Fugu: The Tradition Goes on

The fugu or smock is the most distinctive dress from northern Ghana which has gained national significance.


From the dawn of civilization, humans have had an intense relationship with nature, and cotton is a basic product that man uses for various purposes.
Cotton is known for its versatility, use and natural comfort. It is used to make all kinds of clothes and all kinds of materials for domestic use, as well as industrial purposes.

Cotton fibre is woven or knitted into fabrics such as the “fugu” in Tamale, Bolgatanga, Wa, Daboya, Yendi and its environs have a particularly strong tradition of weaving fugu. Generations of artisans have been engaged in this profession. This has become hereditary with fathers transferring their knowledge and skills to their sons. The boys in the family, at a very young age, start learning the art of making fugu with very simple wooden looms and improve their skills through constant practice.


Craftsmen in northern Ghana are famous for their magnificent workmanship. The fugu often has embroidery designs on them to enhance their beauty. This is particularly true in the case of Daboya, the northernmost town of Ghana, which is known for its beauty. The area, with its natural beauty and inexhaustible salt production ventures, rivers and tourist attractions, inspires artists and craftsmen.

The best known fugu is Daboya (meaning, “our brother is better than us”). Daboya fugus are famous for their beauty, patterns, colours, motifs, artistic appearance and texture.

Method of production
THE fabric, made with cotton, is processed into threads by women.
The threads are then stretched, dyed in different colours.dried on a line for a period of time and woven into strips and stoles with hand looms. The strips which are four inches wide are sewn together either by hand or machine. The fugu usually has embroidery patterns on the neck, with V or U shapes cut above the chest.

The fugu,has retained its rich traditional heritage and fulfilled customers’ demands and contemporary trends. According to Mr Seidu Umar, who sells smocks at the Arts Centre in Accra, the social and cultural appeal of the fugu are not the only things that have attracted him into the trade, but the patronage and ready markets in Accra, for his business have also been key factors.

For Mr Sadik a 55-year- old fugu weaver from Tamale, “lack of support from the government to promote the local weaving industry has not allowed the trade to grow. Most of us have no formal training but we learned the trade hands on,” he said.

THE Ghanaian fugu has a powerful symbolic meaning recognised internationally, especially among Africans in the Diaspora.
Dealers provide the cloth and design, however, the craftsmen have the liberty of choosing the threads and colour combination. Before commencing work, the selected design is traced on the fabric by a professional tracer.
Though motifs are picked from nature, new designs have continuously been added, depending upon fashion and consumers and preference. The heart and star is a motif that has been abundantly used. Animal and human figures are not common, but some old fugu depicting hunting scenes are sometimes seen at ceremonies. Later, the ‘adinkra’ motif emerged as embroidery pattern. Usually the embroidery is seen on the undyed material with white or cream background. However, according to the demand of consumers, fabrics are dyed in different colours

The incomparable embroidery styles add to, the beauty not only of the Daboya, but also the Dagarkparlo of the Upper West Region and fugus from Bolga.

Source: Daily Graphic








About fraufiber

Itinerant textile worker and activist.

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