Public Face of Islam in Kumasi
By Gracia Clark
A rich patron gets an enthusiastic sendoff.
This wealthy woman employs four of her children in her wholesale business.
A major street in a Muslim neighborhood.
Boys at a conservative Eid wearing a wide range of outfits.
The government approves the standard curriculum provided by both Islamic and Christian affiliated schools, which each add religious subjects.
The neighborhood imam preaches from the male end of the court.
Multistory buildings with stores on the ground floor and street stalls are common in the central city.
Boys can start apprenticeships for tailoring and other crafts in their early teens.
At home in her courtyard, this woman divides her goods into plastic bags ready to sell.
A street march downtown to promote blood donation.
These red turbans are the insignia of the Zongo Chief's palace guard.
A local boy wears shining white and an Arab headdress for the occasion.
Three boys in gleaming white, wearing variations on Arab headdresses.
These young men receive tomatoes shipped from their native Upper East Region to their group in labeled boxes.
A uniformed group singing with their brass band.
Brightly colored sheer lace veils like the white ones are also common.
Two brothers find a good spot for viewing the parade.
Brothers and sisters in dramatic kohl eye makeup, Arab style.
Freight trucks and passenger buses waiting to load up on the roadside.
A busy street in the central business district of the Zongo.
Roadside stands make prepaid phone cards available all over the city.
A section of the Central Market is devoted to sewing and embroidery of typical Muslim styles for men and women, by men tailors.This young tailor makes men's and women's embroidered outfits, but wears denims himself.
Street vendors take a rest from the holiday rush.
A fishnet keeps these chickens securely inside an aluminum head pan.
Secondary school classes put boys and girls together in an Islamic public school.
A retired bale carrier now collects the discarded strapping for resale.
A leading community historian
Conservative women and girls at a conservative prayer celebration for Eid Al-Fitr.
A diverse crowd watches the arrival of a chief.
Many women attend the school festival, keeping to one side of the grounds.
Even an unfinished balcony on the parade route is full.
Crowds filter back from praying at the Central Mosque before the procession begins.
Children show off local produce and clothing, riding in front of a chief with Islamic high style green robe and turban and a companion in wild silk.
Very cool Dad with three matching kids in matching festival attire.
Chiefs carried on palanquins or pickups dance to show their vigor and solidarity with onlookers and companions. Note the carpet covering the truck cab.
A childcare group downtown near a main bus stop.
The light color and loose, flowing style of these robes offers good protection from heat, sand and drying wind in desert locations.
Only some of these honored guests wear the school’s green turban.
Nice dresses and jewelry go together.
A band of drummers and dancers from the Upper Region accompanying their chief.
Learned elders can spend much of their time hearing disputes between local residents, who bring them to be decided according to Muslim principles.
An elderly chief surrounded by his supporters in northern smocks.
Women elders use their leisure for religious study.
A leading local scholar gathers elders to study land law.
The traditional three-piece suit, worn here with long turbans wrapped to cover the neck. The turbans of white cotton or colored lace show each elder's position at court.
Black and dark brown or blue veils can be plain or richly decorated.
Dancing with his heavy smock shows off the wealth and athleticism of this Upper Region man.
The whole family gathers with delicious food, gifts and new clothes.
All ages of women sit together at prayer; each family brings its own large mats.
The crowds can make horses nervous, so riding has some danger.
School officials wearing their uniforms for the annual commemoration of the school’s founder.
His cart displays sunglasses and other festive items.
Five young men wear unique variations of a common style.
Random onlookers follow behind a chief.
This earnest learner brought two books to follow along with the recitation.
Washing feet, hands, and face prepares Muslims for each of there five daily prayers.
This group of men gather on Fridays in a side yard on the grounds of the Central Mosque.
This family can watch the parade passing in front of their house.
Fattening cattle in the city requires cutting grass for extra fodder.
This chief and his companions display the most lavish possible examples of hand-woven smocks from the Upper Regions.
