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.

What Do They Have To Do With the Mamprusi?

Some historians identify the Tampulma as the first to settle in northern Ghana – long before the now dominant Gonjas and Dagbamba ethnic groups.[1] While most Tampolensi are found in Gonjaland, they have a handful of small communities near Langbinsi in the Mamprugu traditional region that date back many centuries.

Unlike the Tampulma in Gonjaland, they have been at peace and cooperation with the majority group in Mamprugu. Centuries ago when the kambonsi warrior class was introduced into the Mamprusi fighting force, the Tampulma supplied the officers.[2] Some of the Nayiri’s elders and court are of Tampulma descent.

Where Did I Go and Why?

On Sunday, I visited a Baptist church in Tangbini, a small Tampolensi village a few miles northeast of Langbinsi. I had planned to preach in Mampruli until I heard how significantly different the Tampulma language was. I then opted to preach in Ghanaian English and let one of them translate directly to Tampulma.

I preached from Matthew 19 about when the young, rich man came to Christ asking, “What must I do to have eternal life?” I opened with a traditional folk tale of spider’s attempt to milk a bush cow. As always, using a traditional (and entertaining) story as an illustration really helped connect with the audience.

Our friend Auntie Talata, head of First Baptist Nalerigu’s WMU, had organized the visit so that she could speak to the women of Tangbini Baptist Church. She wanted to encourage them to organize themselves to meet together regularly to study the Bible, plan outreach events and support each other. After her inspiring talk the ladies agreed that they should choose a leader from amongst them and begin to be more active as a church body.

More To See

The escarpment is only a couple miles north of Tangbini so I’m planning to return on my bicycle in a week or two and spend more time with the folks there. I’ll try to take some photos of the village and get some drone shots of the scarp in that area.


1 Ajayi, J. F. Ade; Boahen, A. Adu, Topics in West African History. 1966.

2 Iliasu, A.A., “The Kambonsi of Mamprusi and Dagomba.” Legon University, Dept. of History, 1968.

Power in the Blood: Animal Sacrifice in West Africa

After a recent visit to Tongo Hills with some photographer friends, William penned this article for IMB.org about animal sacrifice and ritual in West African traditional religion.

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Kurigu yi bii seem, ka ya m-maai ni.

However hot the iron is, it’s gonna cool.

Mampruli Proverb

Nalerigu’s Leatherworkers

In a little nook on the north side of Nalerigu’s market sit two men – brothers – who are the town’s gbanzaba, or leatherworkers. Just twenty years ago there were a lot more leatherworkers and they had a lot more diverse work to do. Then the plastic bags, second-hand Western clothes and cheap Chinese products started pouring into West Africa.

Now I only ever see them working on four things: repairing sandals, making chieftaincy cushions, decorative knife sheaths and magical amulets. The latter is one that isn’t going away. In fact, they have a proverb referencing it:

Gbanzaba pɔ’a seaa ni ka kanni.

A literal translation would be “the leatherworker’s wife’s waist has no leather belt.” However, it’s basically the same idea as the old English adage “the shoemaker’s daughter goes barefoot.” The leather belt in question (kanni) is not just any belt, but a magical charm worn by a woman (especially pregnant women) for protection from evil spirits and/or bad luck. Other magical charms the leatherworkers make are amulets with Quranic verses inside and leather charms that bind up secret ingredients and give the wearer protection or supernatural powers.

I enjoy visiting with these guys every time I go to market. I like to jokingly ask what’s inside the magical amulets they are sowing all the while knowing the answer is asiiri (secret!). Once they offered to repair my dying sandals and even gave me a loaner pair to wear around the market until they were done. Now that’s great customer service!

 

 

The Ambassador’s Visit

January 28, 2018 was an exciting day in Nalerigu. Mr. Robert Jackson, US Ambassador to Ghana, paid us a visit with his wife and an entourage of embassy representatives. Among them was Mr. Jimmy Mauldin and his wife, both former missionaries at the Baptist Medical Centre. Jimmy served as the BMC Administrator for several years in the 90s. He is now the Economic Adviser to the Ambassador in Ghana.

Ambassador Jackson first received a tour of our hospital led by Dr. Tim Cahill and Mr. Stephen Yiddi. After which we had a meal together at the BMC guesthouse. All the American citizens living in East Mamprusi District were invited (my family, the Cahills and Rachel, a PeaceCorps volunteer in Jawani).

The visit concluded with a visit to the NaYiri in town. I was very proud of the wonderful welcome that Nalerigu’s paramount chief, elders and subchiefs gave our Ambassador. He too was very impressed and promised to continue to USAid’s efforts to assist the people of the Northern Region, specifically mentioning CHPS and indoor mosquito spraying.

The NaYiri gave the Ambassador an honorary title of Sumniraana or “Chief of Good Relations.” Ambassador Jackson graciously accepted and responded to the lunsi‘s call to dance Damba (watch their video clip on Facebook).