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...more
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.more
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.more
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...more
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...more
Once the beer is ready to drink, it is sieved through a fine mesh – in this case a packing sack and into a container below. This is to remove any larger particles and make it more potable for drinking. The resulting pulp left inside the sieve is spread out on the ground to dry (see picture five) and then used as fodder for the animals.more
The local brew of choice is the millet beer. Millet and water is fermented over heat for a couple of days then stored for another couple of days in order to get the required strength. The longer it is left the stringer it is. We tasted two beers of different age, and could definitely differentiate between the two different strengths of the...more
What to buy: The Kabye people are also famed for their pottery. This pot is very traditional to the village and is used in everyday cooking and storing of food. They also make them not just for their own use, but also to sell in the market. Two of our party bought these pots and paid next to nothing for them – just a couple of dollars. I don’t know how easy they would be to transport home, of if they would be suitable for conventional ovens, but they would look very decorative on the mantelpiece at home.
Many families in the village would have their own gris-gris in the corner of the house to protect them from evil. Gris-gris is basically a talisman used in animist religions such as voodoo, and in this case it is a collection of stones, herbs, oils, bones, hair, nails, and feathers. It can be other personal items relating to the family or any of...more
The ubiquitous goats are found everywhere – every village has them and every available pieces of land, be it beside the road or between the buildings in the town had one or more goats grazing on it. Goats are one of the oldest domesticated animal species, being kept for their milk (of which you can also make cheese), meat (which is more nutritional...more
There is no running water in the village, so all the water has to be collected from the nearby well. I say nearby, it is nearly two miles to walk to the well. The walk there isn’t too bad of course; it’s the walk back, carrying the heavy water, which is the hard part. This is a task which is mainly carried out by the women of the village and young teenage girls. The water is usually carried in large metal bowls on their heads. No wonder the women in West Africa have such wonderful postures!
Once they have got the water to the village, it is stored in large earthenware jugs (see photos). The clay in the material the jugs are made up of helps keep the water cool.
The water is then scooped up suing a calabash (see separate tip) for drinking and cooking.