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The Northern Spice

What have you heard about Northerners and the North? How true are the things you know about the north? Find out more in this post

The bathroom was big enough to house about 15 to 20 of us

About 15 of us were packed in that wooden structure which served as a bathroom for our dormitory. I was standing close to the entrance of the bathroom, any time I looked in her direction, our eyes would meet and she would smile, and each time I returned her smile though I did not know what exactly she was smiling at. For two consecutive weeks, this routine continued and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable and suspicious she was up to something. My guess was right! One day in the third week, she walked up to me and asked “if I was circumcised”, I said, “No, I am not.” She asked again, “What about my other northern sisters”, and I told her none of us had been through it before but she didn’t believe me. She and others were told that all females from the northern part of Ghana are circumcised. They had heard we are all victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and since they have never seen it before, they try to look at our vaginas when we are all bathing together in the bathroom.

Yes we have mud house, but you will be surprised when you go inside one

I patiently explained to her that not all of us have been through FGM. She argued that her teachers at the basic school taught them that all northern girls are circumcised at birth and married off at an early age to older men, so they believed that some of us even had children at home before coming to school. I was open to tell her about life in the north and even take her there if she was willing to go but it seemed whoever socialized her about Northern Ghana had instilled their beliefs so deep in her and she wasn’t ready to let go of them. Apart from this, my colleagues and I who come from the north and were in the school were often asked questions, which we thought, were weird then. They would ask if it is true that we live in mud houses with thatched roofs and very small doors and windows.

No matter what season you visit the north, there is something interesting to see

About three years ago, I met up with a friend, an elderly man in his late forties or early fifties, whom had been born and bred in Accra, had been to Kumasi only twice (both trips by air). That is the farthest he has ever travelled from Accra. He wanted to know how people in Wa get groceries such as milk, sugar, chocolate, ice cream, and the like. He was even asking how he would be able to contact me when I get to Wa because he thought there was no mobile network reception or Internet connection there. Then he asked if there are hotels and restaurants, in case someone wants to to visit. When I got to Wa, I took several videos of Wa township and sent them to him via WhatsApp to see how beautiful the town looks. Rather unfortunate we lost contacts, I would have taken him to Wa to see things for himself.

And yes, there are tarred roads too

My experience from high school and the experience three years ago with my elderly friend made me wonder how many people are still ignorant about some of these things and have wrong assumptions about us. I have come across those who would ask whether it was true that we sleep in trees, drink and use water from streams and rivers, and also dress in animal skins and leaves. I always thought to myself, “don’t these people watch TV or read newspapers?”

There are a lot of beautiful places to see in the north

There are still a lot of people who think northern Ghana is just one massive place, and we all speak one language so the moment they meet you and find out you’re from the north, they assume you are from this one place. They also think everyone who comes from the north speaks Hausa and we are all Muslims. Well, that is not the case, there are 5 different regions in northern Ghana and each has their regional capital; Northern with Tamale as the regional capital, Savannah with Damongo, Upper East with Bolgatanga, Upper West with Wa and North East with Nalerigu. In each of these regions, you’ll find different ethnic groups with different religions, and other distinct characteristics. For instance, in the Upper West Region, you will find ethnic groups like the Dagaaba who speak Dagaare, Waala who speak Waale, Sissala who speak Sissale and many more. You will also find Christians, Muslims, and Traditional believers. So don’t be surprised when you meet people from the north who are not Muslims or who do not speak Hausa.

Wa Melcom, there are other shopping centres as well

A few years ago if people were behaving this way and asking these kinds of questions, it would be understandable and forgivable. This is because people had very limited access to the internet. These days, however, the internet is accessible to a lot of people so it is easier to search for information about places and people, but unfortunately, we still get to hear some of these questions from people. That is not to say the internet cannot mislead people or give wrong information but it is a good way to start. Other people also feel that it is better to hear from the horse’s own mouth than to read about it, and that is not a bad thing, but it would be nice if such questions were presented respectfully.

I find it appalling when fresh graduates are posted to some parts of the country for national service, they aren’t willing to go because they have heard false stories about these places. These ladies and gentlemen are willing to do anything to revert their user agencies to towns or cities they know. And a lot of people will complain that the north is far, I ask them far from where? And I also tell them their places are far, a lot of them will agree with me and say well, you are right.

UDS Tamale Campus

Some colleagues from University of Development Studies (UDS) shared stories about how some students who had admission to the institution would carry bags of sachet drinking water, packs of tissue paper and other groceries (if they are carrying water, what else will they not carry) from Accra to Wa or Tamale or Navrongo just because they do not think that these groceries will be available at these places. Many students have turned down their admissions just because of the stories they hear about the north or simply because they felt it is far (but if they are given admissions outside Ghana, they do not care about the distance). Surprisingly when some of these people get to the school in the north and get to know the town inside out, they do not want to return to their homes anymore.

