The Frafra (also known as Gorse) are hardworking agricultural Gur-speaking people that forms a subset of Gurune/Gurunshi ethnic group in Northern Ghana and Southern Burkina Faso. The Frafra people who live predominantly in the north-eastern part of the Upper East Region of Ghana, called themselves in Gurune language as "Gorse,' whilst some historians refer to them as "Gurune." However, when a Frafra meets any Gurune speaking person he refer to him or her as "Mabia" (My family).
Their popular name Frafra is a colonialist term given to them by the Christian Missionaries, who when they first encountered Frafra farmers were greeted with the common greeting to people working "Ya Fare fare?", which means "How is your suffering (work)?" The missionaries began referring to these Gurune people as Frafra, a derivation of the greeting, which eventually was adopted by the people themselves and has been popularized by the Southern Ghanaian peoples.
The Frafra are also well known for their artistic craft products: straw articles like hats and baskets as well as feather products. Their products can be found all over Ghana in the major towns that tourists visit. Since the colonial era Frafra youth have been compelled to emigrate to the southern parts in search of menial jobs.
They were formally looked down upon by their Northern neighbors as well as the Southern tribes because of the lack of many literate people among them, their willingness to do all kind of menial work and also their habits of "eating dogs." However, in recent times, Frafra people are one of the most well-educated people from the Northern and Upper Regions of Ghana. They have a formidable association, BONABOTO, (an association of Frafra people, notably Bongo, Nangodi, Bolgatanga and Tongo) which champion the political and socio-economic well-being of Frafra people in Ghana.
Bolgatanga is the commercial center of the Frafra people. Other important villages and towns include Bongo, Tongo, Zuarungu, Zoko, Zuarengu, Somburungu, and Pwalugu. It must be noted however that Tongo is the principal town of the Talensi people who are ethnically different from the Frafra. Today, the Frafra can be found in many major towns and villages all around Ghana including Accra, Kumasi, Tamale, Sunyani and Cape Coast. They are also highly mobile, often travelling south to look for work during the dry season. There are also some Gurune-speaking people (the Nankani) in Navrongo District, which is generally a Kasem-speaking area. Native Gurune are also found in Burkina Faso, in the Nahouri province, Eastern part of Tiébélé and in the region of Pô.
In the middle of the market of the regional capital Bolgatanga, lies a large flat rock. Quite close to this area is the site where the settlers dug clay for building and polishing their houses. Clay in the Frafra language is "bolga" and rock is "tanga"- thus the place was named Bolgatanga. It is also referred to as the handicrafts capital of Ghana, and is famous for its intricately designed straw baskets (Tehei), hats and smocks. If you find yourself here do visit the small interesting regional museum The main dishes of the Upper-East Region are similar to that of the Upper West, "TZ" or "Tuo Zafi" rice balls or Omo Tuo with groundnut soup or green leaves soups, beans, rice and cowpea or "Tubaani", koko with "koose". Beverages include pito and "Zom krom".
The term Frafra is an umbrella term that refers to a number of ethnic groups that share the same cultural heritage yet have some minor differences in terms of language and ritual action. The similarities, however, in their culture in terms of ritual, language and style of life are far greater than the differences. There are four major ethnic groups that make up the Frafra people. We have the Gurune speaking, the Nabdan speaking, the Boone speaking and Talleni speaking. The Gurune speaking group occupies the central portion of the district sharing a border with the Kesena to the west.
The Nabdan are located east of the Guruse and share borders with the Kusasi. The Boone speaking group is to the north of the Guruse. They are at the border with the southern part of Burkina Faso. The Tallensi, on the other hand, are to the south. There are also some Gurune-speaking people who are situated further south sharing border with the Tallensi. These are called the Paalse and their major town is Pwalugu. These are the four major groups that constitute the Frafra people. Extensive anthropological work has been done on the Tallensi by Meyer Fortes, but not very much study either anthropological or otherwise, has been registered for the other groups. Though each has its unique characteristics and probably did not originate from the same ancestor or even from the same area, they are usually seen as a unified whole because of their common cultural and linguistic traits.
