Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sounds Like…Geisha!

January 31, 2013


I grew up in Los Angeles, where the oldest standing building, the Sanchez Adobe, reportedly dates back to the early 1790’s. Therefore I am astonished on a daily basis, by the structures I see here in Bremen, Germany. Some of the oldest date back to the 11th century—really. Their Gothic and Renaissance facades seem to somehow confer and convey the weight of historical fact by their stubborn persistence. So it was with that particularly American, grew-up-with-Disneyland, naïve ability and desire to accept a good fairy-tale, that I experienced my first of many on-going, trans-cultural misunderstandings.

The center of town is the Marktplatz, the main market place, ringed with buildings that look so impossibly old; they appear to me as made-for-the-movies, scenic facades. Set into the cobblestones on the north side of the 13th century Cathedral St. Petri, is a 30 x 30 cm dark granite plaque, etched with a cross. On one of my first “walking tours” into the Marktplatz, my father-in-law regaled me with a bit of “graveyard glee,” like one pointing with morbid fascination to a house haunted by angry, murdered ghosts, “This marks the spot where the infamous Geisha Gottfreid was hanged!” He said with a glint in his eyes.

He went on to tell me that although he never did it himself, people often spit on the stone cross. I was horrified. Why would people in the 21st century spit on the spot that marked the hanging of a Geisha—how absolutely awful!

“When was that hanging, and why was she hanged?” I asked him, my mind racing with images of a beautiful Japanese Geisha swinging from the gallows.

“Oh, she was a serial killer who murdered 15 people, most of them her family, before finally being publicly executed herself in 1831,” he said. “She was the last person to be publicly executed in the city.”

I still do not understand the cathartic act of spitting, but it opened up a doorway in my mind—Hmmm, I didn’t know that the Japanese were here in Bremen in the 1800’s. Of course, I was later to find out that she was not exactly Japanese, she was German, and her name was spelled Gesche, sounds like Geisha. Oops.

But I was soon to be surprised by an exhibition in one of the Bremen’s many museums, The Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum titled; Japan und der Westen, Japan and the West. Walking through the exhibition, full of beautiful Japanese woodblock prints depicting the life and the seaports of Germany, I again found myself confronted with the same thoughts about the history of Japanese-German relationships. Later, while touring some of the many fairy-tale castles in Germany, I was struck by the large number of Japanese tourists, pouring out of busses, beside themselves with joy, while standing in front of the real life edifices. Why are they so fascinated by German culture? How long has this been going on?

The actual history of that relationship dates back to the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868) when Germans arrived in Japan to work for the Dutch East India Company. From that point forward, the relationship was to take a decidedly on- again-off again course. Things went O.K. for a while but between 1635 -1853, the Tokugawa shogunate enforced a policy which it called kaikin. The policy prohibited foreign contact with most outside countries, however the Netherlands was one of three countries with who trade remained open. Despite the national seclusion policy, which the emperor had put into place, a German physician, Philipp Franz von Siebold was allowed to travel freely throughout Japan in the 1820’s. Throughout his journey, he wrote one of the first Western accounts of life in Japan, “Nippon: Archive for The Description of Japan.”

Hot and Cold
However, the relationship ran hot and cold over the ensuing century. In 1861, Prussia and Japan signed a treaty to facilitate goodwill and commerce, and in the ensuing years diplomatic missions moved freely back and forth between the two countries, though the “unequal treaties” were later revised during the Meiji period (1868-1912). During this time many Germans went to Japan as advisors to the new government, and were known as “oyatoi gaikokujin,” hired foreigners. The German industrial company Siemens opened an office in Tokyo in 1887, to enable Japan to enter the industrialized world. It helped them set up their first hydro-electric power facility, supplied power generators to copper mines, and gave them all the railway equipment for an electric railway system. Getting warmer.

Then, things cooled off at the end of the 19th century, as competition between Europe and Japan grew rapidly over territory in China. Japan grew further estranged when Germany decided to support Russia during the Russian-Japanese War of 1904. As a result of the Japanese victory over Russia, Germany became fearful of Japan’s growing power as the leader of a United Asia, prompting Wilhelm II’s colorful coinage of the term “Yellow Peril.” Nice. Definitely cold.

