Tata Sombas

I visited the Tata Sombas in northern Benin this past week. They are about 9 hours north of where I live, near the town of Boukombe. I was lucky enough to travel with Jeff, Rima, and Rima’s mom, Aire. The Tata Sombas are the homes of the Somba people who live in the Atacora region. The Somba have been very isolated for centuries and their homes look like mud forts. Centuries ago when there was a lot of warring in Benin between different kingdoms, the Somba chose to protect themselves by living not in large towns, but by building these large mud houses in isolated areas. By living in small groups, they made it difficult for foreigners to come in and take over the entire region. These people were also trying to avoid being kidnapped and sold into slavery. The homes are really interesting. Their made of mud, so they have to be rebuilt annually or else they could erode. Yet, they are very sturdy and strong. The families cook and store food inside and sleep outside on the roof. There are also little cubbies you can crawl into to sleep if it is too cold. To get to the Tata Somba we stayed at, the four of us hiked three hours through the countryside with our guide, Antoinette. We passed many homes and lots of fields where people were hoeing and tending to their igname (yam) crop. Most people just looked at us and some waved. Children actually bowed, which is a sign of respect here. I was so tired when we finally reached the Tata Somba and it was a relief to sit down. The kids entertained us, especially Borris, who told us some folk tales in French. We spent the evening lying on some mats on top of the Tata Somba watching a storm in the distance. The lightening was beautiful until it became clear as the stars started to disappear from the sky that the storm was going to encroach on our evening. I wasn’t about to crawl into the cubby that bats had been flying out of, but luckily they didn’t expect us to. We stayed in a more modern house to avoid the rain… I uploaded a few pictures, but not that many. Unfortunately, the batteries ran out! Sorry! One of the nice things was that Borris told us he remembered Kate and her mother. It was hard to hear but nice at the same time. More proof that everyone who met her really did love her.



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6 responses to “Tata Sombas

  1. Eliza Alden

    Hi Mrs. Guevin!!!
    I am glad that you had a good time in Tata Somba! Was it hot there? That seems pretty strange that the people there sleep on the roof!
    Talk to you soon!


  2. Mark Loehrke

    When Carly took us to the Tata Somba I was fascinated by the wavy lines everywhere: in the houses, in the pottery and even in the cheeks of the people. Very beautiful.
    Stay strong and healthy, Mark Loehrke (Carly’s dad)

  3. Cheryl

    Isn’t it a gift how, in the most remote of places, shared memories of those dear to us help us heal? What a very sweet surprise for you! Traveling graces to you as you head for home.

  4. How awesome that you got to sleep part of the night in a tata somba! I am so happy that they remembered Kate, she will live on in Africa, too.
    If your cross country trip takes you anywhere near Kalamazoo, give us a call or email- we can sleep outside if you want, but we do have other accomodations.
    Job well done- you should be proud.

  5. Cheryl

    It’s June 1st! Surely this is a bittersweet time for you and all you’ve met and worked with. Think of the difference you’ve made! Sending traveling graces,

  6. Cheryl

    It’s June 1st! Surely this is a bittersweet time for you and all you’ve met and worked with. Think of the difference you’ve made! Sending traveling graces,

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