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.

Visiting the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary

I’ve always been a bit scared of hippos. I think it started in Ivory Coast when a missionary shared a horrific testimony about being attacked by a hippo. Then in 2008, I saw a hippo attack victim first hand at BMC (and I saw ‘justice’ served to the aggressor).

The hippopotamus is considered one of the most dangerous animals in the world because it is so aggressive and unpredictable. Add to that the statistic that they kill about 3000 (!) people a year and you’ll understand why I was hesitant to get in a dug-out canoe and approach them on the Black Volta. Nonetheless, after a bit of research I understood the importance that Wechiau plays to protecting these large, amphibious creatures in Ghana and wanted to support that community with a visit and some advocacy.

A hippo in the Black Volta River in the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary.

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White Volta Rapids in Dry Season

Last October, at the very end of rainy season, Nils and I hiked to the White Volta rapids north of Gambaga. There we found the engorged river roaring over an impressive rock formation. We decided then that we’d come back at the end of dry season to see the difference.

Nils and our friend Richard Jangdow joined me this time. The hike was a long one (9.5 miles, in & out) and it was blazing hot (108°F in the shade) but we made it and enjoyed soaking our feet in the water. Comparing the photos from this trip and the last one, I’m surprised that it wasn’t that much lower – probably a meter at most.

After hanging out at the rapids, we headed back to the hunter’s camp about two and a half miles east and the ferryman offered to give us a canoe ride up the river. I hung back and flew my drone to get shots of them in the boat.

The Incredible Design of the Silk Cotton Tree

Commonly known as the Gold Coast Bombax (Bombax buonopozense) or ‘false-kapok’ tree has pods full of a silky cotton like substance that surrounds its seeds. Its ingenious design allows the pods to burst open and release the seeds to float away in the wind.

Here’s an video of tree opening one of the pods from the silk-cotton tree. You can see how compressed the cotton is inside as it just keeps on expanding and expanding!

In Mampruli, the tree is known as a vobga and it’s flowers are harvest to make a delicious soup. They fetch quite a price in the market when they are available.

Recent Family Portraits

Some photographer friends recently paid us a visit and took some photos of us (it’s rare to get William in the image!). When Easter arrived, William took some photos of the kids (mostly KJ). Here they are:

Visit to Namoori Escarpment

Whenever Dr. Vince “Tiiya” Waite comes to town, I take him out to Namoori to visit his old friend who is chief of that village. Often we go out to the Gambaga Escarpment just north of there after visiting with the chief and enjoying a meal together. Several of his courtiers guided us and took us to a new spot a bit farther east down the scarp.

There they showed us a natural spring that attracts wildlife year round. In fact, we saw a troop of about 10-12 wild patas monkeys running through the trees below. They also showed me a new path I did not know of that allows one to walk down the cliffs and get to the White Volta River.

It follows the trend that each village seems to have its own path down the Gambaga Escarpment to reach their farms, the forest and the river. So far, I’ve seen such paths at Gambaga, Dintigi, Namoori, Zarantinga/Namaasim, Sakogu, Baungu, Kpatiritinga, Nakpanduri and Tusugu.