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African Village

Thirty years of change

Compelled by a news agenda with the attention span of a flea, it is rare enough for journalists to return to stories they have previously covered. But to return to the same African village community every 10 years, as I have since 1985, is more unusual still – especially when there is no ‘news value’ to the story and when the individuals featured are ‘unknown’. I regard this long-term project in Burkina Faso as probably my most significant journalistic achievement in what is now quite a long career – and the New Internationalist’s readiness to publish it perhaps indicates what sets it apart as a magazine.

In 17 pages there is only so much you can show, of course. And for that reason we have made much more use than usual of the extra resources and infinite space that our website affords us. We have created this internet hub that offers many more ‘Then and Now’ photographs than we have been able to include on the printed page, more detail on particular stories as they developed, as well as a few short video clips. Please do take up our invitation to delve deeper in the rich array of multimedia content below.

Chris Brazier

The Big Story

Journey’s End

Some lazy sod couldn't be arsed to add an alt tag

Chris Brazier returns to the village in Burkina Faso that he has visited every 10 years since helping to make a film there in 1985. Read more.

Then & Now

Some lazy sod couldn't be arsed to add an alt tag

A photographic account of changes over the years in: housing; water; education; health; sanitation; food and farming; technology; and women. Read more.

An Audience with the Chief

 François Moné

Former military pilot François Moné has taken on the traditional role of Chief. He explains how he is using this to pursue the development of the village. Read more. (Or read the extended interview.)

Autumn of the Patriarch

Autumn of the Patriarch

The latest instalment in the lives of Adama, his four co-wives and their 26 children. Read more.

The Perils of Charity

Thumbnail for story: The Perils of Charity

When rich and poor worlds collide, money is inevitably a problem. Read more.

Great Expectations

Thumbnail for story: Great Expectations

Mariama’s sons are all trying to make their way in the wider world. But how do you explain to Africans that the rich world is now shutting its doors to migrants? Read more.

Agriculture: Women's Work

Zenabou's Story - the excerpt from the 1986 TV film Man-Made Famine filmed in the village of Sabtenga in June 1985.

Photo gallery: filming in 1985


Filming in 1985

Most Africans have no more contact with famine and war than we do. Villagers all over the continent are quietly making ends meet, seeking to make as good a life as possible for themselves and their families. In 1995, Chris Brazier returned to a village in Burkina Faso he first visited 10 years prior to see how people’s lives have changed. How have they been affected by another decade of ‘development’? June 1995, Issue 268

Editor’s letter – ‘An African Village’

Writing these few introductory notes is always the last part of the process of putting together a magazine... Read more.

Introduction – ‘Heart and Soul’

Chris Brazier returns after 10 years to a village in Burkina Faso. How much has changed? And are the same people still alive?. Read more.

Burden of Dreams

Mariama’s life: Plenty of progress to witness but contraception could have arrived earlier for her. Read more.

The Razor’s End

The genital mutilation of girls was the rule 10 years ago - is it still the rule now? Read more.

New life for old - Coca Maloni

Profile of an old woman who excised girls. Read more.

‘The Baobab’s Last Stand’

The old chief has given way to the new elected variety, who is busy planting trees. Read more.

‘Pandora’s Bottle'

A gift to the clinic turns into a can of worms. Read more.

Childbirth Sabtenga-style

The maternity clinic in action. Read more.

‘Across the Great Divide’

A visit to school at the painful junction between rich and poor worlds. Read more.

‘Who Killed the Lion King?’

Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré: a revolutionary hero and his murderer. Read more.

Many Wives, One God

The family of Adama and Zenabou: The puzzle of polygamy and what it means to the women who live with it. Read more.

Lending a Hand

Collective action and a local NGO. Read more.

View of the village from the hills 1995, 2005, 2016
View of the village from the hills
1995, 2005, 2016

Housing 1985, 1995, 2005, 2016
Housing
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

2006 – Two decades of change in an African Village

Most Africans have no more contact with famine and war than anyone else. While the mainstream media associate Africa only with disaster, villagers all over the continent are quietly making ends meet, seeking as good a life as possible for themselves and their families. In 1995 NI co-editor Chris Brazier returned to a village in Burkina Faso that he first came to know in 1985 and reported on how people’s lives had changed. At the end of 2005 he returned to the village again to see what difference another decade of ‘development’ has made to this one community. May 2006, Issue 389

Editor’s letter – ‘An African Village’

A single African village? Why should we read about that? Read more.

