Many young people in Ghana today downplay the importance of their cultural heritage and hence their failure to learn the cultural norms and traditional practices of their various homes or localities inspite of the inevitable consequencies involved in breaking these cultural norms which do not even temper justice with mercy for ignorant offenders.

These young people shy away from the elders in their localities who are knowledgeable in traditional customs and capable of educating the younger ones about their culture so that they have a better understanding and fair knowledge of what their culture is about. This is because the youth perceive the aged in society as people with achaic minds and therfore often finds it difficult sitting in their midst to interact with them.

Therefore, young people rather prefer camping in groups to play games and discuss issues trending across the country and issues about themselves to sitting in the midst of elders to share in their wisdom.

Anyway, I would still encourage our traditional leaders who are the custodians of our culture to find ways of bringing the younger ones closer to them such that they can learn their culture for onward passage to future generations.

Cultural Similarities of the Sissala and the Dagaaba People

History has it that the Sissalas and Dagaabas are among the first settlers in the Upper West Region which makes the duo indisputably the dominant tribes in the region. These two tribes even though they have some tribal differences but they share some similarities in their way of life.

During traditional celebrations including funerals, both the Sissaala and the Dagaaba people wear the smock as their traditional garment as used by other tribes in the three regions of the north. Aside, the funeral celebrations of both tribes are characterized by the use of the xylophone in mourning the dead and singing of dirges in their respective languages in tune with the sound of the xylophone and also the brewing of pito for sale which has become a trade for women of these tribal extraction and a popular drink among the two tribes.

Marriage Customs of the Dagaabas People
Among the culture of the Dagaaba people, Before a woman is given out for marriage or when a Dagarti man marries a new wife, some curses are invoked on the marriage and sacrifices made during the marriage ceremony in an attempt to keep the woman faithful to her husband. If in the course of the relationship, the woman breaches the vow by cheating on her husband, then the woman would have to be cleansed as it the custom of the Dagaabas that any wife who has cheated on her husband with another man cannot enter her marital home unless she is purified. It is a taboo for a Dagarti man’s wife/Dagarti lady to have any sexual relationship with another man even if the man is a member of her husband’s family. The woman is declared as a ‘spoiled woman’ until the necessary rituals are performed.Any man who touches the breast or kisses or caresses a Dagarti man’s wife in a sexual or romantic manner has rendered her unpure and therefore, she must be purified traditionally before she can cook or sleep with the husband otherwise the husband may die upon eating his wife’s food or have sex with her in her uncleansed state.

It is also believed that if a woman indulges in the abominable act without confessing for fear of being divorced by her husband, she may die.

Also, a married woman who engages in a sexual affair with another man while away on a journey would have to confess and be purified on return before she can enter her marital home.

If a woman is distant from her husband and engages in adultery and stays away for so many years until her husband dies, the woman would have to confess for the rituals to be performed before she can step foot at her husband’s funeral or perform the widowhood rites, otherwise she may die.

However it is alleged that some wives who engage in adultery nowadays succeed in reverting the curses invoked during their marriage ceremonies to save their lives by taking what was used for her dowry to a traditional priest to revoke the curses.When this is done, it woman becomes free to have sexual contact with another man either than her husband but nothing would happen to her.

Marriage Customs of the Sissala People
The absence of invoking traditional curses during marriages in the Sissala culture leaves much to be desired as married women commit adultery without any fear of facing dire consequencies because there is no traditional practice to scare them from engaging in the act as it is in the case of the Dagaabas.

Wa Municipal

In the Sissala culture, a married woman may commit adultery and be free since there is no traditional law baring them from it unless the cheating wife is caught in the act by a family member of her husband. When this happens, the culprits are at worst, summoned before custodians of the land and fined.

Also, some married women who attend funerals in nearby villages by the permission of their husbands are sexually exploited by their supposed boyfriends who lure them into spending the night at the funeral grounds under their mosquito nets after inducing them through excessive drinking of alcohol and meat. But their husbands may never know what transpired unless the woman herself decides to confess.

