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The Mole-Dagbani, primarily located in the Upper and Northern regions of Ghana,
make up 16 percent of the current Ghanaian population and accounts for the majority
of the Muslim population in Ghana. Of the Mole-Dagbani there are five subcultures,
four of which trace themselves to the same ancestry. They are the Mamprusi, Mossi,
Dagomba, Nanumba, and Gonja. The languages they speak are classified as a variation
It is said by oral tradition that the founding ancestor of all the Mole-Dagbani
migrated from north-east of the Lake Chad to the south of the Niger bend, Zamfara,
which is modern day Nigeria. Due to the political and military superiority, the
ancestors were able to easily wield smaller individual tribes into their kingdom.
The Mamprusi, Mossi, Dagomba, and Nanumba all have passed down the same story of
origin by means of oral tradition. The story begins with a warrior princess whose
father restricts her from marrying in fear of losing her military knowledge. She
flees on a stallion, becomes weary and finds refuge and sleep under a tree. A prince
of another tribe finds her there, too beautiful to resist and rapes her in her sleep.
From this a child is conceived who grows to later marry, producing a son.
This son, Gbewa was to become the first
leader of the kingdom. Upon his death, he was succeeded by his own son Zirile upon
his death. At the death of Zirile conflicts erupted over his successior among his
three surviving brothers and their supporters, which thus led to a civil war and
split within the tribe. One formed the kingdom of Maprussi and the other two formed
the Dagomba and Nanumba. The Mamprusi later divided, thus forming the Mossi. The
fifth group, Gonja, migrated from what is currently Mali near the end of the 16th
The Mole-Dagbani are very reclusive due to their Muslim beliefs and cultural practices.
Also, their culture is highly dependent upon oral tradition, so there is little
text on the culture for researchers to obtain. These two factors make it difficult
for one to report on the culture. It is puzzling however that more western anthropologist
have not investigated this region and its people.