WWI ushered in a new arctic front between the two countries when the British asked Japan for help in destroying the ships the German Navy had stationed in Chinese waters. Japan was keenly interested in reducing European colonial power in South-East Asia, and decided to take the opportunity to declare war on the German Empire. In 1914, acting as an ally of Britain, Japan engaged in battle with the Germans in the Chinese port of Tsingtao. This eventually led to Germany having to relinquish its Southeast Asian territories to Japan. Very cold.

In the aftermath of WWI economic pressures grew in both countries and somehow, through diplomatic efforts, relations were strengthened once again. A re-establishment of cultural alliances developed through the founding of several cross-cultural societies beginning in 1926, and a Japanese-German Research Institute was created in 1934. With the rise in militarism in both countries throughout the 1930s, the relationship grew warmer still, as Germany signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, or the Anti-Communist pact with the Empire of Japan in 1936. The following year, Italy joined the pact, creating the historical alliance known as the Axis Powers. In a chilling gesture, Adolph Hitler even bequeathed the title Honorary Aryans on the entire populations of Japan, which was primarily politically motivated, but creepily, also served to acknowledge their racial “purity.” He sent a boatload of Hitler youth to Japan in 1938 for a seven-month friendship tour. Uncomfortably hot.

This was unquestionably a fragile alliance, and what might be seen as a shifting coalition of political/economic interests. In the Journal of Japanese Studies Mark R. Peattie wrote,”…the Tokyo-Berlin connection, from its beginnings, faced unprecedented difficulties: national selfishness; enormous distance; radically different values, culture, languages, and political institutions…”

Beer, Cameras, and Industry
As in all relationships, there are the good and bad, the light and the dark and sometimes just the sheer tenacity to hold on. Despite the differences, and though often at odds with each other, these two enterprising countries have found ways to focus on a number of rewarding and fruitful collaborations.

Take Beer for example. It is by far, hands down, the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan and Germany. Both countries export their brews around the world with great success. In the 17th century the Dutch opened up a beer hall, The Holland Merchant House, in Japan for sailors working their trade route between the two countries. It was obviously a big success; so much so that when early pioneers in Japan found Hops on Hokkaido, they took action! In August 1875, an intrepid young man named Seibei Nakagawa, directed the construction of the first beer factory, having just earned his Beer Brewery Engineering License in Germany. It opened in Japan in 1876 under its symbol, the North Star and is now known worldwide as Sapporo.

In 2004 a classically trained brewer from Bavaria and his Japanese wife, opened a brewery at the base of Mt Fuji. He adheres to the strict German purity laws of brewing, uses the fresh water from a nearby stream, and actually imports his malt from Bavaria. There is even a Bavarian Representative Office in Tokyo, which celebrates Beerfestival (Oktoberfest) in the Bavarian tradition, with Bavarian beer, culinary specialties, and music. This is definitely a successful/hot aspect of Japanese and German unity!


Apparently, once Japan had created a thriving beer industry, other large German companies began to feel right at home. Although Siemens had its first contact with Japan in 1861, when a delegation presented the Edo government with a telegraph developed by Werner von Siemens, it was not until 1887 that it opened up it’s first office in Tokyo. This relationship continues today in a very special way. Beginning this year Siemens is slated to begin supplying northern Japan with 23 wind turbines, part of a power project designed to help Japan move away from nuclear power to more renewable energy in the wake of the terrible Fukushima disaster. Definitely cool, I mean Hot!

Japanese companies apparently feel right at home in Bavaria as well, where hundreds of companies have set up subsidiaries, making it one of the largest Japanese communities in Germany. However the largest Japanese community in Germany— actually in Europe—is in Düsseldorf. Beginning in the 1950s, Japan was on the lookout for raw manufacturing materials such as steel and chemical products. They found them in Germany, in the Ruhr region, resulting in the growth of the Japanese community in the city of Düsseldorf. The Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf currently offers a Department of Japanese Studies.

The industrial giant now known as the ThyssenKrupp Group, also has long-standing ties to Japan. In 1894 two Princes from Japan visited Krupp’s steel plants in Essen, Germany, launching a spate of reciprocal visits and a successful strengthening of business relationships. Japan received: rails, locomotives, coking plants and rolling mills, all made by predecessor companies of today’s ThyssenKrupp Group.

Currently ThyssenKrupp Group supplies Japanese customers with a wide variety of industrial products such as; components for the Japanese auto industry, parts for large wind turbines, engineering of production plants and recycling centers.

