Stolen art from Burkina Faso


Objects stolen from the National Museum in Ouagadougou

In the years leading up to independence in 1960 the French anthropologist Guy Le Moal assembled an outstanding collection of cultural objects from the many peoples of Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso. These objects were deposited in the IFAN museum in Ouagadougou, where I first saw them in 1970.  In 1974 a Peace Corps Volunteer named Norman Skougstad worked at the museum and made the photographs you see below.  In 1976 I returned to the museum while I was doing PhD dissertation research on the art of the Mossi people. The collection was intact.  I met Guy Le Moal in his village of Kouroumani in 1984.  He was a fine gentleman and a great scholar.  He expressed his concern to me that his former assistant, Toumani Triande, might begin to dispose of the collection, in part because Triande was the head of the Muslim League in Ouagadougou, and so opposed to "haram" art.  In 1985 I again returned to Ouagadougou for more research on the art of the Bwa, Lobi, Nuna, Winiama, Bobo, and other peoples.  Most of the objects collected by Le Moal had disappeared.  During this same period I made the acquaintance of a Winiama carver named Poboye Konate, who told me that he had been paid by the director of the museum to carve copies of the objects.  The copies were placed on display, and the originals disappeared.  Poboye died of HIV/AIDS in about 1987.  The director of the museum, Toumani Triande, has also since passed away.

I post these photos in the hope that collectors or curators will recognize some of them, and that perhaps a few will make their way back to Ouagadougou so that the people of that wonderful country may enjoy them.  I hope that at least someone might notify me so that we can document their current locations and owners and request new photographs of them for research purposes.

Christopher Roy, Professor, The University of Iowa



Objects from Burkina Faso

African Art Videos


Review of Art and Life in Africa DVDs

Videos of Art and Life in Africa
by Christopher D. Roy, The University of Iowa

These are high-quality digital videos, filmed in rural villages in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Niger since 2001. They are the work of Professor Christopher D. Roy (me), University of Iowa, who has been doing research in West Africa since 1970 (my university website is Over 2000 copies have been sold to very happy and satisfied customers. Each DVD comes professionally produced and packaged, and mailed directly to you by CreateSpace, an on-demand video company in Santa Cruz, CA. I narrate each video, and I describe the activity, provide the names and backgrounds of the people in the video, and discuss techniques, performances, and the lives of the people in detail. These DVDs are especially useful to those who collect African art, who teach African art history or anthropology, or to students who are interested in doing research to understand better how Africans live and create art.

All DVDs $24.95 except high definition
Receive a $4.00 discount if you order from this website.
Use discount code AKJRVC7W when you place your order below.

These are sample trailers: go to the title you are interested in to see the trailer for that film.

African Art in Performance Art as Verb in Africa African Pottery Techniques Death of An African King African Weaving

Videos of African Peoples

A Day in the Life of a Village in Africa The Death of an African King A Year in the Life of an African Family: The Bamogo Family of Burkina Faso
Fulani: Art and Life of a Nomadic People (also available on Blu-Ray) Birds of the Wilderness: The Beauty Competition of the Wodaabe People of Niger (also available on Blu-Ray)

Iron Village: The Bamogo Smith Clan in the Village of Dablo


Videos of Masks in Performance

African Art in Motion: The Masks of the Nuna People of Burkina Faso
African Art in Performance: The Winiama Masks of the Village of Ouri (also available on Blu-Ray)
Art as a Verb in Africa: The Masks of the Bwa Village of Boni
Masks of Leaves and Wood: The Bwa People of Burkina Faso
African Masks: Burkina Faso

Coming of Age in Africa: Initiation in the Bwa Village of Dossi

African Art as Theater: The Bwa Masks of the Gnoumou Family of Boni (also available on Blu-Ray)
Speaking With God: A Mossi Baga Diviner in Burkina Faso


Videos of African Techniques

African Pottery Techniques African Weaving: Spinning, Strip Weaving in Burkina, Kente in Ghana Drums of Africa:Talking Drums of Techiman
From Iron Ore to Iron Hoe: Smelting Iron in Africa Arts of Ghana: Brass Casting, Pottery, Adinkra, Kente, Stool Carving

