Some groups of people are identified with some notable ways of doing things, but we also hear some things that are not true about them. It may be from an interaction one person had had with just one of them and made that generalization. It could be from hearsay or even as assumption. I have interacted with people who have never been to the Northern part of Ghana, and sometimes they do not have the right information when it comes to issues about the area, the people and their way of life. The North, as used in this write-up refers to the Northern, Savannah, Upper East, Upper West and the North East regions of Ghana. Let me take you through some of these “facts”:
All Northerners speak Hausa. A lot of people assume that the North is this one area where people speak one language and that language is HAUSA! No dearies, no. We have 5 regions in the North now and each of these regions have people of different ethnic orientations, thus there are so many different languages spoken in the region. Even people in the same region do not understand each other’s languages. For example, I don’t understand Sisaali and Vagli, though these two languages are some of the languages spoken in the Upper West region where I come from.
All Northerners are Muslims. I have met a lot of people who will ask me why I changed to become a christian, and I tell them I have been a Christian from birth but they find it hard to believe simply because they have been socialized to believe that anyone who comes from Northern Ghana is a Muslim. For the record, Islam was the first religion to be introduced in the North, but around 1906, Fr. Oscar Morin introduced Christianity to people in Northern Ghana (Great Things Happen). It may be true that majority of Muslims in Ghana come from the North, but it doesn’t mean that all of us are Muslims. If you take the Upper West region for example, there are three main religious groups: Christianity, Islam and Traditional.
Any Christian from the North is a Catholic. When people get to know that there are Christians in the North, they think that all of them are members of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. It’s a common misconception, in fact when I was growing up, I only knew of the Catholic Church, everyone around me attended the Catholic Church so I thought we had Muslims, Catholics and Traditional believers only. I got to know much later that we have other denominations such as the Anglican, Methodist, SDA, Pentecost and many others.
Northerners are dark and ugly. A lot of times, I get people say “eih then Northerners are beautiful!”, “Are you sure you are from the North? I have never seen any Northerner this beautiful.” Well I think that you
have not come across a lot of Northerners because the truth is a lot of us are really beautiful and handsome. It is not like beautiful people can only come from one continent, one country, one region, one area, one ethnic group or one community so people shouldn’t be surprised to find beautiful people from one ethnic group or geographical location. Some of them will also ask why Northerners are fair, they expect us to be dark because it is always sunny, but no, that is not the case, there are many light-skinned people as well as dark-skinned people in the Northern part of Ghana. I used to be very unhappy and uncomfortable when I get reactions that suggest that Northerners are not beautiful, but now, I just use the opportunity to educate people.
All houses in the North are made from mud and have thatch roofs.
People also think that all the houses we have in the North are round mud houses with very tiny doors and windows and thatch roof. That is not true. We have modern houses; houses built using concrete and mortar complete with aluminum roofing sheets, burnt-clay roofs or micro-concrete roofs. You will find some one or two mud houses around and maybe a lot of them in certain communities.
There are no trees in the North. Errmmm, we may not have a lot of big trees as found in the South but we sure have a lot of trees and plants. There are so many that you cannot count them all in a day! The vegetation consists predominantly of grassland, especially savannah with clusters of drought-resistant trees such as baobab, shea nut, dawadawa and acacia.
All females from the North are circumcised or have been taken through FGM, this was one major issue I and my Northern sisters faced in my SHS, a lot of the girls in the school thought we were all circumcised. It is not just them, I have had people ask me if I am circumcised, when I answer and ask them why, they say they have heard that Northerners always circumcise their daughters at birth. I just smile and tell them, well I have never even seen a circumcised female nor seen the act of circumcision before, but a lot of them are not convinced. Then I ask them where they heard that from but they are not able to answer. Sometimes I feel like stripping for them to confirm the veracity of my claim, but then how many people will I go round doing that for. (lol).
The sun in the North is so hot it causes baldness. The climate of the North is semi-arid. We have less rainfall than most parts of Ghana and a lot of sunny days. The first time I heard this, I was shocked, I mean how can the sun ever make one to lose their hair? If that was the case, then all of us including the women would have been bald. Have you seen that we have a lot of women from Northern Ghana who have long natural hair? And they can actually braid the hair into several styles without adding any extensions whatsoever. Some people may argue that we are taking advantage of hair growth products to make our hair grow, but truth is, not everyone even know about hair growth products. Scientifically, heat can cause hair loss but it is not a permanent thing. Hair lost through heat action can be regained when one leaves the source of the heat so that defeats the assumption that the heat from the sun can cause baldness.
Girls are married out at an early age. Just like we have women marrying at different ages all over the world, so it is in the Northern Ghana. No age is set aside for women and men to marry so we have people marrying at different ages. Some ladies from the North may marry early, it does not mean that all of us are married off as soon as we get our menarche. One of the questions my colleagues in SHS used to ask was whether it was true that we were married and that we had had children before coming to the school. We were between the ages of 14 and 17 at the time, I mean how could we have been married? If you have also thought like this or have this perception, it is not true, nor is it always the case.
Northerners are aggressive and quarrelsome or they do not understand issues. If you are a Northerner, one of the things people may say to you is that “then you are calm oo” or maybe “Are you sure you are a Northerner, the way you are calm dier”. It may be true that some languages we speak sound a bit energetic and you have to speak with some kind of force, but that is just the culture. The reason for saying we lack understanding may be because we try to ask for further explanations and refuse to be cheated, this is not lack of understanding, or?
There are a lot more that I have not captured in this piece, if you are from Northern Ghana, have you encountered some of these before? If you are from some other parts of Ghana or the world, what are some of the things you heard about Northern Ghana? Let us get interactive in the comment session. CHEERS!!!