The Dagomba live in central Ghana in western Africa surrounding the Molé National Forest. These tribal people are known for their long tradition of bee keeping in the Molé National Forest. They are a major ethnic group of the Akans, and speak the Twi language. Ghana, previously the Gold Coast, was a British colony until 1957. Now, Ghana is an independent, democratic and beautiful country.
Dagomba Artistic Expressions
The Dagomba have a wide variety of arts. Bark cloth was used for clothing before weaving was introduced using cotton and silk. Women usually pick the cotton and spin materials into thread, while men take on the responsibilities of weaving the cloth. Different patterns in weaving are used to represent social status, a clan, a saying, or the gender of the one wearing it.
Pottery is a skill that is taught to a daughter by the mother. There are many stages to making pots and there are many colors of clay available. The Dagomba also excel at woodcarving and metal casting.
To the Dagomba, the family and the mother’s clan are most important. A child is said to inherit the father’s soul or spirit (ntoro) and from the mother a child receives flesh and blood (mogya). This relates them more closely to the mother’s clan. The Dagomba live in an extended family. The family lives in various homes or huts that are set up around a courtyard. The head of the household is usually the oldest brother that resides in the individual courtyard. He is chosen by the elders. He is called either Father or Housefather and is obeyed by everyone.
Boys are trained by their fathers at the age of eight and nine. They are taught a skill of the fathers’ choice. Boys are taught to use the talking drums. Talking drums are extremely important to the Dagomba. They are used for learning the Dagomba language, in ceremonies, rituals, and spreading news. Girls are taught cooking and housekeeping skills by their mothers, including control of the household budget. They also work the fields and bring in necessary items, such as water, for the family. Wild bee keeping is also practiced by the people of the Dagomba.
Marriage is very important to Dagomba communal life. Women in the Dagomba culture will not marry without the consent of their parents. Many women do not meet their husbands until they are married. Interestingly, divorce is very rare in the Dagomba culture and it is a duty of parents on both sides to keep a marriage going.
The government of the Dagomba people is democratic in its own right. The Council is made up of a group of paramount chiefs. The paramount chiefs preside over district chiefs. The district chiefs preside over a District Council of Elders. The Council of Elders is made up of subchiefs. The subchiefs are the head of the Village Councils, which are made up of all the heads of households. This unique system ensures all voices are heard.
Spirituality and Religion
The Dagomba religion is a mixture of spiritual and supernatural powers. They believe that plants, animals, and trees have souls. There are a variety of religious beliefs involving ancestors, higher gods, or abosom, and ‘Nyame’, the Supreme Being of Dagomba. The Dagomba also practice many rites for marriage, death, puberty, and birth. The golden stool is sacred to the Dagomba. There is an elaborate legend surrounding it that is told by the old men of Dagomba. The golden stool is very carefully protected. As an Dagomba symbol, the golden stool represents the worship of ancestors, well-being, and the nation of Dagomba.
The Dagomba are a peaceful people who live with a respect for nature most of us have yet to experience. A beautiful and proud people, who are willing to share their culture and their wild Molé honey with the world.