Spinning Cotton and Making Butter: A Crafty Excursion from Tamale

Sometimes, I just feel stupid. Sure, I completed high school and graduated from college. I was even a Cub Scout! But my practical knowledge pales in comparison to the people of northern Ghana, all of whom seem to know how to create things which are immediately useful... with their hands! I might be able to write code, giving your website a blue as opposed to white background. But this little 80-year-old lady? She can mold a jar, make butter, and sew you an outfit, all before breakfast.

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Drumming and Dancing in Tamale’s Culture Center

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.

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The Dagomba: A Cultural Primer

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!

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Kukuo: Part 2

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.

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The New Dakpema

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.

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The Leather Crafts of Tamale-Zongo

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.

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Kukuo: Part I

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.

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North to Tamale

r one month in Accra and two weeks in Kumasi, our "easy" time in Ghana had come to an end. From here on out, we wouldn't stay in any place for more than a week. Ghana might be small by African standards, but it's still a substantial country, and we had a lot of ground to cover if we wanted to see it all! So we made our way to the north -- first stop, Tamale: the largest city in this half of the country, and a major transportation hub.

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