This set of guards wears elaborate basketry hats typical of the far north of Ghana.
Hajia Habiba in her truck parts shop
Hajia Habiba dressed for heavy work
Hajia Habiba visiting a friend
A plain white robe highlights the political message of the shoulder scarf.
Women also make their living carrying heavy loads on their heads.
A line of women showing many variations in dress. From right to left: dark cotton print dress and matching head tie with a shoulder scarf; colorful hair beads with a short-sleeved dress printed with Islamic symbols; longer white headscarves showing beaded hair with long-sleeved white robes (2); Yoruba-style starched head tie matching a short-sleeved beige robe; beads Show More
Carrying a bag on the head and a baby on the back is usual In Ghana for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The route in mid-parade, with people watching from houses and unfinished buildings.
Contrasting styles for these boys; sisters in matching dresses.
Women gather at a local mosque to study the Koran on Fridays.
A family hurries to join the group already starting the prayer.
A leading elder explains the photographs in the Mossi chief's reception room.
A toddler imitates her mother and other women at Friday prayers.
Riders in white robes wait for their chief to move on.
A local scholar arrives from the mosque with his student followers.
Three close friends admire their friend's unusually long, opaque veil in a more Middle-eastern style.
A woman brings cooked food daily for sale to workers in a vehicle repair yard.
Scarlet and gold robes and umbrella make these chiefs stand out from the crowd.
This workshop is located near an industrial sawmill, using offcuts to make frames for mirrors.
This teacher from a local mosque came with his brother to instruct us in the principles of Islam.
Kumasi Muslims marching in their ethnic group uniforms.
Proper dress for men and women need not vary much.
Men gathering for prayer at an Eid observance after Ramadan.
These men do business from converted shipping containers.
Men waiting to meet with an elder.
Many vendors of branded snacks rent their equipment from the supplier and only make a commission on sales.
The coffee company supplies uniforms and carts shaped like their distinctive cans.
These three hawkers with headloads compete with a more established kiosk.
These two girls combine conservative veils with shorter dresses in a more European style.
The Mossi chief sponsors daily Koran recitation at his mosque during Ramadan.
A local scholar recites from the Koran, translating and explaining in Hausa, after which a younger man translates both into Mossi, a local language.
This compact delegation includes all the highest status elements: horse, gold umbrella and concealing embroidered robe.
Muslim men predominate in motorcycle and moped sales here.
The chief of a Muslim neighborhood arrives for an Eid celebration held at the tennis courts of the Lebanese club.
Gathering for prayers in a local park on a minor holiday
The neighborhood imam addresses the chief and assembled men.
A set of close neighbors and family attend the Eid together.
This noble carries his young son in front of him on the horse. The guard, with the saffron turban, carries a silver spiral lance.
This noble carries his young son in front of him on the horse. The guard, with the saffron turban, carries a silver spiral lance.
This woman notable arrives in style near the end of the parade.
Chiefs and other public figures taking part in the parade
This chief brought two young attendants onto the carpet with him.
The awning and chairs provided for women attending
This notable woman rides on her own rented truck, wearing a flamboyant Yoruba-style headtie.
A crowded street makes crossing difficult during the parade.
Although wearing a pantsuit, this young woman veils modestly.
In a presidential election year, party campaign materials keep this vendor in business.
Two young men take and process digital photos in their shop.
Prominent political parties display their candidates in the parade.
The ornate green helmet of this chief, like the silver helmet worn by the Zongo Chief, elaborates upon the British colonial pith helmet.
This poster in a chief’s reception room shows him and his elders.
These chiefs display symbols of prestige from many sources: the wild silk smocks, the protective bundles containing verses from the Koran, the typically Akan umbrella, Hausa-style embroidery and a cell phone.
Uniformed members of an ethnic group assemble before joining the parade.
Every variety of high style is represented here.
Gracia will write one.