Actually, it is believed that the term Frafra is a name that the British colonials coined to apply to the Gurune-speaking people. It appears that they found it easier to pronounce the word Frafra rather than the proper name Gurune. The term Frafra is derived from a form of greeting in the Gurune language. The word fara-fara in Gurune has two meanings depending on the context. It could mean simply ‘thanks’ for a favour done or a greeting particularly to people who are working. It is, therefore, supposed that when the British found it difficult to pronounce the term Gurune, they resorted to this term, referring not to the greeting or the thanks but to the ethnic group itself. It is not very clear how the term came to be associated with the other ethnic groups discussed above since it is more prominent in the Gurune dialect than in the others. It may be due to the closeness of language, cultural practices and above all ritual action.
According to George Asigre, Rattray treats the Gurunse under the name Nankanse in his book, Tribes of the Ashanti Hinterland. Generally the term Nankanse is used by the Kasena to refer to the Frafra in general but more specifically to some Frafra speaking groups that do not fall within the political demarcation of the three Frafra districts, which are Bongo, Tellensi-Nabdan and Bolga Districts. Politically they fall under Navrongo District but are closer to the Frafra in terms of language, culture and ritual action. In fact they are generally referred to as Frafra and they see themselves as such. Their major settlements are Sirigu, Kandiga, Mirigo and Nabango to the east of Navrongo, capital of the Distirct, and Kulgo and Naaga to the south of Navrongo.
Rattray notes that the name Frafra is not what the people use to refer to themselves but, in his view, the term Gurunga (singular) or Gurunse (plural) is not very well received by their neighbours, because it has disparaging and derogatory connotation as it is linked with eating dog meat.
George Asigre, has objected to Rattery’s assertion on the basis that, “the name itself has no disparaging or derogatory significance. It is rather limited in scope, and is specific in its application.” The name Gurune is limited in scope because as we have seen above it refers specifically to part of the entire ethnic group that is known today as the Frafra.
Frafra people speak Frafra or Farefare, also known as Gurenɛ, language. The Frafra language belongs to Gurma Oti-Volta cluster of languages of the larger Niger-Congo language family. It is spoken by over 600,000 people in the northern Ghana, particularly the Upper East Region, and southern Burkina Faso. It is a national language of Ghana, and is closely related to Mossi, aka Moré, the national language of Burkina Faso.
Gurune (also written Gudenne, Gurenne, Gudeni, Zuadeni), Nankani (Naani, Nankanse, Ninkare), Booni, Talni (Talensi, Talene), and Nab't (Nabit, Nabde, Nabte, Nabdam, Nabdug, Nabrug, Nabnam, Namnam) together with some others are considered the major dialects of the Frafra people. However, Nab't and Talni could also be considered dialects of Mampruli; Mampruli, Kusaal, and Dagaare are in turn considered to be sister languages to Gurune. There are obvious linguistic similarities among these and the other languages of the Mabia language group (Bodomo 1994; St. John-Parsons 1960)
The Frafra people are believed to have come from the Gur-language family of the Oti-Volta River. They occupy the Bolgatanga, Bongo and Tellensi-Nabdan districts of the Upper East Region of Ghana. They share borders with southern Burkina Faso and in fact are believed to have migrated from there to their present location. Their language is very close to Moshie, which is the language of one of the major ethnic groups in Burkina Faso.
The historical origins of Frafra people is very scanty and much research need to be done on them. However there are certain pointers to their historical migration. According to a legend narrated by Anthony Atarebore, the Frafra and the Dagaaba were both linked with the Dagomba and share common origin. This Dagomba connection re-echoes Hébert's legend about the first Dagara, an orphan who was accused of witchcraft and expelled by the Dagomba chief. The orphan accordingly fled towards the Black Volta and stayed near Babile, across the river. However, both legends do not account for the relationship with other ethnic groups, which are shown to belong to a common Mabia ancestry (Bodomo 1994).
