Lobi-Dagarti Peoples - Orientation and Ethnonyms

The group known to French writers, following the usage of Labourer (1931) and Père (1988), as the "Lobi" are found distributed between 9°00′ and 11°00′ N and 2°30′ and 4°00′ W. They are divided among three contemporary nations: Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), in South-West Department; Ghana (formerly Gold Coast), in the districts of Lawra, Wa, and Bole; and Ivory Coast, in the districts of Bonduku and Buna.

The terms "LoDagaa" and "Lobi-Dagarti" (or Dagara) are used for a cluster of peoples situated across the frontier of Burkina Faso and Ghana, originally grouped together by Labouret, following the usage of Delafosse and other francophones. In this cluster, Labouret included the "true Lobi" (or those the Birifor call the "LoWilisi") around Gaoua, who (according to Westermann and Bryan 1952) speak a Dogon-type language (the inclusion of Dogon is disputed); the Birifor (or LoBirifor) to their east, who speak Dagara, a Mole-Dagbane language; and four smaller groups: the Teguessié, the Dorossié, the Dian, and the Gan. The Teguessié (or Tégué) speak a language of the Kulango Group and are sometimes thought of as the autochthons; they were Masters of the Earth in much of the area. The other small groups speak languages related to Lobiri, as do the Padoro and possibly the Komono; Dian and Lobiri (in the east) are more closely related, as is the western group.

Subsequently, Père (1988) adopted the francophone use of Lobi ("la région Lobi") to cover the peoples of the Gaoua District of Burkina Faso, including not only the Jãa (Dian); the Gaàn (Gan); the Teésé (Teguessié); the Dòcsè (or Dorossié, but also the Kùlãgo [Kulango]); the Dagara (divided into Dagara Lobr and Dagara Wiili [Oulé]); and the Pwa (formerly known as the Pugula or Pougouli), who speak a Grusi language. Indeed, because she is dealing with the region, she also includes the Wala and the Dagara-Jula in her account.

The problems of ethnic classification in this area are several. In the first place, names differ, depending on whether they are used by francophones or by anglophones. The Lobi described by Rattray (1932) include the Birifor as well as the Dagara of Labouret. Second, the names have changed over time. People who were known as "Lobi" in the Lawra District of Ghana at the beginning of the nineteenth century are now "Dagara." Third, the names themselves often do not describe distinct ethnic groups. There are many differences in custom and organization between neighboring settlements, and these settlements may be referred to by the two quasi-directional terms, "Lo" (Lobi, west) and "Dagaa" (east), to distinguish different practices (for example, the use of xylophones). A settlement may identify with its eastern neighbors on one occasion (as Dagaa) and with its western ones (as Lo) on another. This actor usage has led Goody to identify a spectrum of peoples, the LoDagaa, who use these names for reference to themselves and others. They are, from west to east, the true Lobi, the Birifor or LoBirifor, the LoPiel (around Nandom) and the LoSaala (around Lawra), the Dagara (around Dano), the LoWiili (around Birifu), both DagaaWiili (around Tugu), and the Dagaba or Dagarti. The Wala speak the Dagaba language and constitute a small state that has its origins eastward in Dagomba. That state established itself as ruler over the southern Dagaba and some Grusi-speaking peoples. In the west, a branch of the ruling dynasty extended across the Black Volta to Buna, where they adapted the local Kulango language. The LoPiel and the LoSaala are known to francophones as "Dagara" (or Dagara-Lobr), and they now generally use this term rather than "Lobi" for self-reference because they have been forced to classify themselves unambiguously for administrative purposes. That change is widespread because "Dagara" is often a more prestigious term than "Lobi." The latter is associated in many people's minds with the large lip plugs of gourd or metal that are worn in the west (the easterners wear thin metal plugs) and with the stress that the westerners place on matrilineal inheritance, about which modernizers (church, schools, law, some administrators) generally feel hostile and ambivalent.

Given these contextual, overlapping, and changing usages by the peoples themselves, actor names are rarely satisfactory to indicate "tribal" groups, by which we refer to larger groupings of settlements with relatively homogeneous practices. These groups can be distinguished, roughly from east to west, as the Dagaba or Dagarti (around Jirapa); the LoPiel (around Nandom) and the LoSaala (around Lawra), both "Dagara Lobr" in French; the DagaaWiili (around Legmoin and Tugu) and the LoWiili (around Birifu), both "Dagara Wiilé" in French; the Birifor or LoBirifor (around Batié and in western Gonja); and the Lobi or LoWiilisi (around Gaoua). There are, in addition, the smaller populations of Gan, Dorossié, and Gian, who speak Lobi languages, and Teguessié, and who speak Kulango. These groups can be collectively designated as the LoDagaa or Lobi-Dagarti cluster, there being no reason to exclude the other Dagara-speaking peoples once the Birifor have been included among the Lobi.

Demography. Exact population figures are not readily available because these peoples are divided among three nation-states. Westermann and Bryan (1952) derived the following data from Labouret, Rattray, and early censuses: Lobi, 211,000; LoBirifor, 48,696 plus 40,520 in Ghana; Dagari/Dagarti/Wiili, 75,000 in Burkina Faso, 119,216 in Ghana; Wala, 25,923; Teguessié, 2,000; Dorossié, 7,500; Dian, 8,380, and Gan, 5,350. These figures should probably be doubled.

It is difficult to reconcile these numbers with the ones Père gives for the population of the Gaoua "circle" in 1975, namely, 180,288, of whom approximately 90,000 were "true Lobi" (with about another 75,000 in Ivory Coast, according to de Rouville); 60,000 were Birifor and 18,000 Dagara (Wiili).

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Nov 15, 2013 @ 11:11 am
less was mentioned about the Dagaba or Dagarti (around Jirapa), could briefly give some origins of them
Thomas B Sennor
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Apr 25, 2015 @ 10:10 am
Interesting article. I have keen interest in the subject matter. I am LoBirifor in the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba District in the Northern Region of Ghana. I think the demography figures are below expectation. We may discuss that later. Thanks for information.

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