BY; JOHN BOSCO DARIMOAH [MARKETING DEPARTMENT}
GHANA TOURISM AUTHORITY- ACCRA
Do not panic as a tourist when visiting any of the regions in Ghana especially the region that manufactures the xylophones. The people are groomed well in the arts of hospitalities and basic etiquettes that have been cherished most from generation to generations. Building bridges for easy integrating by the tourists into the Ghanaian society is a basic requirement for every tourist to know at least some basic etiquette that prevails in that society and should be able to adopt immediately in order to cope up with the people and their culture.
If you are on a visit as a tourist to the upper west region one must not be so economically with greetings, handshakes and must not use his or her left hand in greeting. It is considered an offence and may not be taken kindly to by some people. A region like that has its reputation built around its basic etiquettes and friendliest toward visitors and would want to maintain that for their future generations.
However, Upper West region has a good number of natural and tourist attractions with abundant historical legacies that really makes them what they are known for. They have a very rich traditional and cultural heritage that serves as their strong hold in sustaining basic etiquettes in the region. But my fear now is that Ghana heritage is seriously under attack by foreign influence and something needs to be done about it.
Upper west region is made up of diversity of ethnic tribes that includes the Dagaaba, Sisaala and the Walaa. This assortment I think has made it possible a distinctive amalgamation of different cultural ways of life. The people are friendliest, have a communal spirit and very cheerful and communicative. They treasury their cultural heritage a lot and have a great respect for tradition and a strong beliefs systems. These beliefs are extensively and intensively practised among the three ethnic tribes. And these beliefs can be found in the variety of sparkling festivals celebrations, funerals performances and at their colourful durbar of chiefs where culture is display at its best with traditional smocks, tall hats and flag whisks.
The people are like the hard working ants and they share a common bond of friendship and unity to ensure peaceful co-existence in the name of development and this has sustained the region up to date. Though they are insignificant chieftaincies and land issues in the region but they are not so pronounced as such. This is a free advice to the Walaa and the Dagaaba to be very careful with Alhaji Bature comments and publications on his wonderful newspaper that carries falsehood news intended to divide them.
However, the write up here will do a fast glance at basic etiquettes and how it can help the tourist integrate and a touch on the xylophone which is supposed to be the particular reserved of the Upper West Region and especially the Dagaaba and the Lobi in this country. These two tribes are been schooled thoroughly in the arts and crafts of xylophone manufacturing along with its music. The xylophones featured prominently in most of the musical traditions of the region. They are deploy in diverse cultural settings be it funeral, marriage or traditional durbar.
BUILDING THE BRIBGES FOR EASY INTEGRATION BY THE TOURIST USING BASIC ETIQUETTES AS THE TOOL
The advanced Leaners Dictionary defines etiquettes as formal rules of correct and polite behaviour in society or among members of a particular profession. Going by this definition one has decided to explore and interrogate the subject matter basic etiquettes in the Upper West region and how this can serve as a guide to tourists for integrating. And it is my believed that it will be of great interest and utmost pleasure to the people of upper west region and the authority to endorse such a write up exposing the rich cultural and traditional relics or practises that have been conserved for decades and treasured to the highest esteem for decades.
Supposing that, this definition is anything to go by; the writer will cloyingly examine these behaviours considered as correct and polite rules in society and bring them up to the spotlight as a guide to the tourism industry.
RESPECT FOR THE ELDERLY – Respect for the elderly in the region cuts across all the traditional boundaries and have never been compromised no matter the circumstance. Every parent takes the pain to train his/her children from birth to respect those older than them irrespective of creed, colour, ethnic or political background. One thing common with the people of upper is that it is a duty to respect the elderly; the younger ones are not allowed to call them by their names. They are expected to address those older than them as my brother, sister, uncle or auntie. That has been quite unique in all parts of the region and indeed considered an offence for a younger fellow to be heard shouting out the name of somebody older than him or her. This kind of culture has been held in high esteem to the extent that it has been interpreted to mean a total submission to the elderly .It is generally believed that between the elder and the young fellow the older is always right. Young people are also expected to help the elderly to carry out their work be it household or work on the farm. They are also enjoined by basic etiquettes of the area to offer their seats to the elderly in a bus or in gatherings, funerals grounds when they see an elderly standing. At gathering the young ones are not allowed to talk much but be good listeners and obverse in order to draw from the fountain of the elders who are regarded as experienced and wise.