According to Atarebore's legend, "long time ago, Dagomba, Gurune and Dagao were brothers, or rather cousins. They lived somewhere in Southern Africa among the Bantus. From Southern Africa, they began to migrate northwards through Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. Then, turning westward, they moved to Sierra Leone, Northern Nigeria, and finally to Ghana. Historians differ in their opinion as regards to the nature and scale of these movements. For instance, Lentz (1994) rejects the hypothesis put forward by Eyre-Smith's8 that the history of northern Ghana, indeed of the whole West African savannah, seemed to consist of 'constant' movements of people as a result of slave-raiding, internecine warfare, etc., whole sections of a tribe or family breaking away and migrating to a new territory. Instead, Carola Lentz suggests that migration took place in small-scale distances and in small groups.
It is not very clear whether the Frafra existed during the old Ghana Empire in the Middle Ages and formed part of that empire, since its present location is not so far from the location of the former empire. The facts, however, cannot be verified. According to some elders, the people of Zuarungu, one of the major settlements of the Frafra, migrated from Wuarungu in Burkina Faso. It is believed that the name Zuarungu is derived from Wuarungu. Even today, there is still a link between the people of Zuarungu and the people of Wuarungu.
For some Frafra chiefs their tradition trace their historical and cultural ties to Mamprusi kingdom. This is clearly the case of Namos of Tongo whose oral traditions recount how their apical ancestor- Mosore- had come to Tongo on exile from Nalerigu and had remained in Tongo. Similar traditions seems to exist in other Frafra enclaves. Bongo district is made up of two main communities. The original settlers are Gurune-speaking and the second group is the Mamprusi stock that settled mainly in the central part of the present. Some Frafra Nangodi people also share similar Mamprusi ancestry.
The typical traditional compound homestead among these people is one that combines huts that are thatched with mud and those that are roofed with grass. Huts are circular and the grass roofing is pyramidal in shape. Compounds differ in sizes often depending on the wealth and status of the master of the compound. The average Frafra compound comprises several dwelling quarters arranged in circular format with a single gateway. These days those who can afford it are likely to roof their huts with metal format with a single gateway. These days those who can afford it are likely to roof their huts with metal sheets.
The Frafra, like all other ethnic groups around them, are basically agrarian, practising mainly subsistent farming. Land is scarce and naturally the farms are very small in size and generally poor due to continual use without much replenishment. Due to this, the yield is usually very poor. The rainfall pattern, which is erratic, allows for only one cropping season. The main cereal crops produced are millet, sorghum, maize and rice. They also produce beans, groundnuts (pea nuts), cow peas and vegetables of all kinds.
The biggest central market is at Bolgatanga and attracts traders from the entire town and beyond. Bolgatanga is the capital of the region, so the market even attracts traders from the eight districts in the region. Since the area experiences long periods of dry weather, the people engage in other economic activities such as leather works and weaving of straw bags and hats during the dry period. Areas that have dugouts and dams engage in dry season gardening where they cultivate mainly vegetables for consumption and for sale.
Apart from farming Frafra people keep livestock including cattle, goats and sheep. These are animals are reared for commercial and domestic consumption. In some Frafra villages, cattle is used as a payment for bridewealth.
Recently gold was discovered in the area and now many young people are engaged in surface mining as their main economic activity. This is gaining popularity but at the same time is also degrading the environment since all sorts of unorthodox methods are used to acquire this gold.
The concept of the family for the Frafra is much more than a modern nuclear family. Yiri, house and yiridoma, house members, refer to all the members living in a particular house, and that is the family. In a broader sense the family may also include all members of the same clan. Mbiti attests to this wider understanding of family among many African communities as he notes, “the family has a wider circle than the word suggests in Europe and North America. In traditional society, the family includes children, parents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters who may have their own children, and other immediate relatives…”
It is also quite significant to note that, for the Frafra, the family is not limited to only the living. It also includes all the deceased members. The land of the ‘living-dead’ is merely an extension of the family on earth, and they are treated with great respect, as if they were still alive. Every Frafra family, therefore, still has links with its dead. For this reason it is difficult, if not impossible, to statistically enumerate people in this locality because the family even includes the unborn. Mbiti confirms this when he states, “the African concept of the family also includes the unborn members who are still in the loins of the living. They are the buds of hope and expectation, and each family makes sure that its existence is not extinguished. The family provides for its continuation, and prepares for the coming of those not yet born.”
