The Sacred Baobab of Toumousséni, Burkina Faso

Baobab trees are often considered to be objects of spiritual significance in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Tyurama (or Turka) ethnic group have a massive baobab tree in Toumousséni, Burkina Faso. At 18 meters in circumference it is the largest in the country and it is held sacred by the locals.

Locals attribute their survival of a war centuries ago to the spirit of this tree and therefore protect it and make sacrifices to it to this day. It currently has a middle-aged albino man as its guardian and he makes sure that its leaves and fruit are not harvested and that it receives regular offerings. As long as the tree is satisfied with their worship, a massive hole in its trunk remains open giving access to a cavernous room inside the tree.

When we visited we were allowed to enter the tree and sit with its care-taker in the cave. I’ve never been inside such a large tree before. Twenty people or so could have stood inside!

At the center, a single strand or root rose up from the ground to the top. They called it the antennae and said it was the original “core” of the tree. It was quite interesting how the tree was hollowed out around that core.

Buŋŋa putoo zugu ka Naawunni mɔŋŋi u yiili.

It’s because of the donkey’s wickedness that God refused him a horn.

Mampruli Proverb

2002 Mampruli Bible Dedication Video

Someone recently posted this 15-year-old video of the Mampruli New Testament dedication in 2002. I was really excited to run across this on YouTube and see some of my friends such as Tony Naden, Tarana, FBC Nalerigu’s Rev. David, Namoori Naaba, Talata James and others.

Mamprusi in the Basel Mission Archives

The Basel Mission was a Protestant non-denominational mission society that sent its first missionaries to Ghana (formerly Gold Coast) in 1828. Today’s Presbyterian Church of Ghana traces its roots back to the first Basel Mission church plant.

Basel missionaries were great examples of holistic ministry in that they not only sought to evangelize the peoples of Ghana but help them to develop a better quality of life. They introduced printing to the country, established the oldest newspaper in West Africa (Christian Messenger), began the oldest existing basic schools, the first girls’ schools and pioneered seminaries for Africans in Gold Coast. They raised up great African leaders that shaped the early history of this nation. Leaders like Tetteh Quarshie who single-handedly began the entire cocoa industry that produces modern day Ghana’s main cash crop.

My interest in the Basel Mission began when I ran across their incredible photographic archives which are available to the public online. I stumbled across images of Mamprugu from 1910 taken by Dr. Rudolf Fisch. There aren’t many century-old images of northern Ghana and the missionary doctor had about a dozen images taken in Nasia, Langbinsi and Gambaga.

Dr. Fisch was regarded as a brilliant surgeon and fought stubbornly against malaria, alcoholism and improved hygiene conditions. He introduced the first bicycle to Ghana in 1892 and in 1900, he opened the first hospital in Aburi, Ghana.

Dr. Rudolf Fisch in his Aburi dispensary in 1897.

A few cultural things in the images he captured are now obsolete. In the Boayini boys image, they are all sporting a traditional hair style called gbangyuuwa. Nowadays I’ve only see it a couple times in interior villages on toddler boys. They are also wearing the now obsolete kpalaŋŋa – a loin-cloth made from a triangular piece of cloth hanging in front, passed between the legs and tied at the back. The Langbinsi cattle stall image shows a type of gooriga or na’agɔrigu that is covered. Finally, the Gambaga mosque photo shows a building in the once-popular Sudano-Sahelian style mosque. Only a few mosques of that architectural style remain in Ghana today – most famous of which is the one in Larabanga.

“Three people who accompanied Dr Fisch on his journey. Musa from Karaga, Lorenz the cook and Kru the sad.”

It is fascinating to see these fleeting glimpses into life in Mamprugu over 100 years ago.

What spurred Dr. Fisch’s trip to Gambaga? Was he planning to expand his work here?

What is the story of the three men that accompanied him? What were the conditions of the journey? How did they travel?

Did he provide medical care to Mamprusi? Did he operate on anyone? Did he proclaim the Gospel?

Special thanks to the Basel Mission Archives for their generous permission to publish these images on my website. If you would like to browse their fantastic and exhaustive collection visit

I am most interested in the images from Mamprugu, but Dr. Fisch also visited Dagomba land on the same excursion and has more photos in the Basel archives from Tamale, Savelugu and Yendi for those interested.


It’s been a busy week! In five consecutive days, I did five procedures for five patients with appendicitis. For each patient, I used the ultrasound to guide my approach. This week really helped me to fine tune my skills of finding the appendix with ultrasound!


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Ghana’s Wee Problem

The production of Indian Hemp or cannabis, popularly called “wee” throughout Ghana, is increasingly replacing traditional crops on farms in the remote areas of the country’s northern regions.

In recent years, Ghana has become Africa’s largest consumer of marijuana and is third on the global lists. The increased demand has caused the value of the plant to skyrocket and the nation is now the biggest producer and exporter in West Africa.

Poverty in the region drives farmers to grow the popular plant-based drug. One Mamprusi farmer explained, “I get 50 cedis (12USD) for a small bag of dried wee, but a bowl of maize will only fetch me 3 cedis (0.75USD). Which will I grow to feed my family?”

Farms that are safe from authorities’ prying eyes are interplanting Indian hemp in their corn fields and some farms are completely replacing their acres of food staples with it.

When asked what was in the hand-rolled cigarette he was smoking, a marijuana farmer laughed and replied, “Ayi, taba! Vaari maa ya sa’am i zugu.” (No, tobacco! Those leaves with spoil your head!)