Smocks In Northern Ghana

BY: JOHN BOSCO DARIMOAH,
GHANA TOURISM AUTHORITY ACCRA
darisonjb@yahoo.com

Northern Ghana is the home of smock where all types are sewed use as the royal dress for important occasions. Upper west region is one of the regions that adores the smock and prestigiously and their identity and reputation is built around its best practises in basic etiquettes and the smock. The Region is one of the friendliest regions in the country. It has a good number of natural and tourist sites attractions with abundant historical legacies and very rich traditional cultural heritages sites as well. Upper West region is made up of astonishing diversity of ethnic tribes and this assortment has made it possible a distinctive amalgamation of different cultural ways of life.

Smocks are basically male and female designed to be worn by chiefs, elders and the noble. Until recently, the smock was the preserve of only men, with women wearing the material as cloth and put on as African dress. The texture and type of smock worn by the commoners could quite be distinguished since they were of a smaller size and of lower quality.

In Dagare language the smock is called Dagakparu while the women version is called Pog-Dagakparu meaning Dagarti Shirt and woman’s Dagarti shirt respectively.

The female smocks have the usual sac-style with a big pocket on the chest, designed with feminine features to expose their beauty and charm as they wear them. The space in front of the pocket down to the navel is adorned with the usual smock designs. The style is most often sleeveless and covers up to the kneel level. There is always a head tie of the same material to match this elaborate design.

Men’s smocks can either be sleeveless or sleeved. Smocks, can be in the traditional weaving and sewing way or with the highly modernized designs and patterns in line with present day experimentation by the educated indigenous of the Upper West region of Ghana. The quality depends on the personality and perhaps the colours used.

According to Dagare ethno-psychology and anthropology red colours in smocks signify blood, caution, danger and other alarming signals. It also denotes an outgoing personality. Orange signifies riches while Yellow which is also the colour of dawadawa fruit stands for joy and wealth. Blue according to tradition is an indication of heavy rains. White is the colour of purity and departed souls who believed to be seen in that colour re-visiting their communities or homes.

Indigo colour is taken for thick clouds while the Wala people call the violet colour as “Muoni”. This is the dress colour of the Wala nobility. The Dagaaba associate brown colour with the soil or earth and regard it as mystery, fear, death, evil or the unknown. Darkness is thought to resemble black, while green is the colour associated with crops, serenity and life.

The type of smock and colour worn is depicted by the kind of situation the wearer finds himself. The weaving and production of smocks is sustained in the Northern part of the country because of the available of raw material – cotton, which is produced on the large scale in the northern sector of the country. Women are also contributory to the smock industry through their spinning of cotton to produce good yarns for the industries.

The cost of producing smocks is low with a high technology and superb output. There is virtually no need to import any heavy machinery to produce smocks in the North since everything can be done manually for excellent results.

These industries apart from producing costumes and traditional dresses also offer employment to a sizeable number of young men in the three northern regions of Ghana. The smocks have very great significance in the country. They are used for grand durbars, church services, funerals and other serious occasions. They are outstanding in quality and quantity and can serve as a foreign exchange earner to meet the national call for concentration on the non-traditional export sector.

Abundant smock production will certainly maximize profit for their Ghanaian economy. Smocks have established itself well in the country even in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Togo. It is even national attire. This fact can be amply demonstrated when the first president of Ghana Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Gbedemah and other top statesmen wore smocks when they declared Ghana’s independence on 6th March 1957.
It is therefore advisable that when buying a smock one needs to know when and the occasions to wear them as it will not be proper to wear red or black to an outdooring. This may be construed and misinterpreted to mean a different thing all together by society.

In Dagaare language, the Smock is called Dagakparu meaning Dagaare shirt and the women Dagaare shirt. There is always a head tie to much this elaborate design. This is of same material as the overall outfit. Often, the women Smocks are short-sleeved and the men Smock can either be sleeveless or sleeved.

An air of opulence and sagacity characterizes the sleeved smock of any sort. It is of noble outlook and touch, and dignified the user with an unmistakable ethnic identity.

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