Frafra people

Frafra is a colonialist term given to a subset of Gur peoples living in northern Ghana. The form Fare-Fare is now preferred. There are approximately 300,000 Frafra speakers. The larger group of Gurunsi peoples inhabit southern Burkina Faso and northern Ghana.[1]

Bolgatanga is the commercial center of the Frafra area. Other important villages and towns include Bongo, Zuarungu, Zoko, and Pwalugu. Tongo is the principal town of the Talensi people who are ethnically different from the Frafra, but most of whom are bilingual in Farefare.


Derived from the greeting "Ya Fara-Fara?", which means "How is your suffering (work)?", this term is applied to these peoples, who share common histories, languages, and political structures, but it may also carry pejorative overtones in local usage. Most of Gurunsi live in modern-day Burkina Faso, and the degree to which Frafra history differs from their northerly neighbours, such as the Nuna, Bwa, and Winiama, is linked to their living in modern-day Ghana. These differences arose during colonial times, which began in the early part of the 20th century, as French and British colonial systems differed in their administrative practices.



Frafra are primarily sedentary farmers, growing millet, sorghum, and yams. Maize, rice, peanuts, and beans are grown in addition to these staples. Farmers throughout the region traditionally practiced slash-and-burn farming, using fields for approximately seven or eight years before they were allowed to lie fallow for at least a decade. In the family fields close to the villages, women grow cash crops, including sesame and tobacco, which are sold in local markets.

Men participated in hunting during the long dry season. This is important for ritual reasons, since it is during this time that men may interact with the spirits that inhabit the bush. During the dry season, when food supplies are running low, some fishing is practiced in local swamps.

Increasing population-pressure has led to shortening of fallow-times and a much smaller opportunity for hunting. There is little available bsh land for slash-and-burn methods and the breaking of new farms.

Political system

Frafra societies are mainly made up of farmers, without social or political stratification. They are not divided among occupational castes or groups since most of them simply till the land and engage in occasional hunting. They had no internal system of chiefs, and all important decisions were made by a council of elders consisting of the oldest members of each of the village lineages.

Religious leaders do maintain some political authority, determining the agricultural cycle and parceling out land for cultivation.



Belief in a supreme creator being is central to Frafra beliefs. A shrine to this god occupies the center of every village. Each extended family maintains its own hut, in which the lineage magical objects are kept. The objects allow the family to maintain contact with the vital forces of nature. These objects are inherited by the ancestors and are the communal property of the lineage, providing protection and social cohesion among all members of the family.[2]

Art and literature

The most recognized of the Frafra art forms are cast brass jewelry and decorated architecture. In addition anthropomorphic figures sculpted from clay and wood and various personal objects, ranging from jewelry to wooden stools, are created to honor the spirits.

It was not until recently that an emerging body of Frafra literature is growing. It was A. Pamzoya who first wrote a novel on Frafra culture called Souvenir for Death. Jesika Agambila, an intellectual, wrote a major collection of Frafra folktales under the title Solma: Tales from Northern Ghana. This was followed by Journey, a novel set in the Frafra area.

Frafra peoples have a special playmate (joking) relationship with the Dagaare peoples of northwestern Ghana, which has its roots in a believed common ancestry.[3]


  1. "Frafra Information". University of Iowa. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  2. Smith, Fred T. (1987). "Symbols of Conflict and Integration in Frafra Funerals". African Arts. 21 (1): 46–51. doi:10.2307/3336499. JSTOR 3336499.
  3. Wegru, Joseph Yelepuo. "The Dagaaba-Frafra Joking Relationship". Retrieved 24 March 2013.
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