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Within the Dagara tradition of Burkina Faso, West Africa, there is a strong belief and reverence for the Earth as sacred and divine. The culture believes that they are born from the earth, live on and through it, will be buried in it.

This reverence shows that as our Mother, we owe our life to Earth. It is from her breast that the milk of sustenance is drawn, whether it is water, food, soil, wood, or herbal medicine, and it is to her womb that we shall return in death.

In 2014, Elder Malidoma declared that a shrine to Tenbalu be established at the East Coast Village. He stated:

“The East Coast Village was created to be the sanctuary for the spiritually hungry and the materially deprived. It was created to be a welcoming outpost for the embittered of this society who painfully longed to belong, and prayed hard to find solace in a shelter that could be their conduit to the utmost connection with Ancestors, Nature and Earth. 

But what is a home, when the love and nourishment expected from it is missing? 

What is a home when the sting of deprivation, the poison of discord and the calamity of scarcity are the central ingredients of its composition?

East Coast Village was born as a place to implement and carry out the African wisdom of the Dagara People. This wisdom doesn’t come with a shrine specifically dedicated to the nourishing part of the Earth because in a Dagara village it is not needed. People are in touch with the Earth, and they know what to do when they need nourishment. In this part of the world, people are not expected to, nor do they know how, to reach out to the Earth for their issues with abundance. 

Consequently, over the years, we (the ECV) have fought scarcity and quested for abundance by way of reaching out to Tingan, the protective and regulatory principle of a village. We thought that Tingan could be the Father and the Mother. While Tingan was working overtime at protecting and ensuring safety for all, we became safe enough to fight over the lack of abundance and the absence of nourishment. Tingan could not be the Father and the Mother.

Gradually, we became aware of that, and sought to remedy the situation by creating a separate shrine dedicated to the idea that all children of Earth deserve to be fed; that under Tenbalu, they will be held in a consistent and sustained fullness as an echo of the Great Mother’s commitment to abundance, health and wealth.

tenbalu shrine
Shrine devoted to Dagara Earth Goddess Tenbalu at ECV

And so, Tenbalu came to the ECV, with the mission to take on the specter of scarcity out of the village; to be the lap of the Great Mother, the beacon of comfort, the promise of fullness, and the measure of love and trust our village needs and deserves. 

Tenbalu came to say: Let there be laughter, let my children sing and play, for they are home surrounded by Tingan.” – Malidoma

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