Ottammari: The First Tribe To Build Houses With Mud In Africa


The Batammariba are otherwise known as Ottammari. They  are an Oti–Volta-speaking people from the Department of Atakora in Benin and contiguous areas of Togo, where they are called by the name of “Taberma”.

The Batammariba of Benin and Togo of today, first arrived in the mountainous Savannah region, which was their home in the 17th or 18th century. In order to avoid the risk of threat of depending on other various groups, the indigenous people of Batammariba brought a consciousness of freedom or independence and a strong cognizance of cultural identity, rooted in their architectural traditions. The name Batammariba is the name used by the people of Batammariba, meaning “those real earth architects” or ”The real builder of the land.” and points to the basic position of Batammariba’s social and cultural earth architectural traditions. They are evidence in Takienta, Batammariba’s house and all life scenes in Batammariba.

When most people move to Koutammakou, where Batammariba people live, they will find the mud Takienta. It consists of a set of mud structures (a typical house has about eight) surrounded by continuous mud walls. The mud walls are constructed in layers to form a horizontal striped pattern. While some buildings have flat roofs behind low parapets, others have thatched roofs.

In these two-story hardy houses, also known as Tata Somba, according to records, the ground floor is used for “night cattle raising, niches”. The interior is used for cooking, and the upper roof has a patio for drying food, bedrooms and sheds.” Since every house is a symbol of creativity and fertility, the women in the house will draw furrows on the wet clay, respect and embellished it before it dries, so that it will appear horizontal stretch marks. In every house, there is life, having a division of shade and light, men and women.

Historical research showed that there are an estimated 176,000 people in Batammariba who have migrated from the north and northwest around Burkina Faso to where they currently live, from the 16th to the 18th century. Traditionally, the wealth of the Batammariba family depends on the size of its livestock, which has also played a key socio-cultural purpose in recent years. As N’Poh and N’Guissan pointed out in 1998, 52% of animals are used for funerals, 28% are used for dowry, and the rest (only 20%) are sold. In fact, most animals participate in Batammariba funerals, which are usually associated with ceremonies such as Tibenti to commemorate the dead and the “handover” ceremony held in the funeral home.

Basically, after a person dies, they will hold another initiation ceremony for him, because not doing so will not encourage the offspring of the deceased to do the same, and may even cause the offspring to die. The funeral home will be decorated with mourning clothing (like initiates’ clothing) and rich fabrics were placed on the upper floors of the house, as was done for initiates. The coffin was placed around the entrance of the funeral home, just as the initiates wore shells around their waist and neck, and the clay corner was placed in the center of the entrance ceiling (because the initiates would wear headgear). In essence, these rituals allow a family to begin to “represent” and “nurture” its offspring again.


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