More pictures of UDS

This is not to make anyone who has asked such questions about the north feel bad, most of these behaviours are a result of ignorance. People do not know or are not given the right information. The media in Ghana have been making efforts to project the true nature of some of these areas that people have wrong perceptions about, but I think we still need to do a lot. As individuals, we also need to make efforts to resocialize ourselves. People from the north also have wrong perceptions about people from the other places, but not many of us are quick to mention these perceptions, especially to the people we have the perceptions about.

Wa township

Ghana is a beautiful country with lots of diverse cultures, amazing people, and breath-taking sceneries. But it’s rather unfortunate most of us don’t get to explore these places in our lifetime, a person from the south is likely to spend his whole life in the southern belt of the country, likewise a person from the northern part. It’s quite better with those from the remote places as education and job-seeking bring them to the cities and sometimes other parts of the country that is far from home but for most of those born and bred in the cities, if not all, they spend most of their life at the same place and all they know of the other regions is stories they’ve heard from people, visuals they’ve seen in the media or social media. I remember that my colleagues from SPRING used to joke about how children of some lecturers in KNUST have never been outside the campus before. They were born at KNUST hospital, they attend KNUST basic school, proceed to KNUST high school, then to KNUST and finally get jobs in KNUST.

Let’s endeavour to schedule touring other parts of our beautiful nation as part of our yearly activities if we have the time and opportunity as this will not only provide us with in-depth knowledge and satisfaction but will also leave lasting memories and stories we could share one day. CHEERS!!!

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105 Comments

    1. Nice piece my dear! I experience such things at school everyday ,if not all but many of them. Thank you for this piece. It will at least brighten up some people’s perceptions about Northern Ghana.

  1. Wow! Suger. That’s such an insightful article. I really miss the North.
    My biggest regret is that I wasn’t able to visit the Upper regions before leaving the northern region. You’ve really reminded me of the nice time I had there.

      1. That legendary question “far from where “? I keep asking it. Lol
        People have a lot to learn

  2. North has beautiful humble ladies . And good organic and healthy food and ingredients . Lovely write up ..

  3. Too much sauce in one write up. 👍
    Well done sugar
    North is indeed our home
    I’m so much proud of you. 💕

  4. Well done Sugar!
    It is all about well marketing ourselve, so thank you for this beautiful initiative. No one else will come and do this on our behalf.
    It is time northners start to replicate at home the nice things they do elsewhere so that we will get over these perceptions.
    We must also get over that primitive believe of the fear to be killed by our own people if you bring modernity home.
    Keep it up.

  5. You have said it all and in the most appropriate way possible. Well done. It is quite unfortunate that in this day and age some people outside the northern part of Ghana still make such utterances. It is almost as if they just want to demean northerners with such humiliating comments. This write up is very educative and I will share the link so that as many people as possible will have access to this. You know the funny thing though? People who are eventually dragged to the north end up getting married to our beautiful, caring, hardworking, respectful and God-fearing women. Some of them settle here and generations of southerners are now born & bred in the north because of how favorable the environment is and also because of the good nature of the northern people. It is however worth noting that some northerners are not proud of where they hail from and are excited when they are told that they do not look like northerners. So unfortunate! We need to embrace who we are and project our northern heritage. We need a united front also as northerners in academia, business, politics etc. This is very necessary because I believe in a few years we would not have to explain anything about the north to anybody. We will do many great things if we are united and we will be all over the media. Thanks a million Sugar. You have done an amazing job and I am always proud of you. Great content well put together! 👍🏻

  6. My father used to say ‘travel and see’ , I schooled in Tema growing up and had to answer some of these weird questions, especially with regard to the kind of houses we live in. Sometimes I wasn’t as patient as you were with your friends because I felt insulted. The point is, we all need to travel once in awhile and know things for ourselves before we comment on them. Thanks sugar.

  7. Them: You’re beautiful
    Me: Thank you (blushing )
    Them: Where are you from ?
    Me: Upper West (Actually I’m mixed. My dad is from Upper East, Tongo. My mum from Upper West, Ullo)
    Them: Really. You look like someone from Cape Coast. Are you sure you are a northerner ?
    Me: Yes (with rolled eyes) So you think beautiful girls are not in the North erh! ( should i be walking looking like T.Z with dry okro soup )
    Even living outside Ghana I still face this. When I tell some of the Ghanaians where I’m from they still don’t believe.
    Thank you Sugar. Keep on writing

  8. I have not been to the North before, but my best friend and sister is from there. I would love to be there because I love travelling. Waiting for you to take me there though. We all must endeavour to travel across our nation and not only feel comfortable and safe where we are. “Travel and see”

  9. Nice presentation. You have said it all.I think almost all northern students who had their education and training outside the northern zone encountered one form of misconception or the other.I attended UCC and graduated in 2005 and I was not spared of these misconceptions too. Imagine my landlady’s son, named George,once asked me the following questions:1.Alhaji, I have a friend in Yendi.Do you know him? The fact is I reside in Tamale.How can I possibly know everyone in my vicinity not to talk of people in Yendi. 2.Alhaji,is it true that when it is harmattan season (Dry Season) people in the north would have cracked skins and blood would be oozing out?I had just returned from the north for the semester’s program , during the harmattan season when he asked that question.I quickly showed my body to him to inspect for cracks. He later apologize and said that was what he was told, apparently,by people who had not visited the north.

