Hey everyone, I’m Odi.
I’m studying Political Science and Archeology at the University of Ghana, Legon – for those who don’t know what Archeology is, Archeology is the study of past lives and cultures through their material remains – and because I’m studying Archeology, I had to go on the final year field trip for ten days.
I decided to go to a place called Yikpabongo (which means ‘the place of ruins’), because of its location around the border between Ghana and Burkina Faso, and the artifacts attached to the site called the Koma Head figurines. The figurine heads are clay-like sculptures that have many symbolic and spiritual meanings. Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a continuous presence of these Koma Head figurines. The thought of finding a figurine while excavating made me very excited.
It took us (24 students, 3 professors and 7 teaching assistants) two days to get to Yikpabongo. When we got lost on our way, I realized it wasn’t going to be like my regular trips from Lagos to Enugu. We got to Tamale at about 10pm and decided to spend the night at the Institute of Cultural Studies. The next morning, we continued our trip and finally got to Yikpabongo at around 4pm. As soon as our bus pulled over, kids who were so excited to see us surrounded it. They even helped us with our bags. A chief in the village rented his house to us for the duration of the field school, so we went right in to get settled. The house had no toilets, only an enclosed space turned communal bathroom, which meant I would be going to the bush for ‘shot put’. I also had to share a room with five guys, in a community that had (and still has) no electricity.
When I finally got settled, I decided to take a walk. I noticed that the community was largely subsistent – our house (the Chief’s house) was the only house not built out of mud. Donkeys, Pigs and Guinea Fowls were roaming the streets like part of the community. Children popped out from nowhere saying “lets be friends”, telling me that they would help me fetch water after a rigorous day of excavating. I was happy because I knew I’d need their help doing little work, and with information for my ethnographic research on Yikpabongo’s social formation processes.
Our routine was basically the same throughout the trip. We’d wake up at 7am, have breakfast, get clean and then set out to the field to excavate the mound . We used hand shovels and pick axes to strip the earth until we reached the sterile level, hoping to find a Koma Head figurine. Unfortunately, we never found any figurines in the mound, only potsherds. We also interacted with the community through regular interviews and movie and dance nights. We even played a football match against them (which we lost). Before we left for Accra, a couple of us donated old clothes to some of the kids in the community. We also paid for their school uniforms to encourage them to stay in school.
On our way back to Accra, our supervisor decided to make a stop at a village called Tengzug. It was a very unique place in the sense that the houses had no roofs. From an aerial view, they looked like a bunch of upside-down cups, and were arranged in a maze-like manner. With the help of a chief in the community, we were able to navigate through. He showed us the tombs where their chiefs had been laid to rest. The tombs were decorated with guinea fowl feathers and donkey skulls. From there, we headed for the community shrine which was up in the mountains.
We had to take off our shirts and roll up our trousers when we got there. Many girls opted out of going into the shrine because they had to go in completely topless. The chief then summoned the chief priest, who took us into what was a cave in the mountains. Because of how low the ceiling of the cave was, we had to squat to see the shrine. The chief priest gave a historical account of the shrine, informing us of how different people – from pastors to political figures – had visited the shrine in the past asking for favours. After seeing the shrine, we continued on our journey to Tamale, where we would spend the night before leaving for Accra the next day.