The Frafra lineage is patrilineal. The clan is the family in a much broader sense. The Frafra refers to the clan as yizuo, which literally means ‘house head’. Members of one yizuo trace their descent to a common ancestor. The common binding force for the yizuo is their taboos and their totemic ancestors. Even if they are not living within the same locality, as long as they have the same totem and taboos, they are of the same clan and, therefore, of the same family.
Marriage is forbidden between two people with the same totemic ancestor. The oldest surviving son of the common ancestor is always head of the clan. There are usually strong family ties among members of the same clan and “all members have the obligation to assist one another in such areas of life as marriage, funerals, sacrifices to the ancestors and the general well-being of the individual and the total clan membership.”
Marriages are exogamous and high bridewealth is taken by the families of pubescent girls when marriages are contracted. The legal guardians of the girl could demand as much as four heads of cattle from the wife-takers. Perhaps as a result of the high bridewealth marriages were usually stable in the past although this did not prevent separation of the married couple. Formal divorce could imply the return of a portion of the bridewealth. In some societies how much or what is refunded on divorce depends of whether the wife has given birth to any children for the husband and how many.
In the past Frafra people had no chiefs but clan heads and earth priest. When the Mamprusi people invaded Gurunsi land they planted chiefs on Frafra people. However, after the colonial era the Frafra people have asserted themselves over Mamprusi domination as well as Nayiri`s influence by enskinning their own chiefs. As a result Frafra people now have Bolga Naba, Bongo Na etc.
The maintenance of the social order, whether family, clan or village is the preserve of the chief and elders. “They ensure peace, harmony and the general welfare of the people.” They are referred to as Kimma from the word Keema, which means ‘older’. For landed properties and in spiritual matters, it is the Tindana, (the custodian of the earth shrine and cult) who is the overseer. It is his duty to see to the well-being of the entire village by offering sacrifices to the earth shrine periodically and appeasing it if the need arises. This man has great authority and is far more revered, feared and respected than any elder or chief in the village because of his links with the ancestors and the earth shrine of the land.
As regards the political administration, the Frafra administrative system is under the umbrella of the paramount chief and his administrative machinery of sub-chiefs and elders. Among other things they settle disputes and conflicts among members of the village. In modern times, however, with the growth of the legal system, where cases are handled in courts and tribunals, the role of the chief is taking a new shape. Many people prefer to take their disputes to the courts rather than to chiefs for settlement. However, there are certain cases such as disputes concerning the dowry of a woman that are still very much handled by chiefs.
Adaakoya is celebrated at Bolgatanga and Zuarungu by the Gurunsis. It is held between January and February cry year. The festival serves to give thanks to the gods for good harvest. The mode of celebration is through various sacrifices followed by drumming and dancing. The climax is a durbar of the chiefs and people.
Belief in the Supreme Being is very strong in Frafra cosmology. The Frafra refer to the
Supreme Being and Creator God as Yinε. The etymology of this term is not very clear but it is possible that it comes from the word ayina, which means one/alone with the connotation of only. Yinε may, therefore, imply
the Only One, one who is alone and above all. Yinε is often prefixed with na-a, thus Na-ayinε which implies chief. The na-a is a derivative of chief – naba. Na-anyinε, therefore, means the only Supreme Chief.
The abode of the Supreme Being is often viewed as being in the skies or even beyond the skies. As a consequence, the sky is call yinin, which means the abode of Yinε, translated in English as God. This can give the connotation that for the Frafra God is completely transcendent, and far removed from people. Such a conclusion will be a hasty one and will be far from the truth. Even though it may be true that the Frafra think of God as transcendent, it is also true that they consider their Yinε as one who is immanent and always with them. This can easily be deciphered from their daily conversation, and blessings and curses. It is common to hear the Frafra say, yinε ka zãe – God is not far or yinε yẽti – God sees. To wish one a good night, the Frafra would say yinε gã-re ho – which means may God bless your sleep.
Sometimes in cursing or blessing, God’s name is also used. One can curse an enemy with the words, yinε wan soke ho – literally, God will ask you, in other words, God will curse you or bless somebody with the words yinε wan sunge/maale ho – that is, God will help you or bless you.
