Tengzug Shrine: Ghana’s Site of Bizarre Naked Rituals

Tengzug ShrinePhoto: Dave Ley

Tucked away in the remote village of Tengzug, in Ghana, 10 miles southeast of the town of Bolgatanga, is a sacred shrine. What makes this shrine so special is its origin and the way in which local people worship in it. This article will make you rethink all you may know about Sunday church!

As you make your way into the village, which is set apart from other more remote villages nearby, you discover thatched roof huts that are creatively adorned and painted by the women of the village. During their downtime prior to harvest, the women utilize the sun’s baking heat to make very beautifully painted works of art. The huts are an extension of the tribespeople’s massive cultural hub and craft markets. The people are said to have the largest array of leather works, straw baskets and smocks in Ghana.

Bolgatanga painted village outside TengzugPhoto: Vince Harris

These people are so creative and gifted that they even make fantasy coffins for anyone interested. The coffins are made to look like anything one wishes – a bird, a beer bottle, even a cigarette!

mosque in Larabanga, Northern GhanaPhoto: erikkristensen

The Sandema Festival involves a war dance celebrated by the local Builsa people. It is held in December and marks the end of the slave trade in Northern Ghana. Long ago, the area was ravaged by slave owners involved in the trans-Saharan slave trade. The Tengzug Shrine was a place where slaves would hide from these aggressive slave owners.

The Talensis people, an ethnic group in Northern Ghana, require people observing their religious rituals to be topless. Animal waste and blood are smeared everywhere near the Tengzug Shrine. Men and women share equally in the nudity requirement. Animal sacrifices are made throughout the day and night. With a skilful guide, visitors can be a part of the nude animal sacrifice rituals, climbing the sharp granite rocks that whistle in the wind. Nearby Baobab trees make the Saharan landscape breathtaking to behold.

Northern Ghana peoplePhoto: Michael,Ghana

mosque in Larabanga, Northern GhanaPhoto: erikkristensen

As seen above, the Northern Ghana mosques are also very strange and awe-inspiring. Now, in the post-slave trade era, the locals are rebuilding their classic Talensis homes. These homes are shaped like cylinders (like the mosques); the doorways are tiny, hardly able to fit any person through them; and then there is a short wall past the doorway. All of these structures protect the homeowner from intrusion. There are no windows or outlets, just the doorway and a small hole that acts like a fireplace flue.

Despite their strange and unconventional religious rites and the fact that they worship nude in shrines, the people of Northern Ghana are very intriguing and special. They are known the world over for their fantastic art and culture. The architecture in their villages is impossible to beat. This remote area of the world has been left unaffected by technology and modern inconveniences.