One otherwise lazy afternoon, we were walking from our hotel toward the center of Tamale, when we heard the sounds of drumming. The last time we'd heard distant drumming, it was right before encountering a terrifying parade to welcome the new Dakpema. But this drumming sounded somehow friendlier, so we followed our ears to the Center for National Culture, where we found a troupe of dancers in the midst of practice.
Having spent a week among them in Tamale, we feel fully qualified to write the internet's definitive article introducing the Dagomba people. If you're looking for hastily-formed opinions and hardly-researched facts, you're in the right place! But here's the thing -- if you read this, you'll almost guaranteed know more about the Dagomba than 100% of your friends. Probably, even if they're African!
Having taken a long taxi ride to reach the wrong Kukuo a couple days prior, we were irritated to realize that the right Kukuo was right down the street from our hotel in Tamale. Well, irritated but also relieved that it was so close. Unless there was a third Kukuo in the area (which wouldn't actually have surprised us), this was surely going to be the pottery-making village we had heard about.
We had just finished our tour of the leather workshop in Zongo, when we heard the sound of drumming, quickly coming closer. And was that a gun shot? Hafiz, our de-facto guide for the day, ran over excitedly to us... "Let's hurry! We can see the new Dakpema!" We followed him out to the main street, and ran smack dab into the most insane parade we've ever seen.
If some dude in the USA says, "Oh yeah, some friends and I get together to cure leather in my back yard", your instant and one-hundred-percent-accurate reaction is going to be: "Whatever, hipster". In Ghana, though, there's nothing hipster about it. We visited the Tamale neighborhood of Zongo, whose DIY leather "factories" would be the dream of so many bored Americans. Here, though, they're just another way to make a living.
We had heard about a village near Tamale, by the name of Kukuo, known for its pottery-making. It sounded like the perfect opportunity for an excursion, so we went to the bus station, and asked for "Kukuo". Before long we were rumbling along dirt roads, toward the northwest, until our taxi dropped us off at a smattering of adobe huts. It took us about twenty seconds to realize that no pottery-making was taking place here. But there was a group of villagers, absolutely baffled by the sudden appearance of these two white guys.
When we initially visited Ike's Bar and Grill, on our first day in Kumasi, we weren't expecting to immediately discover our favorite hangout spot in down. And we definitely weren't expecting the performance in the sky: every night, thousands upon thousands of bats launch from trees in the nearby zoo, and take to the air.
The days in which Ashanti Kings had any political power are in the past, but they still wield significant cultural influence. In order to learn more about the royal class, we visited the beautiful (and un-African) Manhyia Palace, which served for many years served as their home.
Although I'm sure the two were related, I don't know whether we were at a football match which devolved into an insane dance party, or whether this insane dance party just happened to take place next to a football match. Regardless, our visit to Baba Yara Stadium for an African Confederations Cup match between Asante Kotoko and Zambia's Nkana FC, was probably the most fun we've ever had at a soccer game.
Man, the title of this post is official sounding! But rather than an in-depth study, complete with polls and statistics, an informed eye on the past, and a prognosis for the future, this really just going to be my own sense of how Ghanaians see America, based on the interactions we had with people during our short time in the country. Don't expect too much of us, please!
It’s impossible to spend any time in Ghana without encountering an Adinkra symbol at least once. These enigmatic patterns are a cultural trademark of the Ashanti people, and can be found worked into textiles, furniture, walls, or anything else that might be improved with symbolic embellishment. We visited the capital of Adinkra production, in Ntonso, near Kumasi.
There exist travel experiences which are objectively awesome, and everyone has to agree. If you don’t, you're simply wrong. For example, if you claim that traveling to the bottom of an Icelandic volcano wasn’t very special, you're wrong. It was an amazing opportunity, and you definitely loved it. You don’t get an “opinion”. Other experiences, though, are more subjective. And the Bodwease Shrine, outside Kumasi, fits squarely into this category. We had fun here... but if you didn't, we'd totally understand.