06 November 2010
Sirigu is a small village in a corner of the Upper East Region of Ghana. This corner of Ghana formed by two districts Bongo and Kassena Nankana is famous for the traditional arts and crafts. Villages in Bongo are famous for their leather work and weaved products from straw whereas villages near Sirigu are famous for pottery. The village of Sirigu has also one more specialty and that is painted houses.
We visited one NGO called Sirigu Women's Pottery Association (SWOPA). Unlike India, where pottery is a male dominated business, women are engaged in pottery here. This NGO, started by a local teacher to promote local art and support the artisans, has done very good work here. We were received by the campus manager Madam Francesca. This humble lady introduced us to the local art and also the activities of the organization. SWOPA has a beautiful campus and guest house for tourists. The campus and the guest house are designed like a traditional homestead found in this part of Ghana. All the walls in their campus are painted with traditional designs and bright colours. One can stay here and also learn the local painting and pottery. The place is promoted these days by the Ghana Tourist Board. UN Secretary general Kofi Annan has also visited this place once.
Colorful Campus of SWOPA
The shop at SWOPA has very good collection of fine traditional pottery and paintings found in the area. There are pots used for storing grains and spices. Some pots are used for keeping bad spirits away and called as Juju pots. Women are trained here in new designs as well and some of them are producing fine pottery and clay sculptures. Some of the women work in groups by maintaining their fire kilns in groups. The shop is one of the selling outlet for them though many of them also sell their pottery in the local markets.
Sculptures and Pottery in Clay
Sirigu has houses which are painted using traditional designs and paints. The structure of the traditional houses is also unique to this area. After coming to know about this uniqueness, people started to come to this place and started taking pictures of the houses and the people. They also tried to enter into the houses of the people. This created a tension between the tourists and the villagers. SWOPA has tried to organize the tourist circuit in the village by providing guided tours. These also help in supporting the house owners who have kept these traditions alive.
We visited one traditional house in the village. The structure of these traditional house came into existence when the villages in this part of the country were raided by the neighboring Kingdoms for capturing slaves. The houses are built using mud but the structure is like cave. There is very small entrance to the house where only one person can enter into the house at a time. The entrance could be protected from inside and the people could attack the invaders trying to enter into the house from inside using spears. There are two rooms constructed in the house and the inner room is connected to the main room by only one entrance which is similar to the main entrance. The whole structure has only one opening for the ventilation and light near the roof and in the time of emergencies it could also be closed.
The Traditional House
Visit to Sirigu was very informative and completely free of hassles and haggles, compared to our previous visit to Paga. We were really happy to visit the place and it is worth recommending to anybody who is visiting this part of Ghana.