The Dagomba are the dominant ethnic group in the Northern region of Ghana, they are mainly farmers, but also skilled fishermen and breeders, in the past they gave birth to a powerful kingdom: the Dagbon.
They speak the Dagbani language, that is part of the Gur language, that in turn belongs to the Niger-Congo linguistic family.
The Dagomba have a complex system of oral traditions, the history of the people themselves is handed down orally from generation to generation; thanks to these stories we know that the Dagbonkingdomwas born from the union of the Mossi, skilled knights who came from the North, and the indigenous people of the Gur language.
A legend instead tells how a very brave hunter gave rise to the Dagomba, Tohadize, the red hunter; the legend tells that Tohadize came from the territories of the current Mali and was expert in hunting with bow and arrows, of which he was a true master.
During his journey he came to a village, that had been hit by a severe drought; the villagers could not draw water from the river because of a creature, with a bovine appearance, that the locals thought was an evil spirit, this creature killed anyone who ventured to the river to collect water.
Tohadize succeeded in killing the creature with its bow and its arrows, thus allowing the inhabitants of the village to access the river; from that moment he was elected head of the Dagomba.
This legend also explains a curious tradition of the Dagomba: traditionally the Dagomba chiefs sit on a pile of skins, there is no throne; moreover, to indicate a person in charge of a village it is said "seated on the skin of" followed by the name of the village.
This habit could derive from the skin of the malignant creature shot down by the "red hunter".
The Dagomba are skilled farmers who make the most out of the not particularly fertile soil of their land, they produce 32 varieties of products even if the main crops are corn, millet, rice, peanuts and sweet potatoes.
The land, once they are used, need a very long time, up to 3 years, before being used again for a crop, they are then left to fallow and fertilize with the manure.
Most of the agricultural work is done by men, while women help during the harvest period and take care of pets.
In addition to being experienced farmers, the Dagomba are also a population of breeders, especially horses, and do not disdain hunting and fishing.
The social organization of the Dagomba is rather simple, they are organized into matrilineal clans governed by elective chiefs, the figure of the village chief is also reflected on the disposition of the village.
The village of the Dagomba is in fact divided into neighborhoods and in the center is the village chief's hut, usually the oldest man in the village, a round dome-shaped hut.
Each district in which the village is divided is identified by the strong specialization in an art or a trade, for example, the district of the smiths and that of the butchers.
The houses inside the village are round in shape for the males and rectangular for the women, a family unites the houses in a rather compact agglomerate in whose center there is a space for cooking on the fire.
In the Dagomba society marriage is very important, girls cannot marry without parental consent and must remain illibate, divorce is a very rare event and parents on both sides often intervene and mediate to ensure that the two spouses do not separate.
Regarding religion, Islam, introduced towards the end of the sixteenth century, is the religion practiced by almost 50% of the population, even if it is commonly influenced by ancient animist practices and beliefs.
The Dagomba believe in the spiritual and supernatural powers of the ancestors, in the villages sacrifices are still made to honor these spirits and it is not uncommon that witchcraft is practiced or that a fortune-teller is consulted to free people from the curses.
There are many traditional rites that are still practiced by the Dagomba, such as the rites for marriage, death, puberty and birth.
Particularly important is the festival that is celebrated to honor the ancestors: the Bugun festival, that means "fire" or "hell", is a great celebration, a celebration that involves the whole community and that culminates in the gathering of all the people around a tree with lighted torches as they recite the names of their ancestors and cast torches on the tree.
Music is a fundamental element in the life of the Dagomba, the drums and the percussions are not only a musical instrument but the means to transfer the knowledge of the history and traditions of the population.
Since there is not a written history but only an oral one, it is the storytellers who tell the story and the events of this ethnic group.
The percussionists therefore enjoy a special and privileged social status, using the "talking drums" preserving the history not only of the entire Dagomba population but also of the relationships between people within a city or a village.