Known as the land of the Batammariba, Koutammakou is a cultural landscape in Northern Togo that attained the UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004. It also extends into the nearby Benin. The area has an influx of traditional and mud tower houses, which has become a symbol of Togo capturing their ideal style of living. The mud tower houses are called “Takienta”.
Koutammakou is also known as the Tamberma Valley, named after the people who lived there. It was founded in the 17th Century by people fleeing the slave grabbing forays of Benin’s Dahomeyan kings.
Koutammakou is one of the most picturesque areas in the nation of Togo. It also has stunning mountain landscapes and intense light. Koutammakou comprises of a region of rustic villages that were built from adobe walls & thatched roofs.
Accompanying the mud houses which sometimes has 2 floors and even a flat room, the landscape is closely related to the rituals and beliefs of the society. The amazing cultural landscape is captivating due to the architecture of its tower houses which reflect the farmland, social structure, forestry and the relationship between the landscape & the people.
Beyond its tourist attraction, Koutammakou was also geared to promote sustainability, the preservation of knowledge & skills and also culture through traditional and ceremonial objects, music, dance, archery, oral traditions and also the teaching of the Batammariba in primary schools as well as educating youths in the intangible cultural heritage etc.
Koutammakou gives a clear illustration of people who are in search of harmony between their surrounding environment & themselves. The mud tower houses is a simple family dwelling where technical, symbolic and utilitarian elements are combined. Though the dwellings possess strong symbolic dimensions, none of them have a close relationship between function, technique and symbolism.
The landscape of Koutammakou is a landscape that has evolved over the years from exhibiting all the facades of an agricultural society that works in accord with the environment. It is made up of various tangible elements like houses, fields, sacred rocks, forests, sources of construction materials, domesticated and wild animals and also intangible elements like music, dance, beliefs, craft techniques, traditional sports etc.
The entire area of Koutammakou does not only highlight the traditions of the tribal folk who fled the area to avoid being taken captive during the years of the Slave Coast but it also captures breath-taking vistas of muddy and cracked bushlands, horizons from the mountain top and undulating hills of greenery.
The landscape of Koutammakou is an accurate reflection of a particular lifestyle. The overall landscape is reflective of all the processes and practices that have existed for a long period of time totalling into centuries. In order to retain the conservation of Koutammakou, traditional practices must be maintained.
Koutammakou is an illustration of a traditional settlement system that is dynamic and is subject to traditional and sustainable systems that would help to reflect the singular culture of the Batammariba, especially the “takienta” tower houses.
The general landscape of Koutammakou showcases every aspect of the life of the Batammariba, and also depicts the socio-economic-cultural system which is contained in the inscribed property. However, the property extends beyond the shores of Togo into Benin, it does not represent the whole system, but a part of it.
The traditional dwelling would still remain a current model as it is a preservation of culture, it is worthy of note that the life cycle of the buildings remains through construction, demolition and reconstruction of the ruins. The traditional model persists and has been consistently used because the house is more than a dwelling: it is a temple dedicated to worship!
Visit Koutammakou, meet the people of Batammariba, and understand their culture, lifestyle & environment and you’ll be glad you did.