Besides these, the Frafra have lots of attributes of God. For them, God is love, God is powerful, God is merciful, God is the creator of all there is in the universe. Indeed God is everything. These attributes of God are sometimes found in the many theophorus names among the Frafra. In fact most Frafra names are theophorus. Some of these names include Ayinongre – God’s love, Ayinbora/Ayindesum – God is love, Ayinbono – God’s property, Ayingagya – God is above all and so on. These theophorus names are a powerful expression of the Frafra concept of the Supreme Being who encompasses all that there is and who is the only one, Yinε who has no equal. Idowu underscores the importance of these theophorus names as expression of the African’s view of God when he observes: “The theophorus proper names that people bear all over Africa are a further evidence of how real God is to the Africans.”
In spite of all these, in a very paradoxical way, the Frafra do not offer sacrifices to the Supreme Being directly. To be sure, there is no shrine among the Frafra dedicated directly to the Supreme Being. This, however, is not a contradiction to the respect and honour the Frafra give to God, their Supreme Being. On the contrary it falls in line with their socio-religious life. We saw above that Chiefs play a very important role in the political life of the Frafra. This can be woven into the fact that the Frafra do not approach God directly in their sacrifice but only indirectly.
Among the Frafra like many other African communities, nobody approaches the chief directly. It is a sign of disrespect not just to the person of the chief but the whole chieftaincy institution. Such behaviour is usually punished with a fine. The chief is always approached through intermediaries such as the elders, and his decisions and communications are given not directly to the people but through his elders who play the role of mediators. This indeed is reflected in the Frafra approach to the Supreme Being. We believe this is the reason why the Frafra do not approach God directly in worship and sacrifice but through mediators such as the ancestors, and other divinities.
Divinities: Besides belief in the Supreme Being, the Frafra, like many African communities also believe that other divinities exist and they relate with them in their capacities as divinities endowed with some divine powers that influence their lives. These divinities can be viewed in various forms. They, unlike the ancestors were never once human. Their origin is not known or even talked about but it is fair to imagine along with their mentality that everything comes from the Supreme Being to say that these divinities may have their origin in the Supreme Being or at least share in the powers of the Supreme Being.
These divine beings are good spirits that are interested in the welfare of the various communities. They are perceived to inhabit strange places such as big tress, groves, rocks, mountains and hills, rivers and so on. Very often these divinities have a connection with the history of the village or clan. These are localised divinities that pertain to individual villages, clan or even families. They are very much honoured and revered and sacrifices are offered to them periodically to solicit their blessings. They are considered to be strong mediators between the community they represent and the Supreme Being. These divinities are usually consulted in times of disaster in the community such as drought, famine, epidemics or some other unexplained deaths. In terms of hierarchy, the Frafra view these divinities as being higher than the ancestors even though they have an equal respect and honour for the ancestors. The name of each divinity is often associated with the name of the village, the clan or community. They are believed to be most active at night, particularly after midnight. People are often warned not to linger around the vicinity of the shrines dedicated to these divinities at night otherwise one might come across them and cause harm to oneself. Very often the areas where the shrines dedicated to these divinities are located are protected areas. No farming activities take place there and the trees are not cut least the anger of the divinities is incurred. Thus belief in these divinities is ingrained in the Frafra/African religious worldview.
Ancestors: Belief in ancestors is the commonest feature of the African traditional religion, not least the Frafra. Thus ancestral veneration can be considered a central element of African traditional religion. Unlike the divinities we just treated above, ancestors were once human beings who lived on earth and have now joined the spirit world through the process of death. Like the divinities they are very much honoured and revered. The Frafra associate more with the ancestors than with the other divinities because they were once human and are believed to know the human condition and needs very well and are thus in a better position to solicit help and blessing from the Supreme Being. Moreover, for the Frafra there is a strong link between the ancestors and their living progeny, a link which death does not break. This is why the Frafra build the shrines dedicated to the ancestors within their homestead to emphasise this permanent link that exists between the living and the dead. These shrines are often seen dotted in front of peoples’ houses.
