The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Art and Architecture in Northern Ghana

by Fred T. Smith
Kent State University

Exterior of Frafra building painted red, white and black, northern Ghana. Photo by Fred T. Smith, 1973.


Both the exterior and interior walls of Frafra buildings are elaborately painted with red, white, and black geometric motifs enclosed in registers delineated by a series of painted black lines. These three colors and the types of motifs used to decorate Frafra walls relate directly to the painted decoration of Voltaic masks. The Frafra view the colors white, black, and especially red as aspects of the Earth. Along with the ancestors, the Earth is a critical regulating force that keeps the religious and social system in balance.