Saturday, August 24, 2013

SISSALA PEOPLE: THE FRIENDLY AND XYLOPHONE PLAYING PEOPLE OF NORTHERN GHANA.

Sissala are a agriculturalist, friendly and culturally inclined cluster of  Gur-speaking people that forms a subset of the larger Gurune/Grunshi ethnic group residing in the Upper West Region of Ghana and Southern Burkina Faso. In Ghana Sissala are mostly found in Tumu and Gwollu areas.

                Sissala drumers from the Upper West Region of Ghana

Sissala people are very hardworking and are very traditional people who value education a lot. Everyone in the Sisaala village seems to have respect and friendships with most other members of the village. People cannot pass you be without saying hello or greeting you to cheer you up irrespective of how you feel.
Sissala people greets a lot and they have a phrase to fit every occasion. "Bedia" (pronounced BAY-dee-ha) is the morning greeting you would give someone you meet on a walk. "Ediapina " (I-dayh-pi-NAH0) is the reply. There's always a conversation starter suited to your setting.  Swapping greetings of any kind almost always involves a chat about family (including extended family) and work. Quickly passing by with a wave or a nod is rude to the Sisaala.”

                                    Sissala men in traditional dress at a festival

The Sissala people are very famous for their Xylophones and their local areas, charcoal burning technics.

                             Sissala Xylophone

Location
The Sissala people are located in two districts in Ghana, namely Sissala West and Sissala East. However, about 20% of the Sissala have migrated to the south. Ghana is located on the coast of West Africa, just five degrees north of the equator.
The Sissala West District is located in the North Eastern part of Ghana. It lies approximately between Longitude 213w to 2:36w and Latitude 10:00N 11:00N. It shares Boundaries with the Jirapa Lambussie District to the West, Sissala East District to the East and Burkina Faso to the North and Wa East District to the South.

                     Sissala dancers from Pulima village, Tumu, Upper West Region, Ghana

The district sharing border with Burkina Faso will facilitate cross border socio-economic activities. However, this has its own implications for health and crime wave. It covers a total Land area of 4,11289km, which is about 25% of the total Landmass of the Upper West Region.
The Sissala East District is located in the North- Eastern part of the Upper West region of Ghana. It falls between Longitudes. 1.300 W and Latitude. 10.000 N and 11.000 N. The district has a total land size of 4,744 sq km – representing 26% of the total landmass of the region. It shares boundary on the North with Burikina Faso, on the East with Kassena Nankana and Builsa Districts, to the South East with West Mamprusi District, South West with Wa East and Nadowli Districts and to the West by Sissala West District.

            President Hilla Liman`s tomb at Gwollu

In the Sissala West, the major tourist centres in the district include the Gwollu slave defense wall, the tomb of the late President, Dr Hilla Limann and the Traditional Bone Setting Centre.
Cultural activities such as the Kukur Baghr Festival performed by the people of Fielmuo also attract tourists. Tourism should thus be made an issue in the development efforts of the district. Within the service sector, the main problems are low patronage of market infrastructure, lack of auxiliary facilities to boost tourism, lack of financial institutions to support the sector.

In Sissala East there a number of tourism potentials which includes Kasena slave market at Kasena, Wotuomo cave between Dangi and Lilixia, Hunter’s footprints at Dolibizon, Mysterious rocks at Pieng, Mysterious river at Nmanduanu, Bone setters at Wuru, Kwapun and Banu, Historical site at Santijan and the White man’s grave at Tumu.

Ecology (natural environment): “Most Sisaala live in the flat grasslands of the Tumu district in northwestern Ghana. However, about 20% of the Sissala have migrated to the south. Ghana is located on the coast of West Africa, just five degrees north of the equator.
However, the Sisaala are more than ten degrees north and are in the 10-40 window.” “Northern Ghana's weather is hot and tropical. The Harmattan, a wind that blows from the Sahara desert, turns the sky to a haze of dust from December to February. The two seasons are humid and rainy (March-September) and dry (October-February).”  “The Lambussie area is typically a dry, arid land with
equatorial dry and wet seasons. The wet season lasts from July until November, and is the fertile time for many crops including rice, groundnuts (peanuts), and other fruits and vegetables. The dry season makes up the rest of the year, with highest temperatures in April, May and June.”