Ancestral cult among the Frafra is not limited to men but also includes women as well. However, whereas generally speaking the male ancestral shrines are located in front of the house, the female ancestral shrines can be found inside the house. This is very much in line with their pattern of life. Frafra funeral ritual, the place of the woman is inside while that of the man is outside. This is also acted out in their religious life since the Frafra generally do not separate the mundane from the religious. These ancestors are also mediators between the living progeny and the Supreme Being.
The criteria for qualification as an ancestor among the Frafra are not radically different from many ethnic communities in Africa. For one to be considered an ancestor he/she must meet certain qualities and requirements.
To be qualified to be ancestor, one must have raised a family, been responsible, grown old and become an elder in the family, clan or village community, and of course would have died a natural death. On a negative note, a wicked person who uses sorcery, witchcraft or magic to cause harm to people can never qualify to be ancestor. People who die bad deaths or may have been known thieves in the village community would also not qualify to be ancestors. The reason for this strict moral code is in the fact that the ancestor for the Frafra is a custodian of the people and in fact an embodiment of their moral code for they can punish deviance and bless good deeds. For this reason if one is not ethical him/herself, how could he/she punish or correct wrongdoing in the community or the family? If one was not responsible on earth, how could he/she effectively mediate between the living and the Supreme Being?
The ancestors are believed to inhabit the land of the dead, which for the Frafra is in the underworld and from there they influence the day-to-day lives of the people. Though they are perceived to inhabit the underworld, they are not confined there but are all around the vicinity of the house. They too like all other spirits are more active at night though their activities cannot be limited only to the night.
Ancestors play a pivotal role in the lives of the Frafra and it is for his reason that they revere them so much. Sacrifices are offered to them periodically to solicit their help and their intercession of the Supreme Being. They are sometimes also invoked in blessings and curses.
Other Spirits: Belief in the existence of other spirits besides the ancestors and divinities is an integral part of African traditional religion. There is, however, a difference between these spirits and the spirits of ancestors and divinities. Ancestors are the spirits of people who once lived on earth and have now died and joined the spirit world. The divinities are also spirits that are connected in one way or the other with the family, clan or village community as we have pointed out. On the other hand, the spirits being discussed here are of a different kind. They are considered as free roving spirits that are all over and not confined to any particular place. These spirits are generally feared as they are believed to be malicious and can manifest themselves in various forms and cause havoc to the human society. Witches are believed to possess some of these evil spirits that make them kill and eat human beings through a spiritual manipulation. It is believed that some of these spirits have the ability to enter the womb of a woman during the normal intercourse with her husband and be born into the world. Generally babies with abnormal features are suspected to be this kind of children. Normally such children are killed and buried not in the normal family graveyard but in the wild for that is where they belong.
These spirits are usually imagined to be very small in stature and very swift in their movement. They can either have very thin voices or loud and rough ones. They have the power to cause accidents on the roads, in the water and in fact anywhere. The Frafra do not offer sacrifices to these spirits and there are no shrines dedicated to them. On the contrary, the divinities and the ancestors are usually asked during sacrifices to keep them far away from the community. These roving spirits are never anybody’s friends and very often people don’t even talk about them.
Though generally the Frafra consider these spirits as malicious and wicked spiritual beings, they also believe that there are good spirits among them. These good spirits can possess an individual in the community and reveal some secrets to him or her for the good of the community. This secret could be the power to heal various kinds of diseases and ailments, prevention of witchcraft activity, ability to divine and see the future, prevention of epidemics, drought and so on. These are considered good spirits that use their powers for the benefit of the community.
Divination: At various intervals, the elder in the family would go to the diviner to communicate with the ancestors and the other divinities to find out the state of the family and if there are certain things to be done. The Frafra never makes major undertakings such as building a house, travelling far away, marrying etc without consulting the ancestors through divination. The ancestors are the guardians and custodians of the living and their permission and blessing must be sought before any undertaking. If the ancestors are against any intended journey or undertaking, it is usually abandoned.