A taxi driver with his two sons ready for Eid Al-Fitr prayer.
A grandfather brings his grandsons to pray at Eid Al-Fitr
Her shop sign announces her Muslim faith and gender.
A respected elder in prestigious eyelet lace.
This woman takes afternoon classes in an Islamic public school after leaving school years ago.
After formal prayers and speeches at the Central Mosque, people secure their places on the parade route.
These chiefs combine Islamic talismans with white and embroidered robes over handwoven smocks typical of Ghana's Upper Regions.
This dignified woman sits on a mattress made of pillows on the car roof.
This chief wears Islamic colors sitting on a carpet on top of a gold truck.
A roadside convenience store with a little of everything.
This school teaches women both secular and Koranic subjects in a malama’s home.
Some young women wearing the school colors.
A local Islamic school gathers on their deceased founder's birthday.
This man runs a government-certified Islamic public school that includes primary, junior and senior secondary classes.
One girl in long-sleeved dress and opaque white veil with a pencil.
Many seamstresses like this work from kiosks located near their homes.
Two wealthy locals greet each other in their festive attire.
As a midwife in a rural district, she sometimes bringing women with labor difficulties to hospital on the back of her motorcycle.
The faithful share knowledge as well as food during Ramadan.
Both Muslim and Asante men make and repair shoes. This shop specializes in recycling uppers from imported secondhand shoes into new styles.
Community members experience the parade.
In this very common style for formal occasions, a middle-aged woman wears a printed cotton log-sleeved blouse with matching skirt and head tie, adding sheer white veil over her head and shoulders.
Three occupations in less than ten feet.
Many Muslims sell and buy from simple tables by the sidewalk.
These boys in special uniforms prepare for a marching display.
The Koran was given to Prophet Mohammed during Ramadan.
This tailor sews and embroiders men's and women's clothing. His father serves as Imam in another Ghanaian town.
Teen girls socialize with friends after the prayers.
Representing the Asante royalty on this occasion, the Queen Mother's distinctive patterned umbrella echoes her pink kente cloth.
Those accompanying the Asantehemma wear Islamic-themed attire.
This father carries his son in front like nobles in the parade did on their horses
The Muslim chief of a Kumasi neighborhood poses with his entourage for his own photographer.
As dusk settles and the dignitaries have passed, private and group parties start along the route.
The headmaster of this Islamic school preaches a sermon at their annual festival.
These three make an impressive appearance in coordinated scarlet and gold robes on richly decorated horses behaving well.
Like many, these three brothers got new matching outfits for Ramadan
Lightly used tires displayed in the neighborhood.
A woman wears her veil on one shoulder, with short sleeves.
Western formal dress also appears acceptable at an Eid prayer.
Young girls carry the brass pans containing shea butter and other traditional gifts for the palace.
The slow pace of movement often forces delegations to a standstill.
This local branch of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union is predominantly Muslim.
This man runs a roadside truck repair workshop in a Muslim neighborhood.
In her shop on a major road in Magazine, a huge vehicle repair center, she sells double axles, diesel engines and crankshafts.
Elaborate white-and-gold lace over a red car complements a saffron turban that covers most of this chief's head and neck.
Men also enjoy dressing well and greeting their friends and neighbors.
A man and boy among others with black turbans and gold skullcaps.
General stereotypes assume all these load carriers are from the North.
Herding, trading and slaughtering cattle in Kumasi are all occupations associated with Muslims, especially Fulani and Hausa.
This young married Muslim sells veils from Dubai, but is not wearing one.
This woman casually covers her cotton print pantsuit with a long veil.
These two girlfriends are more particular than average about veiling.
The light cloth under this chief's flowing robe conceals most of the car.
Three young women with very different styles, but all with an identifiable veil.
Mother brings her young son to visit his grandmother’s market stall.
A family walking together to Friday prayers.
An elder in his fine three-piece suit of blue damask.
The flowing white sleeveless over robe sets off the heavily embroidered outfit with a well-matched hat.
