Publication Date

Spring 1996


This report studies the art of mural decorating that has been passed down through many generations of women in certain villages in the Upper East Region of Ghana. It identifies the common patterns that traditionally characterize these decorations, and explores how they function as a symbolic language in the communities in which they appear. Among the variety of surface decorations found throughout the Upper East Region, my research focuses on the traditional mural decorations of the village of Sirigu. These decorations are characterized by materials and common forms that represent objects of common use and visibility in the daily lives of the people. The study identified two broad categories of decorations: two dimensional patterns and raised-relief symbols. It was also observed that women who are mainly responsible for the artwork have specific reasons for choosing the patterns they use for decorations. This report outlines how elderly women in the community teach the process of applying traditional decorations to the younger women. The study concludes that the environment and the materials it offers continue to dictate much of the art form, the technique having remained virtually unaltered for generations. This report points out how the creation of these murals under the harsh conditions of the environment is intriguing. Mural decorations reflect the needs of the environment in two respects. First, the environmental conditions create a need for the finishing of compound surfaces and, secondly, the materials available in the surrounding environment influence the resulting design. Thus, the art forms are ultimately representations of that same environment.