The story of Sissala
Sissala in the upper west region, comprises five distinct tribes classified under the Kanssena-Isala group of language: the Sissala with the closely allied Tampolense and Vagala, the Awuna or Fera, and the Kasena.
The name Sissala originates from the sound of the phrase “N-se-ba” with which members of this tribe preface many of their sentences. Thus “N-se-ba” means “I say” or “do I not?” (Compare Hausa “na che ba”- I say.)
There are four dialectal variations of this idiom which the Sissala themselves recognize and refer to as making four dialects of their language 1. Nse-ba 2. Me-sable-ga 3. Me-se-ya 4. N-ba borea.
Also there are about nineteen clans which is identified by asking each “what do you swear by?” or “what do you avoid?” for what we would call the clan totem. Three out of the nineteen will be investigated in this paper within a very limited scope.
1. The Gungun (Crow clan) at the Jumu and Yigantu in the Upper West Region. The main traditions recount how the founding father, Potabagbe, originally lived at Kaha in Gambaga, and it happened that on one occasion, Potabagbe sacrificed a dog for ritual purposes. He set aside the head of the dog for a younger brother who was absent. A fight resulted and all the people scattered. A section of the people followed the founding father westwards to places such as Nyagene, Yagaba, and Nangruma, then to Ingantu near Gyikwie where the leader died and was succeeded by Kusun who finally settled at Tumu.
Here they met the Kukumwala alias the Henvera clan and drove them away but later, they returned and drove the squatters from Gyikwie (also known as Kulunwan, the ruins of which can be seen today).
Kusan was in turn succeeded by Kuri, Kanton I and Namporo in whose time slave-raider, Babatu, plundered the region with impunity. Namporo was succeeded by Bayebe, Benada, Mumaha Wagere when the Europeans came. Henceforth, the priest-king became the territorial ruler of Tumu. Wagere was succeeded by Gbambela, then Nankane in whose time the office of the priest-king separated. Succeeding secular-rulers were Dimoa and Kantom II, a former court interpreter.
As we have seen Tumu and Yagantu are the only two crow clan settlements and that the inhabitants of these towns do not intermarry.
2. The Gama clan: the traditional history of the Gama clan indicates that their ancestors came from Bole in West Gonja, and spoke the Gonja language. These ancestors, Sunkruruga and the younger brother Yaligea, were celebrated hunters, who quarrelled over the sacrifice of a dog, and as a result the elder brother left Bole, while the younger brother remained so, his descendants are in Bole today. Sunkurugu wandered through the bush until he reached kokorogamoa (lit. beneath the bush”) at Gwolo where he settled to hunt and married Kodua who bore him two sons named Naba and Kune, and a daughter by name Kolivie.
The ancient walled town of Gwolo (variously pronounced Gwoli or Gbolo) became the original settlement of the Gama clan where they spread and founded the towns of Kon, Sakai, Nankpovie, Lelekese, Dere, Bakoala, Badissebai, Kpau, Gyigyen, Santie and Kosale.
The story indicates that, it was the twelfth ruler, Tangia a wealthy man, who built the walls of Gwolo. The walls consisted of an inner circular wall surrounding the ancient town and an outer wall which enclosed farms and water supply within its perimeter. The walls were about ten feet high. The distance between the inner and outer wall was about 300 yards. The ruins show what a remarkable combined effort at their construction must have been. Similar walls are to be found at Nalerigu in North East Mamprussi, built purposely to prevent hyenas form entering it. Tangia, the builder of the walled town became the first chief in the modern accepted sense.
He was succeeded by Yagbon in whose time the slave-raider, Babatu, arrived as a friend of the Gwolo dwellers. He joined them to fight the people of Pana who had been enemies of Gwolo. Tangia was succeeded by Zanteo, and next by Baduo in whose time the Europeans arrived.
3. The Hanvera clan: they have the small-post as a totem. Traditions say that their ancestors came from Nalerigu in Mamprussi, and that long ago, they were Mohammedans. Traditional history of wanderings of this clan is very interesting. It gives an account of the eldest son of a powerful chief who used to ride on roan which was caught alive and tamed.
One day, we took to flight at the sound of guns during a feast and run away with its rider on its back. His father and some people set out to follow him; they passed through Savelugu, Daboya, over hills until they finally reached Gwantalla. The chief, who followed his son, remained at Brukon where he sent his younger brother to continue the quest.
He and his party went on until they came upon the roan and its rider lying dead at a spot where the town of Kon (Roan) now stands and there, they settled. Ever since then they have been forbidden to eat roan.
The clansmen of our ancestor who followed in search of him founded several towns in the neighbourhood whose inhabitants were once known as Kulumwala.
The spectator - Saturday, September 7, 2013. Page 31
Called from: R.S. Rathray. “Ashanti and Its Hinterland”