White robes and a red umbrella set these chiefs apart from their attendants.
Teacher addressing a coed senior class in an Islamic public school.
A group of women passing by in a Muslim neighborhood.
Sisters and wives of the Mossi chief's household with friends.
These women enjoy their opportunity to learn.
Women attend a weekly Koran study class organized at a suburban public school and mosque.
The funeral of an aged mother held in the family home and attended by Muslims and Christians.
These women gather on chairs under an awning to study the Koran.
This women’s class meets Friday in a local mosque to study the Koran.
Women and girls pray on one side, facing the backs of the men on the other court.
Young men who work in this neighborhood regularly gather for noon prayer inside this roadside shop made from a shipping container.
Devout university graduates working on interview translations.
A mother dressed up with her baby and young son.
Empressive embroidery is as acceptable as the color pink.
Young men meet in an informal afternoon discussion group.
Young boys wearing their uniform items creatively.
All ages study together by reading in unison.
The Zongo Chief in procession with his entourage.
The Zongo Chief in procession with his entourage
The multiple layers of the Zongo Chief's costume even cover his horse with lace. The horse and flywhisk are symbols of high prestige connected to the northern savannah.
"We should take more business, but the money is small. That is why we cannot do what we would like to do."
"You are supposed to live in mutual respect and kindness with your neighbor, if you have one, whether that neighbor is a believer or a non-believer."
"As a Muslim, your hands do not bother anyone, your mouth should not hurt anyone, your legs should not bother anyone, don't cheat, don't beat anyone, don't kill anyone, you see, this is what we call Muslim."
Since the 1970s, a faction has been growing in Kumasi who adhere to more fundamentalist visions of Islam that condemn “unnecessary’’ prayers and rituals added to those prescribed by the Koran. Among those criticized are senior leaders in the Sufi brotherhoods, who offer special blessings and protections to their devout followers. Most of the established famil Show More
Aluminum casting has no logical connection to Islam, but has become an occupation identified with Muslims in Kumasi. Decades ago, the VALCO aluminum refinery at the Volta Dam produced quantities of scrap metal from its smelters and manufacturing processes. Northerners predominated in recycling cardboard, paper, and other metal scrap, so they became expert in recycli Show More
Video Footage Scene Comments Start (00:00:00) Families returning from the noon prayer at Kumasi Central Mosque on Eid-al-Fitr, 2011. 00:00:12 The followers of a popular local teacher surround him and his family, as the last vehicles allowed pass. 00:01:16 Note hawkers with head loads and pushcarts as the street clears. Pairs of young men and sets of Show More
Weddings are some of the most important family ceremonies in most cultures, and especially for Muslims because their religion calls for relatively simple funerals. In Ghana, as in much of West Africa, the bride and her mother demonstrate and bolster their social status by accumulating an impressive array of cloth and household items which the bride takes to her marit Show More
Several months before it was time to start on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, members of this mosque in Kumasi who had made the pilgrimage decided to stage this reenactment of the various stages of the ritual, so that those going that year would know what to expect. Since the pageant took place inside the mosque itself, its degree of realism was limited, but the coordin Show More
Mallam Zacharia Rahmen tells two stories. The first is the story of Lot and his wife at Sodom. God sent his angel to warn Lot that he was going to destroy the earth because of the promiscuous behavior going on. He warned Lot to leave with his family and not look back, but when Lot's wife turned around, she turned into a pillar of salt. Mallam uses this story to preach Show More
Modest craftsmen like this man, who repairs car and truck tires, appear along all the major streets in Kumasi. His main investment is the vulcanizing machine itself, but his reputation for reliable workmanship ensures a steady clientele. Although he and his young son are Muslim work in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood, they look no different from other street sid Show More
"It is only me, a woman selling these double axles here. My family are proud of me as a woman selling this, because it is not easy for some women to learn this trade."
"My Mum never gave up."