In some Sissala communities, it is common practice for a man to buy meat for any woman whom he admires and according to that tradition, when the woman accepts the meat, it means the man can have sexual relations with the woman during the funeral celebration at night.

wa, upper west

In the Sissala tradition, when a woman loses her husband, the widow is at liberty to willfully choose her new husband from amongst the family of their late husband but some widows abuse the practice by deciding to marry little boys whom they know have no power over their married life such that they can have the freedom to engage in other sexual relatuinships. Widows who claim to be married to such little children are accused of snatching other people’s husbands and stiring marriages around. Some indigenes are of the view that widows who have the tendacy of giving birth should not be permitted to marry children but must compulsorily marry from amongst the adult younger brothers of their husband otherwise they should be granted the freedom to marry outside the family.

Customary fines by Dagaabas in Breach of their Marital Vows

When a Dagarti man’s wife commits adultery, the man who slept with the woman may be asked to pay a fine, known locally as ‘passani’ which may include; a ram, goat or a cow and some amount of money depending on the status of the man whose wife is involved.

Wa Municipal

That notwithstanding, it is said that after the rituals are performed, the said woman becomes a legal wife to both her husband and the man she committed adultery with.

The Sissala Fines in breach of marital vows
In a Sissala traditional home when a woman who commits adultery is caught in the act by the husband, he reports to the custodians of the land who would summon both parties involved in the abominable act before the elders. The culprits are then slapped with huge fines which may include; a cow, goats, alochol among others to serve as deterrent to others. Some portions of the fines are used for sacrifices to appease the gods and cleanse the land.

The Dagaaba People
The Dagaaba people are an ethnic group in Ghana whose descendants are believed to have migrated from neighboring BurkinaFaso. They speak the Dagaare language and their main occupation is farming.

They are predominantly located in the various districts of Nandom, Lawra, Jirapa, Lambussie, Nadowli-Kaleo, Daffiama-Bussie-Issa and Wa West in the Upper West Region while some Dagaabas are settler farmers in other districts across the region.

Some Dagaabas have also relocated to other parts of the country to engage in farming activities while others do some circular jobs.

Lecture Theater wa poly

Most Dagaabas belong to the Christian and Traditional religious faiths while a little percentage also practice Islam. The Dagaabas celebrate various festivals basically to mark the end of the farming season and to thank their gods for a good harvest. Some of these festivals include; Kakube of the Nandom people, Kobine of the Lawra people, Wilaa of the Takpo people, Bong-ngo of the Jirapa people and the Kaka festival of hippos celebrated by the people of Wichiau. Some Dagaaba communities also celebrate the Duuye festival which is characterized by the use of ashes to mark the walls of households to symbolize the eviction of evil spirits from their homes.

The Sissala People
The Sissala people are believed to have originated from different tribes and clans in the Northern part of Ghana and southern Burkina Faso to settle in their present day locations. It is said that their ancestry can be traced to the Mole-Dagbani people in Gonjaland namely; the Moshi, Mamprusi and the Dagombas. Others are believed to have come from the lineage of the Gurunshi tribes. They occupy the districts of Lambussie, Sissala West, Sissala East and Wa East.Their language is Sissali and their main occupation is farming.Some of the major food crops grown in the Sissala areas include; Millet, Guinea corn, Maize, Cowpea and Yam.

The Sissala people are also known for their speciality in playing and making of the xylophone. Majority of the Sissala people practice the Traditional religion while some belong to the Christian and Islamic religions. The Sissala people also celebrate some traditional festivals to thank their ancestors of a bumper harvest and to also mark the end of the farming season. Some of these festivals include; Paari-gbiele by the People of Tumu area, Mifele Gbero by the people Lambussie, Buwaala Kelwie by the people of Zimi among others.

By Bamie Tahir-Ahmed

2 thoughts on “The Customs And Traditions Of The Sissalas And The Dagaabas In The Upper West Region”
  1. You yourself dont no web have nothing like dagarti/dagaati in our dagaare dictionary, point of correction, Davao is singular, dagaaba is prural. So next time usey corrections

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