Sewing is a very popular past-time, and you often see people sitting alongside the road, outside their homes or in the market, with an old-fashioned foot-operated Singer machine. Materials can be bought quite cheaply in the markets and transformed into colourful garments for men and women.
The cooking is mostly done over charcoal (see previous tip) outside in the courtyard. The women are the main cooks in the family (sometimes helped by the young children – picture five), and here you can see a woman pounding kapok nuts (pictures one, three and four) to make a sauce (picture two). During the dry season, cooking is done outside in the courtyard of the family compound, only during bad weather in the wet season, does the cook move her stuff inside – because of the heat and smoke created by the cooking inside a small hut.
The villagers also derive some income from making and selling charcoal. I've often wondered why people cook over charcoal. It seems so labour-intensive to stack up wood in huge, dirt ovens and bake it slowly down to little black lumps. Why not just burn the wood? To make charcoal, wood (mostly acacia trees are used here) is baked slowly under layers of soil to deprive it of oxygen. With the volatile components (water, tar and methane) baked away, all that is left is a pile of black pellets just 20- 25% of the original volume of the wood. It is now mostly carbon, and when it burns, it doesn’t emit lots of smoke, and it will burn hotter, longer and cleaner than wood, which means that it can easily be used inside the mud huts without filling the houses with smoke
The villagers grow peanuts or monkey nuts as they are also known, for sale in the local markets. The peanut is actually a member of the legume family (technically not a nut at all) and is native to South America, although very popular in West Africa, where it is used extensively in cooking. It was brought here from Brazil by the Portuguese. It is an annual plant with the pod ripening around 130 days after planting.
The villages consist of family compounds, with the man having his own hut and each of his wives having a hut each, in which the young children will also live. A man can have up to four wives legally, but some have more. The huts are built around a courtyard, where most of the family life takes place, including cooking and eating. During the rainy season, cooking takes place inside one of the huts, but as there is no chimney, it gets very smoky inside, and with the temperatures being high all the year round, this is done only when absolutely necessary.
The Dagomba people, although they live in close proximity to the Gonja people, sometimes in the same village, they speak a totally different language: the Dagbani language, which belongs to the More-Dagbani sub-group of Gur languages. The main group of Dagomba people live in Burkina Faso, with subgroups such as this group of about 650,000 Dagbamba in Ghana, who live in an area of around 8,000 square miles.
The Dagbamba culture is a very sophisticated oral culture alhtough lacking in written culture), which centres around the drum and other musical instruments. Their culture is heavily influenced by Islam.
Gonja is the name of a Kingdom in Northern Ghana, but the name is also used to describe the people of this kingdom. The Gonja kingdom was established in 1675, ruled by the Ngbanya dybasty. The kingdom is also known as Ghanjawiyyu. The Gonja language is spoken by approximately 230,000 and is part of the Kwa group of languages.
Traditionally, the Gonja society is divided into a caste system, with a ruling class, a Muslim trader class, the animist commoner class and the slave class. In the old days, the main economy was the export of slaves and cola nuts.