Of course it would be impossible not to mention the bond of photography shared by Japan and Germany, although in the beginning the technology to develop cameras was not exactly a mutually agreed-upon collaboration. In 1932-33, Leica in Germany introduced its first high-end camera models. They were so good and became so successful that they became immediately popular worldwide. The Japanese called them takane no hana, or something far beyond reach for ordinary people. This is where the not-exactly part comes in: A man named Goro Yoshida, decided to “study” the Leica Model II by disassembling it. He wanted to create a camera that would be more affordable to customers in Japan. At this time, Germany continued to lead in the sophistication of its precision instruments, so, using available technology, Yoshida and two partners developed a precision engineering research laboratory in Tokyo, using German cameras as models. They eventually accumulated valuable ideas, which led to the Kwanon, the nation’s first 35mm focal plane camera, equipped with a range finder. The company is now known as Canon, and on their website they share this interesting fact; “…The prototype camera was named “Kwanon” because Yoshida was a believer in “Kwannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy…” I would say this particular aspect started off rather frigid and evolved into a warmer relationship.

Bio-Med Technology and Healthcare
Japan and Germany are both very strong in research, development and the Pharmaceutical Industry. Obviously a good match, they signed an intergovernmental agreement of cooperation in scientific and technological endeavors, in 1974. At the same time they created a youth exchange program called “Youth Summit” which is held annually. With German Re-unification in 1990, Germany has become Japan’s largest trading partner within Europe.

Both Germany and Japan have large Bio-Med Clusters, or areas of the country, where hundreds of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies, start-ups, and research institutes are accumulated. These clusters participate in world business forums such as Bio Med in Europe and BioJapan, in Japan, where they strive to create new business relationships, and strengthen existing alliances. These events allow pharmaceutical and chemical companies to create new networks, mixing entrepreneurs, academic researchers, venture capitalists, and other supporting agencies. One of the largest in Germany, the Munichm4 Biotech Cluster and their Japanese counterpart, the Northern Osaka Biomedical Cluster, recently signed a transnational biotech and life-science agreement on close collaboration between the two regions, with the aim of paving the way for industry-industry and industry-academia cooperation between the two regions.

One final and noteworthy connection which deserves mentioning, is the spill over into popular culture. As a fan of animated films, I have been surprised by the European/Old World styling and scenic design occasionally used in contemporary Japanese animated films. I never really understood it until now. One great example is the way acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki uses Germany as a reference in his wonderful film, Howls Moving Castle.

I swear I’ve been to that village!

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design / E:


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Heroes, Activists, and Martyrs: Lending their names to the streets of Tehran

January 24, 2013


When I heard the story of Granada, Spain planning to approve a measure to name a square in honor of the British punk band The Clash’s Joe Strummer I was reminded of the battery of street name changes that Iranian cities underwent immediately after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The changing of names applied not only to streets and boulevards but to schools, colleges, universities and any building or organization that carried a name resonant of the former regime and all those it supported.

Besides serving as a practical guide to find one’s destination, street names and place names in general, create symbolic connections with the past, or recent past by commemorating and honoring the contributions of historical figures, military heroes, political leaders, inventors, industrialists, and athletes. According to the cultural geographer Wilbur Zelinsky in Nation into State, “the United States has a long history of naming places, especially streets, after patriot heroes and other notables.”

I first came across the term “commemorative landscape” a term referring to “a wide range of material sites devoted to remembering the past,” in an essay entitled “Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina,” by Derek H. Alderman. We can safely agree that one of the most common of commemorative landscape types is the street name. In most cases, reasons to rename a street, monument or building are primarily politically motivated, reflecting the mood and sentiments of a new regime and its antipathy or respect for the past. When the Soviet Union collapsed, its satellites quickly set about a mission of de-Stalinization by renaming streets and building that once honored Stalin.