GREETINGS—everything pointed out to the fact that in upper west region people place so much importance on mere greetings and failure to greet or respond to greetings can generate a lot of ill feelings between or among people. This, if not immediately arrested can lead to deep seated hatred and even quarrels and a lot of misunderstanding. To forestall this, parents and guardians teach their children at a very tender age to greet people they meet whether they know them or not.
Visitors or tourists to the region are advice to take note of this when in the region. Almost everybody you come across will say hello to you even if it has to be in the local dialect. The people attached so much attention and importance to greetings and this belief has constituted the art of making friends and promoting peaceful co- existence among the people no matter your origin or background. One important element of the greetings is the hand shake which is a demonstration that the parties are at peace with one other. Visitors or tourists are advice to take note of this when in the region. Almost everybody you come across will say hello to you even if it has to be in the local dialect. The people attached so much attention and importance to greetings as this belief constituted the art of making friends and promoting peaceful co- existence among people of different backgrounds. One important element of the greetings is the hand shake which is a demonstration that the parties are at peace with one other.
RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY—when society accords so much respect for its elderly, then it will not be an exaggeration to say they revere authority. This is clearly manifested in the way the people relate to their paramount, divisional and sub- chiefs. In some areas the chief is regarded as some kind of a deity and respected as much. In Some areas on approaching a chief’s palace one is expected to behave as if one is coming before a sacred place or going in for a Holy Communion or confession in the case of the Roman Catholic Church. One must remove his hat, foot wear and go bare footed to greet the chief. In other traditional areas one is expected to lie prostrate when communication to the chief.
DEFENCE OF THE TRADITIONAL AREA OR COMMUNITY
Everybody in the community or in the region is expected to defend his or her traditional area and be prepared to die for it. In the same vain one is not allowed to do anything that will drag the name of the community or traditional area into mat. People must put in projectable behaviours that will enhance the image of their traditional area.
— USE OF THE RIGHT HAND- A lot of respect is put on the use of the hands. The right hand shows positive things while the left hand is regarded as negative and therefore considered to be a serious offence to use it in greetings elders. People therefore get very much offended when you use it to wave at somebody. Even left handed are not permitted to use their left hands to wave at people, eat, drink or give out or receive anything with it. Every activity is expected to be carried out with the right hands expect otherwise by nature.
WHISTLING IN THE NIGHT—Whistling is one activity that attracts a lot of criticisms and restrictions in most parts of the region. It is against etiquettes to whistle at night or when bathing in many communities in the region .It is assumed that it is an activity of the spirit or the dark world and should not be encouraged.
NEATNESS——-Cleanliness it is said is next to Godliness and being God fearing or God loving people, the people of upper west region places high premium on cleanliness. Any one in his right senses appearing in public functions must therefore be neat, their homes and other public places and the environment are all kept clean and this is demonstrated upon entering upper west region from any of the angles.
Every community puts on maximum pressure on every member of their society to exhibit a high sense of courtesy be it at home, the market place, funereal home or any gathering. For example when one trembles on the feet of a brother you are expected to apologise immediately to the victim and even make efforts to clean the affected foot. The people are trained from childhood to be apologetic especially when they wrong others unknowingly or knowingly. As part of good manners one is not expected to talk while eating. One must also sit and not lie down to eat. Food they say is a king and must only be eaten in a sitting position.
Closely related to generosity, which is one of the major etiquettes in the region. In view of this, children are taught as they grow how to make visitors feel at home or away from home It will be of great interest if the people can develop it and sustain it, it can be a must go area for tourist to visit and experience the first hand hospitality of the Ghanaian especially in the upper west region. From the findings much more emphasis has been placed on etiquettes in the region as a control measure of good behaviour and cherishes very well by the people.