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

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!