Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Sense Of Community Among The Mole-Dagbon

A popular Dagbani proverb comes to mind here to express the Dagbon sense of community. It
Says "Go the way that many people go; if you go alone, you will have reason to lament" Dagbon’s idea of security and its value depends on personal identification with and within the Community. Communalism in Dagbon is a system that is both super sensible and material in its Terms of reference. Both are found in a society that is believed by the Dagombas to be originally "god-made" because it transcends the people who live in it now, and it is "Man-made" because it cannot be culturally understood independent of those who live in it now .
The authentic mole-dagomba is known and identified in, by and through his community. The community is the custodian of the individual, hence he must go where the community goes. In the material term of reference, the individual must go to the "community centre" or village square which is a social, political, judicial and religious centre. It is the communal meeting place for political discussions, communal tribunals, sports and games. It is therefore a traditional place of congregation for the entire community. In this sense the community is "man-made". Again, the important events in and around the community are well known to its members. And because at the community centre, their tutelary deity often has a shrine, the centre therefore become also the centre of communal religious worship, sacrifices and festivities. In this sense the community there gathered becomes "god-made "This community also, within this transcendental term of reference (god-made), becomes the custodian of the individual's ideas. This is why, beyond the community - the clan - for the Dagomba, "there stood the void in strong and ever present contrast. Outside this ancestrally chartered system there lay no possible life, since 'a man without lineage is a man without citizenship': without identity, and therefore without allies..; or as the Mampurisi put it, “a man outside his clan is like a grasshopper which has lost its wings"
In another sense, the community offers the Mole-dagbon the psychological and ultimate security as it gives its members both physical and ideological identity. It must be noted that in the dagombas mentality, the community as an entity remains, while individuals, as persons, come and go. Therefore the emphasizes community life and communalism as a living principle of which the basic ideology is community-identity. Its aim is to produce and present an individual as a community-culture-bearer. Culture is a community property and must therefore be community-protected ‘Clan vital’ – ‘a living clan’: is a community where real life is assured, where one can suffer neither social nor cultural alienation. It is a clan that is alive because life in it is human and humane. Also, the individual in a mole-Dagomba community is in the ‘Clan vital’ protected. His individual identity is not emphasized at the expense of his community identity. This is why individualism, as an ideology and principle of life, is not encouraged in Africa, even though it is not destroyed.

Furthermore, "Living together" and the sense of "community of brothers and sisters" are the basis of, and the expression of, the extended family system in Mole-Dagbon. The rationale behind it according to Davidson is that "balance of kingship relations, seen as essential to the ideal balance with nature that was itself the material guarantee of survival, called for specific patterns of conduct. Individuals might have rights, but they had them only by virtue of the obligations, they fulfilled to the community. This explains (the Dagbon) logic of regarding legality in terms of individual obligations, not of individual rights. At least in (our) jural and moral assumptions, (our) communities lived at an opposite extreme from the 'free enterprise individualism' which supposes that the community has rights only by virtue of the obligations
The philosophy behind the Mole-Dagomba communalism, therefore guaranteed individual responsibility within the communal ownership and relationship. The prosperity of a single person, says a Nanumba adage, does not make a town rich. But the prosperity of the town makes persons rich. Put in another way, a person can only be truly safe in a safe community.

Seen on the economic level Mahama observed that in an Dagbon community: "Poverty was a foreign concept. This could only be really brought about to the entire community by an adverse climate during a particular season. It never was considered repugnant to ask one's neighbours for help if one was struggling. In almost all instances there was help between individuals, tribe, chief and chief, etc. even in spite of war" This explains why a community may have poor people but it may not have beggars Also, the traditional Dagbon community attitude to work was another factor which made it impossible for us to have beggars within the ‘clan vital’. It is true that "When a job had to be done, the whole community turned out with supplies and music and proceeded to sing and dance its way through to the successful conclusion of each particular chore. In this way work was converted into a pleasurable productive pastime

Generally speaking, the goodwill and brotherly atmosphere, normally inspired and sustained during the work period, by music, justifies its usage. But what is more important is thesolidarity it fosters. Thus Naa Zangina said ”chelya kabihi deim dini n maandi tingbani”(let the children play, it is good for the land)