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23.05.2019 Feature Article

Traditional Attire Among The Dagaabas In Kaleo Traditional Area

Kaleo Traditional area is one of the largest traditional areas in the Upper West Region of Ghana.

There are many tribes in the Upper West Region which include Dagaabas, Waalas, Sissalas, Brifors among other minor tribes.

However, the Dagaabas are the largest ethnic group who occupied most parts of the region. Thus, they can be found in every district and municipality in the region.

To narrow down to Kaleo Traditional Area, over seventy percent (70%) of the people are Dagaabas. The language they speak is Dagaare.

They have rich culture and traditions.
The people are predominantly farmers. The main occupation of the people of Kaleo Traditional Area is farming.

Kaleo Traditional Area is occupied by two major clans: the Dagaabas and the Mossis. The traditional attire of the Dagaaba people is unique for both males and females.

In the olden days, the men used to wear leather (gane) and a special pant call “paregantaa”. For the men, the leather they wear also served as their seat. That is to say, it was serving a dual purpose.

The women also wore leaves (vaare). They also used a piece of cloth called (mungante and kyoli) to cover their private parts serving as their pants and blouses.

As the world advances, they later learned how to weave clothes. They make their thread using cotton. The one that is traditionally woven is considered more valued than the modern clothes they buy. They called it “wuori”. It is hand woven. They use these clothes in sewing smocks for the men and special trousers called” kuri lane” and a hat. When you see someone in the complete attire you always admire the person.

There are different kinds of smocks namely; dankyisi, tago (long sleeves), daaleɛ (wide smock), munkyara, toro (singlet) and suntaala (talisman).

They also have different types of shorts which include; tabalagyu, bɛnte,pieto, paragantaa (for funerals) and nungbogli.

The traditionally hand woven clothes are very expensive as compared with modern ones and are very difficult to come by.

When one wears that one, you are dignified.
Because those ones are expensive, they reserve such smocks and clothes for special occasions such as festivals, gatherings, funerals, durbar of chiefs etc.

During festivals and other special occasions, they use some local materials like horns, bagri-zupili, tails (zuuri) of some animals such as horses, cows, land squirrels (kyeɛ) and other wild animals to display with. During funerals, tails of animals are also used driving away flies when they stage their corpses.

They also use beads and cowries in making necklaces, bracelets, bangles, castanets and many others. Cowrie and beads are also used in designing the edges of smocks and blouses especially for dance groups which make them look more beautiful and are worn on special occasions.

During funerals and other occasions, the type of hats you wear and the side of the head you let it face is also very important. If you do not wear it well it can be an insult to some people and they will take it lightly. They can even harm you spiritually.

Dagaabas also stage their corpse for mourning.
Among the Dagaabas, this is one of the areas people show their wealth and silently insult their enemies.

The type of wear you use in dressing the corpse speaks a lot about your background and wealth.

When they use the traditional hand-woven smock or cloth to dress the corpse, it gives the family more respect than the modern type of clothing.

After the traditional mourning of the dead, the next stage is burial of the corpse. People have keen interest in this part than every other activity in the funeral celebration.

They are several types of clothes such as Calico, Karada, Wuori, Grabaf, Polyester, etc.

Among the Dagaabas, this is also one of the places one can easily lose all the hard-earned reputation and it can even remain as an insult that will follow all your generations.

Sometimes, dramatic scenes are created on whose cloth is to be used to cover the corpse for burial.

At this point, people who possess the traditional hand woven cloth (wuori) can brag and tease those handling the other kinds of clothes. Family members, close friends, and relatives often provide white cloths for burial purposes.

When one is buried with the traditionally woven clothe (wuori) it shows that he or she is highly honoured.

This is the more reason why every family always keep a white cloth (wagye peɛlaa) in readiness for deaths especially the handwoven ones for the adults and any other kind for children.

However, when one wants to prove that he is rich, he will provide the traditional hand woven cloth for burial when his child dies.

Among the Dagaabas especially those in Kaleo Traditional area, what you wear whether dead or alive, speaks a lot about you.

In every part of Ghana, people are found wearing traditional attire at all gatherings, festivals, funerals and what have you.

Domestication is very important and I will, therefore, wish to motivate and encourage everyone to patronize made in Ghana goods as we can see it being fully practiced among the Dagaabas in the Kaleo Traditional area.

It is really worthy of emulation and I believe it will go a long way to expand our local industries and businesses.

Guonaa Francis
Sombo R/C J.H.S ‘A’
P.O.BOX 65
Kaleo – U.W.R

Denis Andaban
Denis Andaban, © 2019

This author has authored 104 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DenisAndaban

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