History
The Sissala people are said to have been originated from different tribes and clans in the Northern part of Ghana and southern Burkina Faso to settle in their area today. It is believed that they are mostly from Gonjaland, the three Mole-Dagbani people, namely the Mossi, Mamprusi and Dagomba. Others too are mostly from the Gurunshi tribes.
Sissala man and the Ghanaian president of the third Republic, Hilla Liman

Rattray in his epic book "The Tribes of the Ashanti Hinterland" (vol.2, pp.469-71)" given background to how the Gwollu ancient Slave Fortified Wall was built in the 19th century {as a double circle} by Gwollu {or Gbollu} Koro Limann as a defence against slave raiders and how the name Gwollu itself came to be named averred that "The Gamvera (Crown-bird Clan) .. originally came from near Bole.. as told me by the elders of Gwolo. .. 'Tangia built the walls around Gwolo, .. a second son of Yagbon .. He was a koro, a rich man. When .. Babatu, came, Tangia was sent by his father with ten men to meet him. .. Babatu first came to Gwolo as a friend .. While Babatu and his army were ar Kasana, the Gamvera began to build their wall. .. Babatu, however, never attacked Gwolo......The name itself means that the people went around and around and settled in the spot known as Gwollu."" Clearly, one can see from this narration that the Sissala King of Gwollu and his clan are of Gonja origin.

            Current chief of  Sissala Gwollu traditional area, Kuoru Buktie Limann

It must be noted that after the coming together to form a distinct ethnic group the Sissala people also spread across the their northern territories to the other communities to settle. Some even founded important towns such Banda Nkwanta which was formerly called 'Dua'. "The first settler was a Sissala man who was driven down by war in the north and was later joined by a Dagarti friend. They decided to settle to do farming and hunting. The exact date the community was established is not known but speculated to be before the Second World War. The name Dua was changed to ‘Nkwanta’ (meaning junction in Akan) because it became a trading junction where cattle were bought and sold. It was a junction to Banda."


Economy
Sissala economy is based on agriculture and livestock keeping. The agriculture sector is characterized by crop farming and livestock production. Despite efforts to promote the sector, production still remains at subsistence level, as there is no large plantation holding in the district. The agriculture sector employs about 90% of the labour force. The major food crops grown in the Sissala areas are millet, sorghum (Guinea Corn), Maize, Cowpea and Yam. Cash crops such as cotton shea-nut and dawadawa are also found in the district. Cash crops, however, has received little attention due to market uncertainties. Economic trees such as shea, dawadawa and baobab also contribute substantially to household income in the Sissala communities.
The vegetation of the Sissala environment also promotes animal rearing. However animal rearing is at subsistence level. The major animals reared are sheep, goats, pigs and cattle. The proximity of the Sissala land to Burkina Faso and the presence of fodder could be the responsible factors. Though this could be a source of livelihood, it also results in loss of soil fertility through overgrazing.


Food
In Sisaala cuisine, several people share a bowl of food. Kore, the staple food, is thick cornmeal mush eaten with soup made of green leaves and dried ground fish. A favourite Sissala meal is pounded yam, or Kapalla, which is like heavy mashed potato. As in most African culture It is an abomination to eat with your left hand.  Most Kapalla goes with a tasty soup. Soups are made by boiling peanuts or a variety of green leaves.

Division of Labour
Sexual division of production There is no sexual division in the production of crops in the Sisaala group. “Since the Sissala's way of life is rooted in the fact that families work together to produce their own food, children spend a lot of time working alongside their parents to collect firewood, haul water, fire pottery and tend livestock and crops. A Sissala proverb captures this reality: "When the harvest is on, the whole family is in the field."”
The sexual division of labor was still intact. Only men farmed, while women gathered bush products, and did domestic chores and grew soup ingredients in kitchen gardens. Men hunted in the dry season; women gathered fish from standing pools left as the streams dried up. Sissala women had few institutional roles in mainstream farming, their main tasks being domestic and reproductive. They do help with planting and harvesting. What income they generated was from gathered bush products, beer-brewing, charcoal and firewood sales, or craft-production such as pottery or baskets.”

Political system: (chiefs, clans etc, wealth or status classes):
Traditionally, political authority does not extend beyond the village, but resides in the hands of the village owner, the jangtina. As custodian of the village shrine, the jangtina was responsible to settle intra-village disputes through certain rituals. Today, this "village owner" position still exists but provides leadership in conjunction with the local village chief and the district paramount chief.

Acting president of the Sissala Buwa Traditional Area-Kuoro Bareche N-Lowie Baninye II

 When one goes to greet the chief it has become customary to approach him with certain signs of respect. One should remove one’s sandals and approach him in a slightly crouched posture, squatting directly before him. Women and young men often keep their eyes averted from him. He is only called “chief,” never by his
name.”

