The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Art and Architecture in Northern Ghana

by Fred T. Smith
Kent State University

Frafra pottery, private collection. Photo by Fred T. Smith.


The Frafra recognize the pleasure of using decorated or skillfully made forms. The primary purpose of pottery decoration is aesthetic enhancement. There are four common pottery motifs, usually located on either the shoulder or neck of the vessel, each with its own name and meaning. A triangular motif, for example, alludes to a woman's role as wife and mother. Pottery designs are similar, and in many cases, identical to those used in decorating walls, which as we have seen, is also done by women. In spite of competition with imported containers, the Frafra generally consider clay vessels to be more practical and appropriate for domestic needs. In part, this attitude stems from the special relationship between the pottery vessel and the Earth.