It’s fascinating how culture and religion play a big role in the perspectives people have of so many aspects of life.
I was recently travelling in Ghana’s Northern Region and attended the Damba Festival in the city of Yendi. This festival is one that traditionally celebrates the Chiefs from various tribes throughout the Northern parts of the country. It’s also celebrated amongst Muslims commemorating the birth of the Holy Prophet Mohammed.
The festivities included drumming, dancing, and theatrical displays of culture by the Chiefs and his entourage. Everyone in attendance comes dressed in their best. The smock made using the batakari woven fabric is a staple in Northern fashion and was on full display in various colours, textures and styles.
I got a ladies smock to wear which I purchased from a colleague specifically for the event.
What I thought was a great find turned into a big offense for someone. A man came up to my colleague and asked if I was his wife because he should tell me that what I am wearing is not appropriate. He said I wasn’t his wife. So the man proceeded to come to me directly and say that I should not have dressed the way I did. “You’re dress is not the best. You should not dress this way for this festival. Your nakedness…” He said.
Wait..what? Nakedness? He thinks I’m naked?
“Your legs should have been covered. There are people here who were not happy with what you’re wearing. I hope you get me?” He said.
I was taken by surprise. He continued to speak to me about I asked him if I had offended him and he said “No but you should not we wearing this. At least you should have worn trousers under the dress,” he continued.
The lesson I learned from this was a stark reminder of the dynamic between men and women in the north. It’s a more conservative and traditional community with a strong religious influence. I recognized after that this was important to them as traditional Muslims they frown on exposure of women based on their clothing choices.
I would advise anyone who is travelling to Ghana’s north to know that if you attend any festivals like the Damba Festival, to take into consideration the community being offended by what you wear. It’s such a difference with the Greater Accra Region which tends to be more metropolitan and heavily influenced by global by fashions from North America and Europe.
I’m still so taken aback by the suggestion that I was naked, because of my arms and legs showing. What are your thoughts on this encounter I had?