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It’s Zango not Zongo

BY: Haruna Yussif Wunpini
A typical Zango compound at Akwadum in Koforidua
A typical Zango compound at Akwadum in Koforidua

In  Ghana, communities within cities and towns inhabited mostly by Muslims are called Zongos.

However, in reality the word Zongo is a corrupted version of Zango, the actual name of Muslim dwellings attached or within communities in the country.

Meaning of Zango

The word Zongo, therefore has no meaning.

With the introduction of Islam in West Africa centuries ago, most of the people who converted to that religion were Hausas.

The Hausas called their dwellings Zangos and not Zongos as people continue to pronounce the name wrongly.

The Hausas during their migration to their present locations moved in numbers and where they periodically sourjourned were named Zangos.

Periodically, such locations turned to be permanent abodes with a lot of non-Hausa Muslims.

The inhabitants were therefore described as having established a Zango or expressed as "Sunyaa Da Zango" in Hausa meaning a resting place for travellers on a journey and most of the travellers were Hausa traders.

The word Zango with the alphabet 'a' after the 'Z', is a Hausa phrase which literally means a home for a travelling people.

Original homes

In time, most of these resting places became permanent settlements for the Hausa traders.

It is therefore undisputed that most of the Zangos across Africa were established by the Hausas.

Zangos of today are cosmopolitan in nature, being home to people of different ethnic groups with varying cultures.

For example, the Koforidua Zongo which has close to 44 tribal chiefs as well as other Zongos in the country should be called Zango instead of Zongo, its corrupted version.

However, one amazing observation is that in all original Hausa dominated communities in Nigeria and Niger, the original homes of Hausas there are not Zangos because a Zango is a place of travellers from another country.

The reason can be attributed to the fact that Hausas cannot be strangers in their own country or hometown.

One rather finds Zangos in areas outside the original communities domiciled by Hausas.

In Ghana, however, there are other variations of mispronunciation of the word Zango.

For instance in a conversation with some elderly Akan women, one of them pronounced the word as "Nzongo" while the real Zango people (Zangolese) continued to pronounce the word correctly but write it wrongly as Zongo.

Minyilla Zango

The Zangos have now become permanent homes for thousands of citizens and non-citizens in Ghana.

A resident of the community who is also the Secretary to the Koforidua Zongo Chief, Alhaji Ibrahim Mohammed Maikidi, told the

Daily Graphic that his outfit was not happy that Ghanaians continued to pronounce and spell the word Zango as Zongo.

Giving a brief history of the Koforidua Zango, he said, it was common knowledge that there had been three to four relocations of the Zongo in the Koforidua town.

The first Zango, Alhaji Maikidi said, was at Joe Lartey’ in Betom, from where it then moved to the Jackson Park area, then to the Ofoss line, near the Koforidua Central Mosque, and finally to the present location popularly referred to as Minyilla Zango.