Though my recollections and understanding of Iran are memories frozen the moment I’d left the country in June 1978, I still remember those streets in Tehran named after American Presidents like Kennedy Square, Eisenhower Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue and British heads of state like Elizabeth Street and Winston Churchill Boulevard. Yet soon after the revolution these streets were renamed to honor martyrs of the Islamic Revolution and religious leaders. Kennedy Square is now Tohid Square, Eisenhower Avenue (named after the American President who helped the Shah topple Mossadeq) is Freedom Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue has been renamed Mofateh Avenue. Winston Churchill Boulevard, the site of the British Embassy in Tehran, was renamed Bobby Sands Street after the Irish Republican Army IRA member who went on a hunger strike and died in prison in northern Ireland in 1981. Apparently the British Embassy changed its entrance to another side of the building as they didn’t want the address to be Bobby Sands Street.


But not all American names have been censored in Iran. I read an LA Times article about Tehran’s decision to name a street in honor of Rachel Corrie, an American pro-Palestinian activist who was killed while protesting against the demolition of Palestinians homes in the Gaza strip. The photo below is proof of the street sign, which also includes a brief profile of Rachel Corrie.

“Tehran street sign named after American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie”

Iranian colleges and universities weren’t exempt from the name changing fever that had gripped the country following the 1979 revolution. Autonomous colleges, like the College of Surveying, or College of Statistics and Computer Science, or College of Mass Communication were phased out, merged and consolidated into university complexes named after revolutionary martyrs and religious leaders. Universities too saw their names changed, especially those that were named after the Shah or his family. Aryamehr University, known as the MIT of Iran, is now Sharif University of Technology, named after a former student who was killed in 1975. Melli (National) University was renamed Shahid Beheshti University. Farah Pahlavi University was renamed after the prophet Mohammad’s daughter as Al Zahra University. And the list goes on.

I haven’t returned to Iran since I left in 1978 but what I hear from friends and relatives who travel back and forth is that the old street names seem to still exist in people’s memories and used colloquially. It’s not unusual for passengers hailing a taxi to give their destination with the current name but also add its former name as backup. “Take me to Freedom Avenue, formerly Eisenhower.”

There’s a strange sense of belonging that happens when one sees and recognizes a familiar street sign. The main street leading to our home on Lane 8, off of Pakistan Avenue in northern Tehran, was Abbas Abad Avenue. That’s how I remember our ethnically diverse neighborhood of small mom and pop shops, the bakery, dry cleaners, and a vast empty dirt lot soon to be a large housing development. Our next door neighbor was a French diplomat. Across the street lived an American family from Maine whose eldest son was my brother’s best friend and attended the Tehran American School. A few houses down were a Japanese family whose patriarch would take strolls up and down our quiet street in the afternoons in his kimono and wooden shoes.

Abbas Abad Avenue has since been renamed as Shahid Beheshti Avenue. I have no connection to this new street and all that it represents, but one thing that seems to have not changed is the international flavor of the district that has carried on. Today, Shahid Beheshti, aka Abbas Abad Avenue, is home to embassies and foreign firms. Do you have any stories to share of the street names in your neighborhoods?

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI

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Mali: A country under siege; its music silenced.

January 18, 2013


Without music, life would be a mistake.
~-Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Why They Hate Music?

When the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in Iran in 1979, he said the following:

“Music is no different than opium. Music affects the human mind in a way that makes people think of nothing but music and sensual matters. Music is a treason to the country, a treason to our youth, and we should cut out all this music and replace it with something instructive.”

Why do the religious extremists and dictators have such animus toward music? We saw the Taliban forbid music in Afghanistan, dictators like Stalin send musicians to the gulag, Chile’s Pinochet kill nueva cancion (new song movement that championed human rights) artists like Victor Jara, and Argentine generals who threatened the famous singer Mercedes Sosa with death and force her into exile. Ditto for Brazil during the 1960s and 1970s. Ditto for South Africa under apartheid, where black music was censored and forbade any political or social messages. Black musicians got past government censors by writing songs with metaphorical content, often fables about animals. They got their message across to the oppressed black majority. Right-wing religious zealots did it in America when rock and roll hit in the 1950s. The same irrational folks that continue to deny and condemn evolution, science, and art.

Why is music so threatening and dangerous? It is because it celebrates human freedom of expression, of liberty and joy. It’s a slippery thing that generals and theocrats need to control and get rid of.

Now Al Qaeda followers in the Islamic Maghreb, the jihadist’s official name, are in Mali and have forbidden all music except that which underscores Koranic verse. Mali has such deep musical roots, such great traditions and artists. Their music has been celebrated by Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Béla Fleck (remember his instrument, the banjo, originated in Mali), Northern Tuareg super groups like Tinariwen and Terakaft have already been silenced.

