The Northern People of Ghana

The Northern Region is the largest area of Ghana. As of 2009, it is divided into 20 districts, notably Tamale Municipal District, Bole District and Yendi District. The region's capital is Tamale. Climatically, religiously, linguistically, and culturally, the region differs greatly from the politically and economically dominating regions of central and southern Ghana.
The Northern Region, which occupies an area of about 70,383 square kilometers, is the largest region in Ghana in terms of land area. It shares boundaries with the Upper East and t he Upper West Regions to the north, the Brong Ahafo and the Volta Regions to the south, and two neighboring countries, the Republic of Togo to the east, and La Cote d' Ivoire to the west. 

The land is mostly low lying except in the north-eastern corner with the Gambaga escarpment and along the western corridor. The region is drained by the Black 

Cultural and social structure

The region has four paramount chiefs, namely: the Yaa Na based in Yendi; the Yagbon Wura in Damango; the Bimbila Naa in Bimbila; and the Nayiri in Nalerigu. Each represents a major ethnic group. The major ethnic groups of the region are the Mole Dagbon, (52.2%) the Gurma, (21.8%) the Akan and the Guan (8.7%). Among the Mole-Dagbon, the largest subgroup are the Dagomba and the Mamprusi, while the Komkomba are the largest of the Gurma, the Chokosi of the Akan and the Gonja of the Guan. The Dagomba constitute about a third of the population of the region. 

The indigenous languages spoken by the people vary from district to district. The Gonja language is spoken mostly in three districts, namely East Gonja, West Gonja and Bole. Dagbani, the language of the Dagomba, is spoken in nine of the thirteen districts. The Kokomba language is spoken mainly in some parts of Saboba-Chereponi, Zabzugu Tatale, East Gonja and Nanumba, Districts. More than half of the population of the region (56.2%) are Muslims. The rest are largely adherents of Traditional religion (21.3%), Christians (19.3%) and other religious groups (3.3%).

Historical and tourist attractions

The Mole National Park, in Damango, West Gonja District, is a 4840 square kilometre reserve for animals such as elephants, buffaloes, wild pigs, antelopes, apes, birds and about 400 other species. The park has a motel with a restaurant, a bar and a swimming pool. This park, which is serviced by Forest Rangers, can best be visited with maximum satisfaction in the dry season. 

Tamale, Daboya, Sabari, Nasia, Mole, Bui, among others, have exotic birds suitable for bird watching for pleasure. The savannah vegetation has a scenic beauty of its own, interspersed with rare species of flora and fauna. Baobab trees and ant-hills are part and parcel of this savannah natural vegetation of the region. Other aspects of the savannah scenery and views are the Nakpanduri and other hilly areas of the northern parts of the region, particularly the Gambaga Escarpment.

Architecture, archaeology and culture

The region is well known for its peculiar architecture of round huts with conical thatched roofs, which provide a particular scenic view. Among the relics of the past, which throw considerable light on the history of the people of the region, are the archaeological sites at Yikpa Bonso, in the West Mamprusi District, with relics of the Komas dating back to the nineteenth century (19th C). Other relics of interest in the region are at Jentilkpe and Kpaesemkpe.

Ancient mosques

Ancient mosques are a particular aspect of the relic legacy of the region which under pin the long history of Islam in the region. The Larabaga Mosque, which is of Sudanese architectural origin, dates back to the 13thC but the Bole Mosque, also of a similar Sudanese architectural origin, was built later. 

While the Banda Nkwahta and Malew Mosques were built in the 18thC, imitating older mosque designs, the Zayaa mosque in Wulugu, is not only of the 20thC but is peculiar in that it is an uncommon storeyed traditional design of historical and military interest. 

The remains of an ancient defense wall are in Nalerigu, in the East Mamprusi District. What is interesting about this defense wall, which dates back to the 15thC, is not only that it was built by a powerful Mamprusi Chief but equally important, is that the wall was built with mortar of mud blood and honey.


The most important traditional festival in the region is the Damba, a relic of Islam, which has lost its religious origin of the celebration of the birthday of Prophet Mohammed. The Damba celebration is also a mix of music, dance, excitement, horsemanship and regal pageantry, at the climax of Naa Damba. The region is the home of the Fugu textile, the centers of production being Tamale, Gushiegu and Yendi.


Source:  Commonwealth network-Ghana (www.commonwealth_of_nations.org)