Marriage
In the Sissala culture marriages are polygynous. This could be attributed to the farming chores that demand  labor which is often scarce and children are valued to help their fathers in farm. It must be emphasized that not all the Sissala  marriages are polygynous
Marriages in Sissalaland are almost always arranged and people prefer to arranged marriages with someone that is not in the same village. It is actually a taboo for marriage to be within the same village in this culture. It is equally taboo for people of the same village or "clan village" to wed. As a result neighbors, friends, and village people or section of the elders, who need to be consulted before a marriage takes place, often witness the process that culminates in the young woman's move to her suitor's village.
Arranged marriage or promising ones daughter in marriage occurs in two ways:  A man can approach a pregnant woman, give her ten white cowrie shells, or, these days, ten pesewas and tell her, “If your baby is a boy, let him be my friend; but if your baby is born a girl, let her be my wife.” If the woman and her husband accept the prestation, it is considered to be the first in a series of payments to be made over the years. …
 A girl might live with her father, but the initial prestations have already begun to be paid by a groom-to-be. Once the first payment is made, along with three days of bride service on the father’s farm, the girl is betrothed.
Fornication by a woman is greatly abhorred in Sissala society. It is alright for either gender to engage in premarital play-sex; but upon marriage, the woman should terminate such childish play and concentrate on producing children. She should not have lovers outside of marriage, while the husband may.

Naming ceremony
In Sissala culture, the naming ceremony of a child is quite large. Those who know the parents and are a part of the communal life of the village make an appearance to watch the baby receive its name. It is believed in the Sissalaland that a child is born into a large extended family, and is viewed as belonging to everyone, not just to the parents. The child is seen as a gift from the ancestors. A sense of individualism does not exist in Sisaala culture. Community and family affairs are paramount to a Sissala native.

The raising of children in Sissalaland is a community affair though the mother takes a circumstantial role in the child`s upbringing. The fathers also take great care in instilling moral discipline in their kids whenever the children goes wayward.
As in most Gur-speaking communities and northern Ghana in general, first born sons are cherished by men and women. In fact  the worst fate for a man or a woman is to die without a son. This is simply so because of their ancestor worship that demands that first born sons are to succeed their fathers to sustain the inheritance line.As a result when a Sissala man cannot have a son, he will characteristically blurt out a rhetorical

                                  Sissala woman and her baby

Passage rituals (birth, death, puberty, seasonal):
In Sisaala culture, it is tradition to hold two funerals. The first funeral is at the time of burial. Here people who heard it and are around could join in the funeral celebration. People come to pay their condolences whilst others come to offer any gift of their choice. The second one happens after a short amount of time in order to celebrate the life of that person. The second funeral is normally a large ceremony, especially if the deceased is an elder. During these funerals initiation rites are performed; special foods are prepared; special dresses are worn; special songs and dances are performed; sacred rituals are performed; Sissala protocol in every sphere of life is strictly observed. It is equally interesting to observe that all mourners and sympathisers have well structured and defined roles to play during traditional funerals. “Funerals were elaborate, until the influence of Islam, everyone had two.

 The Sissala also take the passage into adulthood very seriously. This is one of the biggest transitions in their lives. “Thus, transition from childhood to adulthood is one of moving away form playful sexuality to responsible sexuality focused on the procreation of children and the reproduction of society.
 The main rite marking this transition to adulthood involves a series of rituals revolving around marriage, childbirth and the transformation of the physical body of the child into a social being. …The birth of the first child is crucial as a marker of the transition to adulthood. Once a couple has produced a socially defined human being they are considered to be adults.”

Adornment (beads, feathers, lip plates, etc.): In Sisaala society, a head scarf can tell you much about a women’s marital status. “If a man sees a girl he wishes to court, he buys her a head scarf (nyukpala). If she accepts it, they are dating. She will not wear the scarf, as only married women wear scarves. A nyukpala is doubly symbolic for the Sisala. Only married women wear nyukpalaa, and it is made of cloth which men traditionally had the obligation to supply for their wives.”
Sissala women are also noted for wearing good and quality beads. " Of old, bead-wearing among Sissala women was one of the commonest ways by which Sissala women expressed romance. But how? The size of the beads worn by Sissala women spoke volumes to the discerning suitor/husband.
The partial exposure of the beads worn to a privilege 'spectator/person' was another way of expressing romance. The acoustics of the beads also spoke volumes about the romantic mindset of the Sissala woman of yester years. Indeed, some beads worn by Sissala women could be used to make rhythmic sounds of musical melody by walking. These beads may be described as singing beads.
Not long ago, a woman who didn't have her beads on was described as not properly dressed or having 'tingboguloo.' That was an ample evidence of how important beads were to the Sissala woman in the romantic realm."
SOURCEfacebook.com/sissalaheritage

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