  10. Well said sister. It is even more appalling when we the Northerners born in the south decides to degrade our own people and where we come from. We can’t blame the Southerner’s much since we also contribute to it. I am a Northerner and very proud of it.

  11. What’s really appalling is the ignorance our media houses exhibit when casting news about the North. You’ll still find a television station referring to Upper East as Wa and Upper West Bolgatanga.
    Nice piece of write up👍

  12. Oh how much I have fallen, deeper in love with this post and the North. Thanks for throwing light on our blinded ignorance concerning our culture. I personally had weird ideas about the North and vowed never to go there. All this changed when I took a chance to volunteer for a medical outreach program in Nalerigu back in 2017. Oh my! I think I spent some of my best weeks ever there. The people were so courteous, hospitable and most importantly willing to take you around to show you all the beautiful places. The break from the noisy and densely populated Accra was perfect. Too bad the chief wasn’t willing to marry off three women to me. Loool. Guess this was all prejudice I held of the North.

    Beautiful post sugar. Cheers

  13. Wow, Sugar I must confess I’m really impressed about the good work you’ve been doing. This is the first time I open this page and to be honest, I love it . Continue the good work. Cheers.

  14. They are just lazy and ignorant. Some of them the villages they come from eerr hmm only God knows. You are in your own country explore it and give yourself some education.

  15. Nice project
    Keep it up
    I’m always glad when writings like this enlighten people about Northerners

  16. Strange and wierd as these things are, they keep coming up. Surprisingly, a lot of people who ought to know better (or so you’d think) end up asking the most insane questions. For instance, back in Adisadel College, my Social Studies teacher alleged that the division of the then upper region into upper west and upper East was due to a Kokomba-Nanumba conflict, when in reality these two tribes aren’t even in the upper region. He got angry when I drew his attention to it, but these are the kind things we have to fight on a daily basis.

  17. I had similar experience growing up.My school mates,classmate and somethings my teachers always giving nasty comment about the north.Thats way some northerners deny were they come from because they find it difficult to defend where the come from.This piece of writing is a bold step taken not yet to enlighten Ghanaians only but to make we the northerners proud of where we come from.

  18. A great and informing piece! Well, when I had admission into the university,the room I had was full of southerners. I was even the only person from the north if I’m not mistaken. Those southerners wanted to bossy over me simply because I hail from the North. They said all sort of things to degrade me but I didn’t give in to their nasty comments. What I told them was that I am disappointed in them for not knowing anything about their motherland. I never stooped so low for any of them. One day,one of them made a comment that “eiii u wouldn’t believe this girl is from the north, see how she always dresses? Always on point,100%” . I simply replied them that where we come from, we dare not fail in anything because it will be same as throwing your future into jail. One of them was my course mate, we were once given an assignment but she didn’t understand anything about that assignment. I assisted her and she made a great score! From there, her notion about #us started disappearing! She was always on my side whenever there’s an issue. All her friends later made friends with me. We are cool now. So sometimes, we as northerners should stand up for what’s best for us. We should be proud of where we come from and never settle for anything less. Thank you. Keep it up and stay safe.

  19. Great piece. The more we ourselves project our culture, the more we’d be able to educate those who have no idea about our culture.
    “I’m a proud Dagao, I’m not a “northerner” “…… That has always been my response when someone asks of my tribe.
    This mostly startles my audience like (🤔😟😟?? ) but I end up getting their attention to throw more light on who a Dagao is and which part of the country we are from and not just “North”.
    The onus is now on them to take it or leave it. Lol.
    Let’s keep the fire burning.
    I miss home already after reading this… 😔😔

  20. I love this write up,it really projects Upper West pretty well.
    Continue to do this I love your write ups.

  21. First of all
    Hausa is a language in Ghana!?
    Amazing!!!

    Left to me I would propose a compulsory one year travel experience for fresh graduates, just so to encourage people to travel. I can’t over emphasised it’s importance.

    Thanks for the northern experience, Sugar

  22. Wow…I have not read a well-crafted piece in a while. Keep up the good work. Such stereotypes have far-reaching effects and tend to become scars on we those who hail from the north. But we will wear those scars proudly every where we go.

  23. Sugar, this is beautiful. So enlightening. High time we understand the North is not just a dry mass of land, but a place with beautiful people, cultures and development too.

  24. I felt very happy and guilty reading this piece. Happy because I have learned a lot from this wonderful write up. Guilty because I have fallen prey to some of the ignorance displayed by people of the South. It’s such a shame that such has to be the case. During my SHS years, some of the best people I encountered hailed from the North and they were such fun to be with. I still miss most of them. And the part about the Knust babies, Sugar were you talking about me😭😭😭. In the future, I’ll personally your the Northern lands and I’ll need you as a guide. God bless you for this exposé.

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