Have you ever wondered about the name of the country Burkina Faso? Why would a country have two names, i.e. Burkina and then Faso? or even simply two names in its history: Upper Volta and then Burkina Faso? Well, the country named Upper Volta was given a new name in 1984 by then President Thomas Sankara, who chose the name Burkina Faso.
Originally, Haute Volta or Upper Volta, was just given by the European colonizer, the French, more as an indicator or geographic pointer, and had no real attachment to the people of that region themselves. Thus Upper Volta was named for the region above the Volta river flowing in the area; the people of that country/area where thus known as the ‘Voltaics’ (Voltaiques in French). Since the river had three tributaries: the Black Volta, the white Volta, and the red Volta, Upper Volta’s flag also had those three colors. The Volta river also flew into Ghana, which was never known as the ‘Lower Volta’. No wonder the name needed to change, as it had no real meaning!
Well, on 4 August 1984, Thomas Sankara, with his usual charisma and revolutionary spirit, decided to change the country’s name to Burkina Faso. He chose two names after two main languages of the country: the Moore (or Mossi language) and the Dioula. Burkina from Mòoré means ‘men of integrity‘, while Faso in Diouala means ‘fatherland‘. Thus the Burkina Faso is ‘the land of upright people‘ or ‘the land of honest people‘. The people of the country are known as the Burkinabé, where the suffix ‘bé’ comes from the Foufouldé language spoken by the Peulh people (a tribe found in many countries across West Africa), and means ‘men or women’. Thus, Thomas used three of the main languages in his country to choose a name that was truly representative of the country and its people. Sankara was then addressed as the PF or the President of the Faso. The national cloth made up of woven strips of cotton or silk was called faso dan fani (this will be the subject for another post).
Enjoy this video, and travel to Burkina Faso, the land of the upright people.