For many, when “the North” is mentioned, it’s nothing more than a Savannah enclave occupied by people(s) among whom poverty is the common identity. For some, it’s nothing more than an ethnic settlement, where “conflict” is a religion, worshipped by inhabitants. Amazingly, for a few others, it’s nothing more than an imagination of wildlife, where humans (close descendants of homo erectus), and, animals, exist and share shelter on trees. Despicable. Isn’t it? Well, there are perceptions uglier and far too worse.
However, not many know that aside the scourge of poverty, the certain condemnable history and incidents of conflicts that have fairly or unfairly painted the North dark, and, aside all other gory perceptions about it, there are too many palatable truths about our home you do not know because you’ve not been told; and/or, because you’ve not felt. For those of us who’ve grown up learning what our forebears left, our culture and everything that is North, it means more than all of the world’s riches to us and as a true son of the North, I’ll tell you why.
Within our enviable culture, which I believe is one of the richest in any human settlement, are untold and unsung acts and gestures you’ll struggle to find anywhere else in the world. Outstanding of those, is, hospitality. Those who’ve had the opportunity to travel to and live in the North have so much to tell to you about the distinct feeling of hospitality in Northern Ghana.
For my people (Northerners) the stranger/visitor, no matter their status is a special guest that must be treasured and accorded all the respect and special treats in the world. Our love for people who travel to and settle in the North transcends the normal boundaries of hospitality. There are many in the North today who proudly have become Northerners because of the hospitality with which they’re received here. There are many in the North today who find the it as their home because they’ve never felt a home like this before.
The Northerner’s love to make a stranger feel at home is a trait that has been passed down to many generations by our forebears. I remember growing up, our elders rarely slaughtered fowls, just for the pleasure of households, but, whenever they did, you’d know a stranger or two or more had visited.
As custom require(d/s), all of the fowl would be served the visitor who possessed the privilege to taste it first before the rest of the household could taste it. Today, even in urban North where majority of the people do not rear fowls and other animals, strangers/visitors are still given the best of treats. People who visit various places in Northern Ghana live and leave with “Mba Yahaya” roasted guinea fowls and many others on their minds and on their lips.
We love to share our resources, no matter how little they’re, with our guests. We effortlessly teach and imbue our beautiful culture to and in people who visit the North. My people love to make you part of our families, clans and kin; which is why today in Dagbang, Konkomba land, Gonja land, Nanung, Mampurugu, Kusaag, Waala land, Dagaati land, Builsa land, Frafra land, Gurushi land, Sisaala land, Tampilma land, Chekosi land, Baasali land, lobi land and in all the rest, you find people who’re Dagbamba, Gonjas, konkombas, Kusaasis, Mampurusis, Waalas, Builsas, Frafras, Gurushis, Chekosis, Sisaalas, Lobis, Dagaatis, Baasalis, Busaansis… but who originally are not from these tribes.
It’s been so in centuries because, when you come to us, you become one of us. You share in our culture, lands, homes, rooms, barns, marry our men and women, and even to some amazing extent, share in our titles, if you merit them.
Our beautiful smocks – “bingmaa”, “fuugu”, “dansiki” and all the names they’re called, are great symbols of gifts and honor to our guests. Our kings and chiefs share cola with you as a sign of love and welcome, upon your visit to our lands. Our women squat and kneel to serve you water and food in our beautiful calabashes and clay-made bowls, as a sign of utmost respect for you. We take you to our farms and hand you a hoe as a symbol of welcome to till our lands.
Your children become our children to help you take care of. Ours become yours. Our joy is yours. Your nightmare is ours. Yes, what keeps you awake in the night keeps us awake in the night. What makes you weep makes us weep. What makes you smile makes us smile, even all the more. We never want you to leave but we ensure that in case you do, you leave with our hospitality embossed on inner chamber of your heart, so you never forget, and forever shall wish to return “home”.
Of course, we do not have gold, bauxite or diamond or timber but we have large deposits of hospitality, where we mine and serve it in its purest and unparalleled form. You may have so many places to visit in your lifetime but none is as homely and as heavenly as the North – where the love you’re served is rare, shiny, sparkly and crispy. Visit the North. Your guinea fowls are waiting. Your traditional wear is waiting. Your families are waiting. The Northern people are waiting. The North is waiting. We’ll receive you with our endowment of hospitality. It’s a life-time opportunity you’d never want to miss.
By: Alhassan Rabiu