Frafra man from Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana with his facial ethnic marks.
FRAFRA (GURUNE) PEOPLE: THE HARDWORKING AGRARIAN, BASKET WEAVING EXPERTS AND MUSICAL PEOPLE OF THE UPPER REGION OF GHANA
"Yinε san ka ku tinŋa can di" (If God does not kill, the earth will not eat)~Frafra Proverb.
The Frafra (also known as Gorse) are hardworking agricultural Gur-speaking people that forms a subset of Gurune/Gurunshi ethnic group in Northern Ghana and Southern Burkina Faso. The Frafra people who live predominantly in the north-eastern part of the Upper East Region of Ghana, called themselves in Gurune language as "Gorse,' whilst some historians refer to them as "Gurune." However, when a Frafra meets any Gurune speaking person he refer to him or her as "Mabia" (My family).
Their popular name Frafra is a colonialist term given to them by the Christian Missionaries, who when they first encountered Frafra farmers were greeted with the common greeting to people working "Ya Fare fare?", which means "How is your suffering (work)?" The missionaries began referring to these Gurune people as Frafra, a derivation of the greeting, which eventually was adopted by the people themselves and has been popularized by the Southern Ghanaian peoples.
The Frafra are also well known for their artistic craft products: straw articles like hats and baskets as well as feather products. Their products can be found all over Ghana in the major towns that tourists visit. Since the colonial era Frafra youth have been compelled to emigrate to the southern parts in search of menial jobs.
They were formally looked down upon by their Northern neighbors as well as the Southern tribes because of the lack of many literate people among them, their willingness to do all kind of menial work and also their habits of "eating dogs." However, in recent times, Frafra people are one of the most well-educated people from the Northern and Upper Regions of Ghana. They have a formidable association, BONABOTO, (an association of Frafra people, notably Bongo, Nangodi, Bolgatanga and Tongo) which champion the political and socio-economic well-being of Frafra people in Ghana.
Bolgatanga is the commercial center of the Frafra people. Other important villages and towns include Bongo, Tongo, Zuarungu, Zoko, Zuarengu, Somburungu, and Pwalugu. It must be noted however that Tongo is the principal town of the Talensi people who are ethnically different from the Frafra. Today, the Frafra can be found in many major towns and villages all around Ghana including Accra, Kumasi, Tamale, Sunyani and Cape Coast. They are also highly mobile, often travelling south to look for work during the dry season. There are also some Gurune-speaking people (the Nankani) in Navrongo District, which is generally a Kasem-speaking area. Native Gurune are also found in Burkina Faso, in the Nahouri province, Eastern part of Tiébélé and in the region of Pô.
In the middle of the market of the regional capital Bolgatanga, lies a large flat rock. Quite close to this area is the site where the settlers dug clay for building and polishing their houses. Clay in the Frafra language is "bolga" and rock is "tanga"- thus the place was named Bolgatanga. It is also referred to as the handicrafts capital of Ghana, and is famous for its intricately designed straw baskets (Tehei), hats and smocks. If you find yourself here do visit the small interesting regional museum The main dishes of the Upper-East Region are similar to that of the Upper West, "TZ" or "Tuo Zafi" rice balls or Omo Tuo with groundnut soup or green leaves soups, beans, rice and cowpea or "Tubaani", koko with "koose". Beverages include pito and "Zom krom".
BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah