Pugura ku zɔ saa – zɔ saa ka di bɔ?

One caring for a field won’t fear rain: fear rain and eat what?

Mampruli Proverb

David’s Sling

Our three-year-old’s favorite Bible story is – no surprise here – David & Goliath. She loves the part where he swings the sling and tosses the rock, hitting Goliath. Here she is narrating it at the dinner table:

Slingshots are common in northern Ghana but are usually the “Dennis the Menace” type with a forked branch and a rubber sling tied between them.

In the old days before rubber was introduced, the Mamprusi made and used slings much like what David would have had in 1 Samuel 17. Occasionally, I find someone with one of these traditional or “old-school” slings.

In eastern Mamprugu they call these slings “kalɔbiga” meaning ‘millet thrower’ because they are used to throw stones at birds trying to eat sown millet seeds in farm. I had always assumed the intention was to hit the birds with the stones. However, the release of the stone also makes a loud popping sound as the rope snaps back. This sound scares off the birds even if the stone comes nowhere near them.

Here’s a short clip of a Mamprusi boy using one to scare off birds from his family’s farm. Notice the snap or pop sound when he hurls it. If this were are leather sling and not just woven vines, it would have been much, much louder.

Zuu lu kpakpuri zugu n-kyɛ n-kyɛ n-gyɛ.

The vulture lands on the tortoise, pecks and pecks and gives up.

Mamprusi Proverb

2018 Fire Festival Photos & Video

This year’s Fire Festival in Nalerigu was a fun one. After the NaYiri kick started the festivities by throwing the throngs of youth got crazy.

I took photos of the torch toss so the video below only shows the NaYiri’s arrival and then the rush of people (and police) after the flames.

NaYiri throwing fire:

Images from the after-party:

Saanditigu kunni la yuŋŋu.

The guest who waits to eat goes home in the night.

Mamprusi Proverb

Gbariga yɛli, ni, ba wukkim u ka u nya la bunni din kyɛnni sa, ka pa bunni din wa na.

The cripple says, they should lift him up to see something which is headed away from him but not something which is coming towards him.

Mamprusi Proverb

A Jingle from Ghana’s Famine of ’77

Forty years ago, Ghana (and much of West Africa) was suffering under a famine. Starting around 1970, the Sahel Drought brought a dramatic change in rainfall and crops began failing year after year. By the late 70s, it was a serious crisis and the people of northern Ghana were suffering horribly.

This all came to my attention recently when a Mamprusi friend shared an jingle he remembered from his youth:

Alikaama zamaanni, Baba yi kyɛŋŋi Gambaga
Alikaama zamaanni, Baba yi kyɛŋŋi Gambaga
“Baba, kulim ka labi na, kyɛm ka labi na”
Ka Baba gyɛ suuri.
“Kulim ka labi na, kyɛm ka labi na”
Ka Baba gyɛ suuri.

I asked another friend who lived in Gambaga at the time if she was familiar with the tune and she sang it for me to record.

It translates to:

At wheat time, Baba went to Gambaga,
“Baba, go home and come back, go and come back”
And Baba was ticked off.

They both recalled how in 1977-78 the government promised food relief and rations of wheat to the starving people of Mamprugu. They would head to Gambaga, the district capitol, for the handouts but they were disappointed over and over at the lack of aid.

One friend recalls that they hired the youth to unload the grain from the trucks. She would haul huge heavy bags all day long until the trucks were empty. Then they would pay her in grain. It was just a small bag that she’d receive but she recalls being happy because they were so desperate at the time. Read More