Syndactyly Repair with Dr. Taylor

When plastic surgeon Dr. Taylor comes to BMC as a Samaritan’s Purse medical volunteer, he is always met with interesting cases and puzzles to solve. This young girl was born with syndactyly of both hands. Sometimes, syndactyly only affects two fingers or toes that are fused together. This little one, however, had fusion of all the fingers. Dr. Taylor was able to separate the thumb from the rest of the fingers on both hands.

The wounds were healed nicely and the patient was finally able to grasp things in a claw like fashion with an opposable thumb. That simple ability will make a huge difference in this young girl’s life. She can now pick things up with each hand and will even be able to learn to write.

Ghana’s Historic Mosques: Wuriyanga

This is one of a series of posts about Ghana’s only six remaining historic mud mosques built in the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style.

All of but one of Ghana’s mud mosques lie along the upper western side of the country. On the complete other side of the country, just a couple miles from the Ghana-Togo border, stands the most unique of Ghana’s Sudano-Sahelian buildings. Just east of the town of Garu, in the small village of Wuriyanga (pronounced and spelled “Woriyanga” by locals), stands a historic mosque in the “Djenne style.”

Features of Wuriyanga’s Djenne Style Mosque

Three things immediately stand out when you see the Wuriyanga mud mosque: it isn’t whitewashed, it only has one tower, and it has no exterior buttresses. Read More

Ramadan Readings

It’s now Ramadan, a month considered holy to all muslims around the world. The month is full of special rituals and observances and many muslims of Nalerigu are observing them.

One of the more public occurrences in Ramadan is a daily reading of the Qu’ran at the central mosque after which an imam gives a sermon. This practice is normally observed at Jumu’ah (Fridays’ midday congregational prayers) but during Ramadan it is done daily.

Fasciotomy to Save a Limb with Compartment Syndrome

In December, I operated on a little girl’s forearm. She had developed compartment syndrome after falling and injuring her arm. The child’s family assumed she had broken her arm and brought her to the bonesetter who wrapped the arm tightly.  After 2 days, it became apparent that the child’s arm was severely injured and she was brought to the hospital. The arm was swollen and tense, discolored and numb with no pulses.

The muscles in the arms and legs are encased in thick connective tissue compartments (called fascia).  When the muscles become swollen within this compartment, the pressure can compress the nerves, blood vessels and even the muscle itself to the point that the tissue begins to die.


Read More

Ghana’s Historic Mosques: Maluwe

This is one of a series of posts about Ghana’s only six remaining historic mud mosques built in the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style.

Maluwe is a small village just east of Bui National Park by which the Wa-Techiman highway passes. Its mud mosque sits right on that heavily trafficked road. Unlike most of the other mud mosques in Ghana, it has not had a larger, more modern mosque built to replace it. Instead some modern building techniques have been used to expand it to accommodate more people.

A Unique Update to Sudano-Sahelian Architecture

The mosque follows the Sudanic style with two towers that are much taller than Bole mosque‘s but don’t quite reach the impressive heights of Banda Nkwanta’s mosque. According to the current imam, the northwest tower (left) has collapsed twice and the one standing is its third reconstruction attempt.

One unique aspect to this mosque is that it is longer than the others in the region. It has more of a rectangular shape than a squarish one.

This is because the back quarter of the building is what appears to be a recent addition made with cinder blocks and cement, and plastered to appear like the rest of the mud building. Notice how the last two buttresses on the back side (west) are a bit thicker and more boxy than the others. If that new addition were to be absent, we’d be left with a mosque much more like the shape of the one in Nakore.

A view of the back (west) wall of the mosque also reveals its more modern construction technique. There are no buttresses supporting the northwest and southwest corners and instead there are sharp corners. Such unsupported corners are possible only with a cinder block construction.

Looking at the flat rooftop you can see that the back side of the flat roof drops down a bit as if it was a separate roof added later. Another interesting evolution in style is that the northwest tower doesn’t contain the stairwell to the roof. Instead it’s a small storage room (with some old megaphones in it). Access to the roof is via a very small door in a raised portion of the roof next to the east tower. I was unable to enter the mosque and see if it was a stairwell or just a ladder.[1]

The Origins of Maluwe Mud Mosque

I was lucky to meet and speak with Mr. Baba Yousif, the fifth imam of the historic mosque. He is a kind, soft-spoken man who was happy to tell me what he knew of the mosque’s history. He recounts that his father, who was the fourth imam, said the mosque was built in 1942. He can even give the exact date that it was completed because his father was drafted into the British Army the week after they held their first Friday prayers in the new building (Yousif has his father’s enlistment document to prove it)!

The imam’s mother Aisha Yousif is the oldest living resident of Maluwe, Ghana. She was a young girl at the time of its construction.

Imam Baba Yousif also shared with me that this mosque was build by a muslim missionary from Mali. The man had passed through the region and built five mud mosques along the way. Yousif claimed that the first was in Mandari (now destroyed), then Bole, then Dakrupe (also gone), then Maluwe, and finally Banda Nkwanta. It’s an interesting idea but doesn’t seem to match up with research presented by other historians and archaeologists.[2]

There was no visitor registry to sign at Maluwe nor did Mr. Yousif require any fee to look at and photograph the building. Like Larabanga’s mosque, entry by non-muslims is forbidden so I don’t have images of the interior or any idea of its condition.


1 The imam mentioned that some archaeologists from Europe visited his mosque and surveyed it to “put in a book” a couple years ago. I’m wondering if it was Genequand’s team he was referring to. They published details of surveys of Banda Kwanta (to the south) and Bole (to the north) in the Journal of Islamic Archaeology Vol 4.2 but left out Maluwe. Perhaps the modern alterations to the structure made it less relevant to their historical study.

2 For example, Denis Genequand says the Maluwe imam told him it was built in the 1930s in the SLSA 2015 Annual report. He makes no mention of the Malian missionary account nor does he link the construction of the Bole, Maluwe and Banda Nkwanta mosques.

Be sure to check out my other posts about Ghana’s ancient mud mosques: Nakore, Bole, Wuriyanga

Ziŋŋa yi yɛli, ni, nyɛbga nini beera, di nyɛ la yɛlimaŋni.

If the fish says that the crocodile’s eyes are paining him, it’s the truth.

Mampruli Proverb