At the Palace of the Chief in Tamale Jan 6

At the Palace of the Chief of Tamale
January 6, 2018

We started our first full day in Tamale by heading into town for a nice breakfast. Our first stop was to visit the chief of Tamale in order to let our presence in the town be known. This is an appropriate community entry technique, for the leaders of the community to know that visitors from St. Olaf are in town, and to be accorded the necessary niceties where needed.

While waiting to meet the Chief of Tamale

In the presence of the Chief sitting in state with our interim class after a short discussion

While waiting to be invited into the palace, we hung out with the roaming goats, made friends with the aggressive chickens and experienced an outdoor bathroom with passive street plumbing. We removed our shoes and respectfully entered the palace to be greeted by the chief, sub chiefs, and close friend of the chief. The chief offered us a kola nut as a symbol of our welcome. The chief is a traditional ruler who deals with disputes that include civil cases, legal cases, and general disputes. The chief’s power has changed over time with colonial rule, independence, and the rise of democracy. He’s not supposed to participate in politics. That being said, he is still a highly honored and essential leader in the community.

After the lecture on Ghana and community entry

Next, we visited Tamale Technical School to receive a lecture from Prof. Seidu Al-Hassan, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University for Development Studies, Tamale. He gave us an overview of Ghana with information ranging from politics and economics, to jokes and cultural traditions, including appropriate community entry techniques. How do you go to a people, not knowing their ways of doing things, such as foods, greetings, etc without hurting their sensibilities? The first point of contact is crucial to the success of your mission. That explains our visit to the Diakpeng, the Chief of Tamale, as shown in the first few pictures.

Prof Al-Hassan also taught us some typical greetings in Tamale and had us practice them with each other. He left us with an inspiration quote: “Success is not measured by the amount of money you have, but rather how you become a point of reference for what other people want to be.”

We split for a quick lunch break and then headed to the home of Abdulai’s late friend, Kareem, a former Salaga District Corodrinting director and the best man during Abdulai’s marriage in 1998. During this time, we visited with Kareem’s wife and other family members to express our sympathy for their recent loss. Although the family members were mourning, they found encouragement through their faith. To expand, Abdulai gave a short lecture and spoke of the Muslim faith’s trust in Allah and how everything happens for a reason. It was incredibly powerful to hear the community find such strength in their faith and eachother.

In the evening, some of us took time to rest while others travelled to the market in search of credits for our phones. During these errands, we were immersed in the hectic, fast paced life in the marketplace. Crossing the streets was an adventure within itself, dodging cars where avoiding pedestrians is not a priority. After all of the craziness of the market, we were refreshed with the fresh juices of a freshly cracked coconut.

We wrapped up the night by celebrating Marquis’s 22nd birthday with an impromptu party in the parking lot of the hotel, complete with a cake that Abdulai bought us and enthusiastic singing. Happy 22nd birthday Marquis (I don’t know about you, but I hope you’re feelin’ 22)

Marquis unwrapping his birthday cake

Next We head to Salaga, the biggest Slave market in 18th century West Africa

Written by Andrea, Alex and Jonathan