Other Malian artists are worried. Malian music has been paralyzed by the Islamic extremists. Or has it?

Fatoumata Diawara, who has a new CD out on World Circuit Records, was in New York when the violence erupted and has started a campaign for Peace and the Emancipation of Women in Mali. With her new CD she joins an amazing group of top female singers: Oumou Sangare, Rokia Traore, Sali and Coumba Sidibe, and others who have planted the seeds of Malian music and culture around the world. We all know what happens to women when sharia law is applied by the Islamists.

Marco Werman, a host of the excellent program The World on Public Radio International and the BBC, recently interviewed Fatoumata during her visit to New York. a link to Marco Werman’s feature on her on PRI’s The World 1/15/13 . Fatoumata Diawara says Malian citizens are scared. This is taken from that radio broadcast on January 15, 2013:

“We knew there was a new Islamist group in Mali, but I think that we’ve only realized how serious the situation is for a couple of days now,”
Diawara says. “Things have really changed; the energy of people in Bamako has changed. And since in Africa, men always fare better than women,
my worry was that men would let this situation unfold and let this new Islamist group get to the north and would collaborate with them, because
what this group stands for wouldn’t impact men much, but it would affect women tremendously.”

And, as Diawara told me, it’s not as if Mali’s women have their own spokesperson to talk to the Islamist
fighters. With their political system all but collapsed as well, Malians don’t even have non-military role
models to boost their confidence. Which is why many Malians are looking for some guidance from a group of people they respect: the country’s musicians.

“The Malian people look to us,” Diawara says. “They have lost hope in politics. But music has always brought hope in Mali. Music has always been
strong and spiritual, and has had a very important role in the country, so when it comes to the current situation, people are looking up to musicians
for a sense of direction.”

So, for a month prior to coming to New York, Diawara helped spearhead a project in Bamako with some of Mali’s greatest musicians.

The song “Maliko,” brought together artists like kora player Toumani Diabate, guitarist and singer-songwriter Habib Koite, and legendary female vocalist Oumou Sangare.

Diawara told me the song makes two requests: a plea for peace and a plea for the emancipation of women in Mali. Because as she told me earlier, if there
is jihad in their country, men will always be able to strike compromises with other men.

It will be a lot harder for women.

But Diawara says Malians are determined not to see their country conquered by jihadists.

We’ve seen songs for peace recorded before.

It’s hard to say what kind of impact they actually have.

But Diawara believes this song can help.

The song’s lyrics include this line: “Never have I seen such desolation. They want to impose Sharia law on us. Tell the north that our Mali is one nation, indivisible.”

Music is the voice of hope and has more credibility than official messages. Malian music is such a big part of Malian culture–certainly more of us have discovered the culture from its musical messengers than from painting, sculpture and the other arts. As the French and a multinational coalition hits the trenches in Mali, let us hope Malian democracy and the concomitant human freedom and artistic expression can be restored.

Nietzsche was right, by the way.

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

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20 lessons to learn from Finland

January 10, 2013


Finland’s education reforms which were implemented 40 years ago have helped place its school system at the top in all the global rankings for education systems. Despite the differences between Finland and the U.S., it continues to surpass other countries with similar size and demography.

Here is a list of 20 facts about Finland’s education system gleaned from a piece posted in December 2011 by the Business International which we’ve summarized below:

The Students:
1. Children in Finland start school at age 7.

2. Exams and homework don’t occur and if so, rarely, until they are in their teens.

3. The first six years of education is void of any evaluation/measurement assessments.

4. At age 16, children take a mandatory standardized test

5. All children, despite their learning abilities, are taught together in the same classroom. That is, children are not separated by their aptitude. In fact, once the students have completed their schooling, it’s been shown that the difference between the weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the world.

6. Finland spends approximately 30% less per student than the U.S.

7. 93% of Finns graduate from high school which is about 17.5% more than the U.S.

8. 66% of Finnish students go to college which is the highest rate in Europe.

9. 43% of Finnish high school students attend vocational schools.

10. The size of science classes are kept at the maximum of 16 students so that everyone has the opportunity to participate in practical laboratory experiments.

11. Elementary school students in Finland enjoy 75 minutes of recess each school day while their American counterparts receive an average of 27 minutes.

