Art and Architecture in Northern Ghana

by Fred T. Smith
Kent State University

Frafra ancestral shrine, northern Ghana. Photo by Fred T. Smith, 1973. 

The numerous ancestral shrines found within and around a Frafra compound utilize potsherds to protect and hold down offerings and sacred material. Although other objects could serve this purpose, the potsherd is chosen because it reinforces a sense of spirituality and symbolizes the ever-present involvement of the Earth in all aspects of human society. Finally, pots are seen as a commercial product, and within this realm of activity there is a degree of market competition, not appropriate to the domestic and ritual areas. Frafra potters secure clay from specific locations on lineage land. A potter gathers her clay from a site that not only contains good quality material but also has special spiritual meaning. Several factors may be influential, but usually the place is associated with spirits that have allowed her to be successful in her work. She, then, prepares and works the clay within her own section of the family household or compound.