The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Art and Architecture in Northern Ghana

by Fred T. Smith
Kent State University

Frafra woman painting a wall of her home, northern Ghana. Photo by Fred T. Smith, 1973.


Before a wall can be painted, it must be plastered with a mixture of cow dung, clay, and water. The red pigment is made from clay, black from a pulverized stone, and white from a soft chalk-like stone. Today, tar is being used by some women instead of the traditional black pigment. A wall is initially painted red brown with a small wicker broom. Black and white are then applied with a feather or frayed stick brush. After the wall has been painted and allowed to dry, it is burnished with a stone, much in the same way that the surface of a fired pot is burnished. Finally, a varnish-like fixative is applied in order to prevent the pigment from washing away in the rainy season.