resettlement along the Niger valley (Hammond 1959, no. 5), while the second provides an anthropological analysis of Mossi jokes (Hammond 1964, no. 10).

It is evident that most of the documents in the file do not cover the post-independence period (1961- present). An exception to this is Skinner (1974, no. 9) which discusses urbanization and modernization issues based on data and interviews from ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the 1964-1965 and later on in 1966-1969 when the author served as the Ambassador of the United States to Burkina Faso. For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Basega - deceased ancestors - use CULT OF THE DEAD with LINEAGES (613)

Buudu - general term used to refer to one's "clan" and "lineage"- "LINEAGES (613)" with "CLANS" (618)

Dam - beer seller - use "DRINKING ESTABLISHMENTS (275)"

Griots - praise singers - use "MUSIC (533)"

Iodrhe - prostitute - use "ILLEGAL ENTERTAINMENT (548)"

Kikirsi, (pl. kikiriga) - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

Kourita - use "MORTUARY SPECIALISTS (767)"

Kyma - animal soul dwelling inside a deceased) - use "ANIMISM (774)" with "ESCHATOLOGY (775)" and "CULT OF THE DEAD (769)"

Maalam - teacher in traditional Muslim school) - use PRIESTHOOD (793) with "RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS (795)"

Markets - use "COMMERCIAL FACILITIES (366)"


Municipal Council - use "COUNCILS (623)"

Naba - chiefs, members of traditional nobility class - use "CHIEF EXECUTIVE (643)" with "CLASSES (565)" and "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)"

Naam - force of God which permits individuals to be kings and chiefs) - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)" with "CHIEF EXECUTIVE (643)"

Pugsiure (rewarding a loyal follower with a wife)- use STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554) with ARRANGING A MARRIAGE (584) or GENDER STATUS (562)

Saka - section of a village) - use "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)" with "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)"

Siga - animal soul dwelling inside a living person - use "ANIMISM (774)"

Tengsobadamba - earth priest - use PRIESTHOOD (793)

Wende- use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

Wende nam - God's power - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

Yagenga, or (pl. yagense) - son or grandson of a female lineage member) - use "KIN RELATIONSHIPS (602)" or "LINEAGES (613)"

Zaka, or (pl. Zaghse - residential compound of a household unit) - use HOUSEHOLD (592)

This culture summary is from the article "Mossi," by Gregory A. Finnegan, in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 9, Africa and the Middle East, John Middleton, Amal Rassam, Candice Bradley, and Laurel L. Rose, eds. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall &Co. 1995. Teferi Abate Adem wrote the synopsis and indexing notes in September 2006 and updated the estimate of population from The World Factbook (

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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