Warren MacKenzie Fellowship 2016
Ghana, West Africa Installment no. 3
|Balboa Log at the entrance of house.|
The first thing one might see is a an old log from the Balboa Tree at the entrance of the house. This, I was told is where the landlord sleeps (which I think was a joke). It was explained to me that this is where the family will gather and listen to the stories, wise words and the lessons of the elders. When approaching the house in a formal manner, one first finds themselves in a small courtyard for the livestock. Within the walls of the courtyard are small houses for the animals be they, pygmy goats, chickens, cows or other. The courtyard has another purpose besides to house livestock. It is a place to gather dung for fuel. Fuel to burn is a rare commodity in Ghana due to the high deforestation of the whole country. After you make your way through the corral and, yes you must watch your step, a guest will climb over a small wall to reach in inner confines of the small compound.
|Little house for livestock|
|Formal entrance way is a small wall one must climb over|
Next one will encounter the Granaries. Surrounding the small compound is the family garden where staples are grown such as Millet, sorghum, rice, tobacco, peanuts, and various root vegetables. The granaries are literally large pots which are used to store such food items for the family during the dry season when it is hot with no moisture.
|View of neighbors house and garden from the roof|
|Granary with ladder and foot holds|
|View of the entrance, corral and granaries from roof|
|Roof top with drying crops and small pots|
The design of the house is a very interesting one. Much of village life in Ghana is conducted out of doors; cooking, gardening, tending to the animals, fetching water, etc. Ghanaians are very social and so to always be available for a conversation is important. Also without electricity the small rooms are dark and hard to occupy and are used primarily for storage. The doorways to these rooms are very low to the ground and one would have to crawl on hands and knees to enter. The reason for this is that historically tribes would war against each other and want to capture and enslave other tribes folk for themselves or to sell. If a house hold was alerted that trouble was headed their way they would escape to a room with a low doorway. If the attackers tried to enter, crawling through a low doorway would put them at a disadvantage and be attacked by the household instead. Below is an image of the interior. This room has no roof and with the light we are able to see the beams and paintings. Materials for thatched roofs are scarce and have to be imported from neighboring countries making them hard to come by and expensive. The beautiful scalloped edges are a bench for sitting up and away from the doorway.
One can see remnants of exterior painting and also a raised design above the door. to my delight storage pots and puppies everywhere.
The house needs to be repaired and repainted about every three years and is done in the dry season. I planned my trip to coincide with this time of year so I could experience first hand the building and the painting of the dwelling but they were having an extended rainy season and wouldn't be undertaking that task for a few more months. The designs themselves are known as Bambolse are a done by the women in the community. The pigments that are used are materials that are found in the area. The Black pigment is a gravel called Kugsabela, the white is a limestone called Kugpeele and the red is an iron rich gravel called Gare. The materials are painted on with a bundle of fowl feathers or millet stalks stripped of their seeds and a sealant called Am is applied to seal the clay and preserve the paintings. The designs are meant to serve as omens and protectors or to tell stories. The design below is called Wanzagesi or broken calabash. Calabash gourds are a central component to women's lives in this region which are used for serving water, traditional foods, ceremonies and making pottery.
|Outside the compound|
|Mosque of Larabanga|
|Interior shot of Mosque of Larabanga|