In Togo, blacksmith is not just any old trade; it is a very special trade. Blacksmiths are special, different, extraordinary people, as if they are from a totally different society, and are almost revered like semi-gods. You cannot just set yourself up as a blacksmith, you have to belong to the secret society where everyone knows everyone else. We had been searching for a working blacksmith village for a couple of days before we managed to find this one by word of mouth.
It is a two-man job. The smiths work inside a well ventilated hut, where a piece of iron is heated in the fire and held down on a stone where the second person hammers it heavily with a large rock. Very rudimentary, but it works. See picture 1.
The fire has to be stoked on a regular basis to ensure that the embers are so hot that it is able to make the iron supple enough to work with. See picture 2.
Can you imagine how hot it is in the blacksmiths’ hut? It is 30°C outside in the sunshine and in this hut they have a ferocious fire burning as well as the fact that they are doing heavy manual work! No thanks! Obviously, regular breaks are a necessity. See picture 3.
Most of the items they make a hoes, spades and other father implements. In picture 4 you can see Noah holding up a hoe they have recently completed. They made tools for themselves as well as to sell in the market. We were offered a how, but declined.
Africans could show us westerners a thing or two about sustainability – here it is ingrained in them and has been for centuries. Waste not, want not. If there is a fire going, hang a pot full of diner over it to utilise the heat! Simple, effect and energy saving. See picture 5.
Unique to the Kabye people is the tradition of using broken pieces of pottery as ornamentation on the floor of their courtyards. It is basically a single colour mosaic making patterns on the floor. It is very decorative, but the pictures don’t do it justice as it was such bright sunlight.
The villagers put on an impromptu dancing show for us when we visited. Initially it was just a couple of women, and I must admit I thought they had just been trying too much of the millet beer, but gradually more and more people joined in, including a couple of musicians, playing with some bells and whistles.
The Kabye people are a small ethnic minority group of Togo, accounting for about 12% of the population. They are found mainly in the north of the country, in the region around Kara. They are most noted for their agriculture and farming. The last two presidents of Togo came from the Kabye group, something which has seen an increase in aid and development in this area.
You would enter the compound through a vestibule, into the main courtyard. Each compound consists of a house for the husband and one for each of his wives, various storage and granary buildings and maybe a kitchen.
Picture one shows children playing in the courtyard.
Picture two shows the tall, pointed granary with a triangular opening.
Picture three shows various buildings including a small earthenware oven.
The Kabye people build their houses in a unique style called sokala. It means that each family compound has the walls attached to the next house, thus in effect creating an entire fence around the compound. It is the same principle that we would call link-detached in England.