Rock Paintings on the Gambaga Escarpment (Tusugu, Gingana and Kpatritinga)

In 1964, archaeologists P.L. & P.J. Carter published a paper entitled Rock Paintings from Northern Ghana. In it they detail their discovery of ancient rock art in January 1963 – the first to be documented in the newly formed nation of Ghana. I myself had stumbled across some very primitive pictographs on the Gambaga Escarpment a few miles from Nalerigu (more on that in a bit) and I was curious to see what they had found 55 years ago.

The drawings (illustrated by Carter to the right) were found right along the Ghana-Togo border on the Gambaga Escarpment (just north of the village of Tusugu or Tusik). On a rock shelter in the side of the cliffs, they found the well-preserved remains of an ancient community. There were over a dozen large terre pisé structures and twice as many smaller granary like constructions. On the walls among the cliff dwellings were four collections of the Ghanaian pictographs. Read More

Great West African Music from 2017

Americans have this bad habit of lumping all non-English music into this one big genre called “World Music.” This year (as is the case every year), if you glance at “2017 Best World Music” lists, you’ll see that West African musicians dominate the genre.

Here are a few of my favorite West African albums that came out this year. There are a couple longtime favorites of mine (Amadou et Mariam, Tinariwen), but I was introduced to a lot of new artists in 2017.

Another trend I noticed this year is West Africans who are immigrants (or children of immigrants) making music that is a fusion of their family’s traditional tunes and their new homeland’s.

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Sirigu Pottery & Arts Center

On our trip up to Burkina Faso with Heidi’s parents we made a stop at SWOPA – the Sirigu Women’s Organization for Pottery and Art. Just outside the village of Sirigu, the arts centre offers tours, workshops and a gift shop where you can learn about this traditional art form of the Kasena people. Women from this village were commissioned to create the murals in the Navrongo Minor Basilica that I wrote about a couple months ago.

Our tour guide first took us to a nearby traditional Kasena compound and explained their architecture as well as some of their cultural practices.

Then we returned to the arts centre where we at a traditional Ghanaian meal in their canteen and bought some of the pottery created and decorated by the local women who are members of the SWOPA co-op.

Here’s a short documentary on YouTube about the process of decorating walls in Sirigu.

Reunited with Boyz2

Boyz2Men in his studio

The last two times I was here, I connected with a young man my age who is the town’s resident artist. His name is Mahamadou Mumuri but he goes by the nickname “Boyz2Men.”

His art work is seen all over town in the form of commercial signage. He paints murals, signs, and does hand lettering for businesses. Mahamadou was never trained in art and has developed his own unique (and awesome) style. He always signs his work with his nickname and phone number and has really made a name for himself in the region.

Since I last saw him in 2008, his business has grown and he now has his own studio in town and gets commissioned to do work as far aways as Kumasi in the south of the country.

I’ve been hanging out with him a lot this week and hope to post more about him and his art in the weeks to come.

The Mindful Eye Photo of the Week

I often visit a great website called “The Mindful Eye.” It is an online photography community that features articles, tutorials, podcasts, and forums on all things photographic. One of their best features is The Daily Critique; every couple days they post a video where a professional photographer offers constructive criticism on a photo that was submitted by a user to be critiqued. Watching these short videos can teach you a lot about photography.

They also let users submit images to be considered for the Photo of the Week pick. The pick of the week is then critiqued by a pro. I was flattered not only to have a portrait I made at BMC get picked but get such wonderful comments by Atlanta-based professional photographer Craig Tanner. As usual, listening to his critique of my image taught me something new: specular highlights!

Here’s his critique:

If you have an interest in photography and are looking to improve your skillset, I highly recommend The Mindful Eye.

Finding Folk Art

I went on an excursion today with Dr. Femke Veldman, Elisabeth Faile, and two nurses. We headed to Nakpanduri to meet two local healers (herbalists, witch doctors, what ever you want to call them) and find out about their medicines and techniques. I’ll write more on that later.

This post is about the amazing art I saw at one of the healers’ home. We had been visiting with a woman healer and she asked us to greet her father (who taught her everything about the trade). She asked me to go in the room to take his picture. Thank goodness I brought my flash because there was no window and no light – it was almost pitch black. Read More

Advice for Pregnant Women

This image is dedicated to my expectant sister-in-law, Annie.