The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Art and Architecture in Northern Ghana

by Fred T. Smith
Kent State University

Granaries and women’s space of a Frafra home, northern Ghana. Photo by Fred T. Smith, 1973.


Access to the living quarters of a family compound is gained by means of a low wall around which are located one or more granaries with conical thatch covers. The granaries, filled by the labor of all adult members of the compound, are seen as a pivot between the male and female domains. The living quarters do not constitute a centralized unit but divide into sections. Each wife usually has her own section, where she and her young children reside. Female craft activity and sacrifices made during a woman's funeral take place in this area. Also, ancestral shrines for those women who married into the patrilineage are located within the compound rather than outside it. In general, women’s space, both sacred and profane, remains distinct from that of men, a tradition consistent with other areas of activity or interaction in Africa.