The Talensis people of Northern Ghana require you to be topless to observe one of their sacred rituals. With the smell of animal blood and feces bombarding their senses, man and woman alike must bare themselves to the sub-Saharan heat to enter the Tengzug Shrine in the Tongo Hills.
The Tengzug Shrine, one of the most famous in the region, was once a hideout for slaves evading their captors. Now, it is used more traditionally for religious animal sacrifices for good luck and to please the ancestors of the Talensis. With a guide, visitors can scale the rocks up to the Tengzug Shrine, remove their tops and witness the sacrifice of birds and chickens.
In the shrine, among the remnants of the recently sacrificed, visitors get a panoramic view of the region and the surreal world of the Tongo Hills. Giant Baobab trees and boulders define the dry landscape that draws both tourists and religious pilgrims. The Tongo Hills comprise only twenty square kilometers, but are richly packed with history, religious significance, and fantastic hiking.
Along with the many shrines tucked away in the rock formations of the area, the local population has rebuilt a number of classic Talensis homes. Shaped like cylinders and grouped into neighborhoods, the homes have miniature doorways, followed by a short wall inside the home that allows for protection from intruders. Other than the doorway and a few holes for smoke to exit the structure, they are completely closed off to the outside world.
The Tongo Hills give visitors a window into the world of the Talensis, and visitors coming at the right times can experience one of the region’s vibrant festivals. In March, the Talensi celebrate the Golob Festival focusing on the sowing of the fields. With a bit more show to it, the Bo’araam Festival in October and November includes drinking traditional beer and the sacrifice of donkeys, goats, and fowl.