Website Category: Traditional Cultural Landscapes
Area: 500 km2
Criteria: (v) interaction with the environment (vi) association with belief system
Location and Values: The Koutammakou cultural landscape covers the traditional area of the Batammariba people along the border with Benin in north-eastern Togo, West Africa. The mud-built ‘tower houses’ (or ‘Takienta’) and village architecture of the Batammariba people are a remarkable, and unique adaptation to the particular attributes of the local environment. Visually striking, they are primarily a practical manifestation of these people’s close association with nature.
Slideshow of Koutammakou: The slideshow includes photos of several homesteads, each a complex of rooms, often linked via a ground-floor enclosed living space, with an upper level floor on the flat roof. The layout and plan of one such homestead, still under construction, can be seen from the roof of a neighbouring house. At the main entrance to each homestead there may be one or more conical structures which are shrines to local deities. Outside each homestead there is often an open structure providing shade, where meetings can be held. Granaries can be seen, held off the ground on cylindrical mud towers and often integrated into the homestead structure, each with a conical thatched roof. As seen in several photos, access to the granaries and the roof-top living spaces is generally provided by a wooden Y-shaped ladder, the stem of which is notched to provide a foothold.
Slideshow of Koutammakou:
Comments and Impressions: The tower houses of the Batammariba are really quite remarkable! When I visited the area in the late 1990s (before the area was listed as a world heritage site), most of the houses were still constructed using traditional methods, but the introduction of iron sheets and other modern materials will inevitably threaten the long-term viability of the traditional structures, as it has elsewhere.
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of the Koutammakou area on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing other world heritage sites around Africa. The imagery for this area is not very good, but the arrangement of homesteads can be seen, as well as general attributes of the environment in which the Batammariba live.
Other Links: Official UNESCO Site Details