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

Animal Names in Mampruli Medical Terminology

We often forget that the fancy medical terms we use in English usually have their roots in Latin and Greek and are actually just simple descriptors. Epilepsy is a classic example coming from the Greek epilēpsia, which is comprised of epi ‘upon’ + lambanein ‘take hold of’.

Mampruli also does that with several sicknesses. For example, stomach issues are described as pukpeeŋŋu  – literally, “hard stomach” – and malaria is called dunsidooru or “mosquito sickness.”

There are also several diseases that are simply named after creatures believed to either cause the illness or that reflect the disease’s symptoms. In traditional African medicine, the preventative and/or curative measures can also be influenced by the animal namesake of the sickness. Read More

Poaa kuuri u daana ka wa la ya?

If the hernia kills its host, where will it go?

Mampruli Proverb

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

A Trip to a Tampulma Community

Who are the Tampulma?

The Tampulma (or Tampolensi or Tamprusi) are a minority ethnic group primarily concentrated just west of the White Volta River around the town of Daboya.  They share their land with the majority Gonja people and have unfortunately been in the news often over that last few years due violent clashes over land, chieftaincy and taxation disputes. Their language of Tampulma (or Tamplim) belongs to the Gur group of languages and resembles Sisala, Mo and Vagla in some aspects. Read More