Art and Architecture in Northern Ghana

by Fred T. Smith
Kent State University

Entrance to a Frafra home, northern Ghana. Photo by Fred T. Smith, 1973.

The entrance to a Frafra compound, which usually faces west or southwest, is open; there is no door separating the compound from the outside world. Flanked by two hollow, conical pillars, the entryway symbolizes the economic and social independence of a particular extended family. The zanore (space) directly in front of and behind the entry gate is considered to be male.  Moreover, the zanore extends outward toward the family farm and the community, and is viewed as a mediating or transitional space between lineage and family, farm and habitation, nature and society. Within the zanore are several areas of ritual importance, including ancestral shrines in the form of conical platforms located just outside the entryway. While the structure is considered to house the ancestral spirit, the actual shrine is either a bangle (such as an anklet or bracelet) or a stone, protectively covered by potsherds or pieces of calabash.