The Tata, African Anti-Colonialism defensive walls in Sikasso, Mali

The Tata, African defence against the French colonial army

In colonial time the French had great ambitions in West Africa and took many of the kingdom-states. In Mali they attacked Sikasso in the south of the country with 12,000 men in April 1887, but they were repulsed. They then set up siege against the town from 1887-1888. The local King Tieba built defensive mudbrick walls called “Tata” around the town in 1890. After Tieba’s death in 1893, his brother  Babemba Traoré became King.  He fought the French siege for 5 bitter years but after another town, Ségou fell to the French the French renewed their attack against Sikasso. The town fell to the French in 1898. Sikasso has the significance of being the last town in Mali to fall to the invading colonialists. The King, Babemba Traore, decided to commit suicide by getting his guards to kill him rather than surrender.

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When I visited Sikasso on a work trip I was keen to try and see the walls. It was quite tricky as they are not well marked, despite being significant archaeological remains. The mudbrick walls originally towered three metres high and were wide at the base and tapered towards the top.  I found as we drove around that they are mostly crumbled away. In a few places they have been rebuilt in concrete to give an idea of the height and width of the walls. It was sad to see that in most places around Sikasso they are now a crumbling, forgotten relic of the past surrounded by the rubbish of today.

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