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Tata Somba – Traditional Fortress in Northern Benin

Tata  Somba

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Tata Somba are unique habitats only found in the Northwest of Benin.  The home are traditional and are built like fortresses to protect the habitants from wild animals or intruders.  The word Tata means fortress  in a sense of a regular habitat or home. Somba  is tribal grouping name given to the residents living in the region of Atacora in Benin. The only ethnic group within that region is isn’t included is the Batombou tribe. Essentially, Tata Somba means the the fortress of the Somba. 

Architecture of a Tata Somba

Architecture of a Tata Somba


Tata Somba TerraceTata Somba are usually conjoined multistory homes built in a form of a circle. Family members live in each conjoined homes. The bottom level are used to keep livestocks at night , internal alcoves are used for cooking, and some rooms are used for sleeping and the top floors or terraces are to dry grains or used as an entryway for the interior huts. Male children, once they’ve reached adulthood,  are expected to leave their parental home and build their own Tata.

tata toit

tata fam

It’s however a tradition that the paternal home is inherited by the eldest of the family, whereas women homes are those given to them by marriage. They are made with a red mud which are great to keep temperature balanced. The exterior tend to be ornate with with fetish items such as cow horns, monkey skulls,  to keep the household protected of evil spirits. Some are painted with unique tribal drawing and designs.


However, there are different modifications that are made based on specific groups within the Somba tribes. There are 5 specific architectures of the Tata Somba Tribes.

tata toit 2

Tata of Bètammaribè or Tata Otammari

The word Bètammaribè literally means the sand molders or in better word the builder. These individuals are known for the building skills. The house are usually consisted of 4 floors. The first 3 from bottom up are rooms and the last floor is the storage room for food and diverse items.  A ladder is used to access the top floor which usually has 3 terraces facing different sides. It’s through the terraces that one can has access to the interior of the home.

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Tata Tayèba or Tata Natemba

Tayèba are the residents of a town called Tayacou. The structure of this Tata is fully constructed with a roof included. A ladder can be used to access the building while there is an entrance directly from the bottom. It has 2 floors. The first has 2 rooms with a terrace and the second floor has up to 6 rooms. The storage room is either on the second floor or built outside of the fortress. There is also a back entrance to used to accede the interior from the bottom part.

Tata Ossori or Tata of the Bèssoribè

The Bèssoribè are the Peuhl tribe found in the area of Natitingou.  These fortress is comprised of a very large terrae from which access is granted. On the first floor, there rare 3 bedrooms. There are also 4 storage rooms that are around the compound.

door tata

Tata Otchao or the Tata of the Bètchabè

The tata Otchao is a slight modification of the Tata Otommari.  The only difference is a paved terrace as well as the ladder give access to one of the two small terraces. You have to cross a second terrace in order to have access to the largest terrace. Basically the terrace are interconnected like a railroad apartment. There is a hole made on a side of the fortress usually where the kitchen is to let fumes out of the interior and create a better ventilation.

Tata Somba Terrace

Tata Berba

This Tata is unique as it doesn’t have multiple floors. There is still a tall wall surrounding it and a ladder is needed to enter the compound whack leads to an open court. Inside of the court, there are 9 huts and 2 storage units . The entrance through the ladder is located newer the 2 biggest huts interconnected by a wall. tata2


These are unique, traditional and original habitats in the North of Benin. This form of habitat is becoming a endangered rare treasure as new generations are more inclined to build or move into more modern homes. However, there are quite a few that are still around and can be visited at the discretion of the chief of the house. Unless they are known, it suggested to give them money in order to thank them for allowing you to visit their compound. It is a very rare African architectural treasure to visit that will leave you astounded.

tatasomba modern

The architecture of a Tata Somba-Video



5 comments on “Tata Somba – Traditional Fortress in Northern Benin

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  5. omgnewsafrica
    January 29, 2016

    Reblogged this on OMG! News Africa.

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