African Art Techniques: Wood, Cloth, Metal, Clay

African Sculpture: Carving a Crocodile Mask, Shaping a Mask of Leaves Brewing Millet Beer in Africa  

High-Definition "Blu-Ray" videos of art in Africa

Four videos are available on Blu-Ray: "Fulani: Art and Life of a Nomadic People," "Birds of the Wilderness: The Beauty Competition of the Wodaabe People of Niger," "African Art in Performance: The Winiama Masks of the Village of Ouri," "African Art as Theater: The Bwa Masks of the Gnoumou Family of Boni." Createspace cannot produce these on-demand yet, so I make them myself. The packaging is not as fancy, but the images are astonishingly detailed, large, and vivid. They are $30.00 each and must be purchased directly from me. Each is individually printed, packaged, and mailed by me. These work ONLY on a Blu-Ray DVD player. E-mail me at

Statement by the producer: I make these videos in the course of my research in West Africa. I travel with a driver and my friend and cameraman Abdoulaye Bamogo, or his uncle Jacob, through countries I have been visiting since 1970. I do not travel with a film crew, so I do not have a sound pole and separate audio recorder, nor do I have any of the other luxuries the videographers from National Geographic enjoy. If I traveled with a crew these videos would cost $249.50 each, instead of $24.95. I do not use a script, but I film what I see, as it happens, without any interference from me. Nothing is staged, no Africans are told how to act or what to wear. If an artist is stamping adinkra patterns on cloth next to a busy highway in Kumasi, you will hear the sound of passing traffic. I take pride in being able to find spectacular, authentic, traditional African art that is used or made in the same ways it has been for decades. I enjoy mask performances in Burkina Faso, royal funerals in Ghana, and beauty competitions in Niger. I am fascinated by potters in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Nigeria. I have been interested in African technology ever since I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ouagadougou from 1970-72, at the National Art Center. I enjoy seeing the innovative ways Africans make art.

I believe strongly that the improvements in video technology in the past decade make it possible for scholars to make excellent videos that are very useful in their own classes, and are of interest to teachers, collectors, and students. For many years we were forced to depend on independent film makers or National Geographic to create films and videos we could use in our classes. These often did not present the ideas we wanted to communicate to our students. 16 mm. was excellent, but very expensive, you had to have a separate sound system and, if you wanted to do it right, a full camera crew. In the mid-1970s I had a Kodak super-8 film camera with sound that was useful but very limited, especially because the Kodak film cassettes were only eight minutes long. Then I had a VHS-C video camera, better quality, but still vastly inferior to 16 mm. film. Now we have digital video, and even high-definition digital. The quality of image and sound is outstanding, it is possible for a young scholar or a teacher to carry a small camera and make excellent images, and to do all the post-production editing on a personal computer. A high-quality professional camera is only marginally more expensive, still very portable, and the results are excellent.

I also enjoy video footage my colleagues Abdoulaye Bamogo and Jacob Bamogo have made for me in Africa while I am at home in Iowa. Since 2001 I have left very good digital video cameras in Burkina for the Bamogos to use, and for Yacouba Bonde to use in Boni. If I am not there, they film on their own and mail me the tapes. I pay them very well indeed. I have trained them carefully, and they have learned very quickly. They are skilled at getting permission to film from people who might be reluctant were I there, and they are skilled with cameras. They are African, so they film what they find interesting, and they ask questions that they feel are important. I hope that to some extent this gives my videos an African voice.

Finally, as you watch these videos, you will be seeing performances that took place a month ago, a year ago, or at the earliest in 2001. These videos make it abundantly clear that "Contemporary African Art" includes the superb masks and figures, music, pottery, textiles, and other media that we have enjoyed for decades, and which you see in my videos. Art is still very much alive and important in the lives of many Africans, and it is still very possible for scholars, as well as casual visitors to Africa, to see and enjoy traditional art in the communities for which it was created.


"Tout homme doit liberer son genie createur." Thomas Sankara, 1986

African Art in Performance

From Iron Ore to Iron Hoe

Art as Verb in Africa

A Day in the Liife of a Village in Africa

Masks of Leaves and Wood

Birds of the Wilderness