By Eileen Moyer
University of Amsterdam (formerly University of Iowa)

Lobi peoples, Burkina Faso, family shrine. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

The farming groups who inhabited the area prior to the sixteenth century invasion make up another element of Mossi society known as tengabisi or nyonyose and maintain religious authority in the region through their connection with the land. Earth and land exist in balanced opposition with the sun and sky, while the nakomse exist in balanced opposition with the tengabisi. The tengsoba (earth priest) is responsible for maintaining harmony with the spiritual world and the ancestors. Shrines erected in honor of the lineage may contain numerous sculptures and objects that represent ancestors. Through communication with the spirit world, earth priests prescribe action for those seeking guidance. Prohibitions instituted by the priest often encourage a more cohesive and peaceful society (Roy 1987). The figures on this Lobi shrine represent numerous thila (spirits) who must be appeased in order to achieve harmony in the community.