Art and Architecture in Northern Ghana

by Fred T. Smith
Kent State University

Frafra pottery in a family compound. Photo by Fred T. Smith, 1973.


For the Frafra, the concept of container is a broad one, encompassing family compounds, individual rooms, granaries, shrines, graves, and pots. All of these forms are constructed of clay or earth. The fact that the Frafra place these particular products of the Earth into a single conceptual category reflects their belief that the Earth itself is also a container of life-sustaining forces. 

The phenomenon of women potters married to male blacksmiths is common in the Western Sudan; therefore, most Frafra women potters have blacksmiths husbands. Frafra pottery spans three realms of activity: domestic, ritual, and commercial. Women produce eleven major types of domestic pottery containers, each with its own configuration, name, and function. Pots are also used in a variety of ritual activities, especially funerary.