Besides these moments that the Frafra would visit the diviner, there are other moments that call for divination. These moments are death, sickness, during epidemics and some other disasters in the community. During these moments the Frafra divines to find out the cause of these unfortunate incidence so that they can remedy the situation through sacrifices and offerings to the ancestors and divinities as the case may be.
Diviners are usually men or women who are possessed by one or the other good spirits with have talked about above or the spirit of a distant relation who died a long time ago. The possession can manifest itself in the individual in a form of fits or sickness or a strange and abnormal behaviour. In such a situation a diviner is usually consulted to find out the cause to the problem. It is usually during this divination that the intention of the particular spirit is made known and then the family will go through the process of creating the shrine for divination for the particular individual. Usually after that is done the problem disappears and the person becomes a diviner in the community and people can consult him or her. Thus divination can be said to be a life wire in Africa traditional religion.
Sacrifices and Offerings: Sacrifices and offerings are some of the constitutive elements in African traditional religion. For the Frafra there are two ways of offering sacrifices. These are either blood sacrifice or flourwater/flour sacrifice. The blood sacrifice involves the immolation of the victim, either an animal or a chicken and the blood offered on the shrine of the particular divinity. Generally participants of the sacrifice consume the meat of the victim. The Frafra believe that blood signifies life so by offering the blood of the victim on the shrine, the particular divinity takes the life of the victim, which is signified in the blood. Besides this bloody sacrifice, there is also the bloodless sacrifice with either flour-water or only dry flour. For the flour-water sacrifice, the Frafra mixes flour in water and pours it on the shrine of the divinity. The dry flour sacrifice is done in very extreme cases. This is usually done during a period of long drought. The worshippers in this extreme case would pour dry flour on the shrine that is dedicated to the rain divinity to indicate that due to the drought they have no water to mix the flour with. Therefore, this form of sacrifice is only a symbolic sacrifice to provoke the divinity to act in their favour by giving them rain.
Broadly speaking, the Frafra have three forms of sacrifice namely, thanksgiving, pacification and supplication. The sacrifice of thanksgiving is usually done after harvest, childbearing, marriage, a successful expedition and so on. This sacrifice is offered to thank the ancestors for the blessings they have received during the year. A sacrifice of this kind is naturally one of a joyful celebration. The sacrifice of pacification is usually carried out as a result of a wrong done by an individual or a group of people in the village or in the family. Examples of crimes that call for the sacrifice of pacification are cutting branches in the shrines dedicated to a particular divinity, having sex in the bush or sleeping with somebody’s wife and a host of others. These crimes are believed to anger the divinities and the ancestors and thus call for some sacrifices to pacify them or else some misfortune may befall the individual or even the community. The sacrifice of supplication can be done at any time, but generally they are done before the individual or community undertakes a major event such as the beginning of the farming season, before harvesting, before embarking on a long journey and so on. This sacrifice constitutes a request for success and blessing from the ancestors.
Besides offering sacrifices, the Frafra also make other offerings that may not strictly speaking be considered sacrifices but are nonetheless important in their relationship with the spirit world. These offerings are usually food offering mostly to the dead including the ancestors. This usually happens when somebody dies and the post-burial celebration is not yet performed. In that interim period between burial and post-burial celebration, the family of the deceased may prepare food and leave it uncovered in the kitchen so that the deceased who has not yet been brought into the ancestral home through a funeral celebration may can come in and eat. Besides, during the funeral celebration there are moments that food is prepared and kept for the ancestors to come and eat.
Frafra are known for their Kologo sounds. There are a lot of traditional kologo player from a rural, pastoral background amongst Frafra people. The kologo is a little-known two-stringed instrument with a heavy bass sound from the Frafra of Ghana and Burkina Faso that Bola learned growing up herding livestock in Northeast Ghana.
Like the many other ancestors of the banjo that are scattered across West Africa, the kologo has a gourd resonator and a skin head. There’s a whole sub-family of banjo-like bass instruments in West Africa, and the earthy blend of gut strings, gourds, and kick-ass bass lines is nigh-irresistible. But all connections to the banjo aside, it’s just damn nice that we’re finally getting such a great influx of recordings of West African stringed instruments that aren’t the kora (the ubiquitous and beautiful harp of Mail/Senegal/The Gambia).