The Teachers
12. Teachers in the Finnish school system spend 4 hours a day in the classroom and are required to take 2 hours a week for “professional development.”
13. Finland has the same amount of teachers as NYC but fewer students, somewhere in the range of 600,000 students compared to 1.1 million in NYC.

14. In Finland the school system is 100% funded by the government.

15. In order to teach in Finland, teachers must have a master’s degree which is fully subsidized.

16. Teachers are selected from the top 10% of university graduates.

17. In 2008, the average starting salary for a Finnish teacher was $29,000 compared with $36,000 in the U.S. But high school teachers with 15 years of experience make 102% of what other university graduates earn compared to the
U.S. where this figure is 62%.

18. Finland does not have merit pay for its teachers.

19. Teachers in Finland are recognized as having the same status as lawyers and doctors.

20. The national curriculum is only broad guidelines and allows the teachers flexibility to design teaching plans.

What lessons can we learn from Finland?

Related article:

Alan A. Saidi
Sr. VP & COO, ACEI, Inc.

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20 facts about Burkina Faso

January 03, 2013


Jambo! That’s hello in the Mòoré dialect. We here at ACEI wish you a very Happy New Year and hope that you had a nice holiday break. We’d like to start 2013 with a blog focusing on the landlocked West African nation of Burkina Faso. We have to give thanks to our friend Kathleen Hylen with ELS Language Centers ( who picked Burkina Faso for our fact finding mission.

1. Capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou. Written as “Wogodogo” in the Mòoré dialect, it literally means “You are welcome here at home with us”.

2. It is located south of the Sahara Desert.

3. It was formerly known as Upper Volta, and adopted its current name after it gained its independence from France August 5, 1960.

4. The official language is French, since Burkina Faso was colonized by France. Other languages spoken include Mòoré, Gourma, Fulfulde, Dioula, Tamasheq.

5. Nationality: Burkinabe.

6. Burkina Faso has a population of 16.3 million.

7. The Mossi is the largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso.

8. Want to speak a little Mòoré? “Yam Kibaré?” (How are you?) And your response: “Laafi Bala, La Yamba?” (I am fine and you?)

9. Gold is Burkina Faso’s main export, followed by cotton and animal products. Burkina Faso is Africa’s largest producer of cotton. In 2010, almost 80% of the cotton planted in Burkina Faso was grown from genetically modified seeds. Burkina is second only to South Africa as Africa’s largest producer of biotech crops (100% of it cotton), and had the world’s second-fastest growing acreage of biotech crops after Australia. The Monsanto Company remains a major partner in this endeavor. (Source: U.S. Department of State

10. Limited Brands/Victoria’s Secret is looking to expand the quantity, and improve the quality and value, of organic cotton it has imported from Burkina since 2009 (currently only 1% of the market), as well as to improve significantly the livelihoods of the primarily women farmers. (This is interesting, given the information noted in #9.)

11. Most food in Burkina Faso comes with sauce. Staple foods are sorghum, millet, rice, maize, peanuts, potatoes, bean, yams and okra.

12. About 80% of the population relies on subsistence agriculture.

13. Popular sports in Burkina Faso are: soccer, handball, cycling, basketball and boxing.

14. Burkina Faso is home to 60 different ethnic groups, each with their own variety of folk music.

15. Burkina Faso is a leader in African art and culture and hosts the largest craft market in Africa.

16. The Bobo, one of the ethnic groups in Burkina Faso make large butterfly masks, painted in stripes of red, white and black which are used to invoke the deity Do in fertility ceremonies. The Mossi are known for their antelope masks. The Lobi carve wood.

17. 60% of the population is Muslim, while 19% is Catholic, 15% are Animists, and 5% are Protestants.

18. Burkina Faso is prone to severe droughts. Burkina Faso suffered droughts in the early 1970s and the early 1980s.

19. The school week runs from Monday through Saturday. Schooling is in theory free and compulsory until the age of 16. According to UNICEF, only 81% of students reach the 5th grade.

20. The University of Ouagadougou founded in 1974, was the country’s first institution of higher education. The Polytechnic University in Bobo-Diolasso was opened in 1995. The University of Koudougou was founded in 2005, replacing the former “Ecole Normal Superieur de Koudougou.”

Barka! (Thank you.)

For more information on Burkina Faso and aid, please visit these sites:


Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.


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