Back to the future

Chris Brazier is reunited not only with the village of Sabtenga, in Burkina Faso, but also with the remarkable Mariama Gamené. Read more.

The Big Question

Have people’s lives improved in the last 20 years? A look at basic needs; new water pumps; debt relief in action. Read more.

Some things stay the same... Some change dramatically

From pounding millet to David Beckham T-shirts – a photographic tour of village life. Read more.

Wives and daughters

Have women managed to hold the line against genital mutilation? Does polygamy have a future? Read more.

4 wives, 19 children

The family of Adama and Zenabou 20 years on. Read more.

A Tale of Two Girls

A visit to the local school brings hope – but a visit to one of its former pupils tells a different story. Read more.

The Kick Inside

Too many mothers dying in childbirth – and the clinic that would have saved them if they could only have paid the fees. Read more.

The Chief and The Delegate

Traditional power in the village is vested in the Chief, a hereditary position. The Chief is now notably frailer than he was 10 years ago. Read more.

Indiana Compaoré

Burkina’s President and the farce of his elections. Read more.

Local Heroes

The people’s organizations that are changing things from below – and reflections on two decades in the life of a village. Read more.

Endnote

So here I am at the end of another decadal report on the life of the village – who knows if there’ll be another? Read more.

The sights and sounds of Sabtenga


A playlist including 16 short videos.

Click on the icon on the top left corner of the video to select a clip.

  1. Guided tour of Mariama's family compound
  2. Girls drawing water from the pump in Sabtenga
  3. Audience with the village Chief before an animist ceremony
  4. Sabtenga dignitaries wait to be transported to the ceremony
  5. People in their finery walk to the ceremony
  6. Surveying the scene at the animist rite near Sabtenga
  7. Speech after the ceremony plus gunshot
  8. Adama at work in his ricefield
  1. Adama's daughters planting seedlings
  2. New Internationalist editor Chris Brazier joins in the planting
  3. View from the new secondary school near
  4. The new road and the savanna beside
  5. View of the savanna from a motorbike
  6. 360 degree view of Garango centre, Burkina Faso
  7. Another view of Garango centre
  8. Burkina Faso - Agriculture: Women's Work

Then & Now: photo galleries

Zenabou 1985, 1995, 2005, 2016
Zenabou
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

Zakariya 1995, 2005
Zakariya
1995, 2005

Zahara 2005, 2016
Zahara
2005, 2016

Politics 1985, 1995, 2005, 2016
Politics
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

Mariama
Mariama
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

Ousmane (from the dispensary) 1995, 2005, 2016
Ousmane (from the dispensary)
1995, 2005, 2016

Issa
Issa
1995, 2005, 2016

Health 1995, 2005, 2016
Health
1995, 2005, 2016

Adama's family 1985, 1995, 2005, 2016
Adama's family
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

Water 1995, 2005, 2016
Water
1995, 2005, 2016

Aseta
Aseta
1985, 1995

Adama 1985, 1995, 2005, 2016
Adama
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

Oumarou
Oumarou
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

Meryam 1985, 1995, 2005, 2016
Meryam
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

Mariama & her children
Mariama with her children
1985, 1995, 2005

Kadiguiatou 1995, 2005, 2016
Kadiguiatou
1995, 2005, 2016

Garango centre 1985, 1995, 2005, 2016
Garango centre
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

Food and farming 1985, 1995, 2005, 2016
Food & farming
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

Filming in 1985
Filming
1985

Salamatu 1985, 1995, 2005
Salamatu
1985, 1995, 2005

Rasmatu 1985, 1995, 2005
Rasmatu
1985, 1995, 2005

Mariama's concession from outside 1985, 2005, 2016
Mariama's concession from outside
1985, 2005, 2016

Ousmane
Ousmane (Mariama's son)
1995, 2005, 2016

Rasinatu
Rasinatu
1995, 2005, 2016

Education 1985, 1995, 2005, 2016
Education
1985, 1995, 2005, 2016

The Chief
The Chief
1995, 2016

Bintu 1995, 2005, 2016
Bintu
1995, 2005, 2016

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About

New Internationalist is a multi-award winning, independent, non-profit media co-operative. For over 40 years, we’ve specialized in investigative reporting, publishing our magazine and books on human rights, politics, social and environmental justice.

Through our magazine, magazine app, publications, e-books, website and social media we investigate global injustice and expose inequality.

Working with our international network of writers, bloggers, campaigners and others we tell unreported stories from the Global South and help readers make sense of our complex and changing world.

January/February 2017, Issue 499

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