Zango not Zongo, is originally a Hausa word which literally translates as a temporal place of settlement.
Zangos were indigenously built and nurtured by Hausa immigrants who migrated from Nigeria to settle in Ghana.
These Hausa people were Muslims and epitomized the Prophet Mohammed’s attributes of peace and unity,
Several Ghanaian Northerners who understood their language and found solace in their settlements have now virtually taken over Zangos.
Unfortunately though, Zango has been foisted a new definition due to the misconception of how people believe they live their lives.
Mention Zango and the picture is a violence dominated community usually slums; full of deviants, drug addicts and bad children.
To some, a Zango is no Zango if it’s missing any of these.
“It is true that a community shapes how people especially the youth perceive the world. As all of us know, there are deviant in every society and community. There’s no way one can generalize and say this community is totally good or bad. It is the perception of the people that make them believe Zango has nothing good to show,” Sufiyan a businessman at Aboabo observes.
For two decades and even more of my life, I have lived in a Zango community called Aboabo.
My mates at school and colleagues at work continuously tell me I do not look a Zango lady because I don’t fit their expectations of what a typical zongo girl should look like.
But the Zango I have come to know, love and appreciate is more than what is out there. In fact it is a world on its own.
What cuts across in every Zango community is how united we are. This is because we used to walk in pairs and always looked out for one another. The Akans addressed us as Ntafuo,which literally translates, ‘twins.’ One of the reasons why people assume us violence is that, in Zango when you unjustly offend one person, you indirectly offend a lot more other people.
Mariam is a student journalist who grew up in a Zango. She admits, “They are so united that whenever you say bad things about one of them, it affects them all. And they join together to defend one another. And they like giving and sharing.”
Growing up in the Zango as a child is a world of experiences that teaches and toughens. You are exposed to the right and wrong to allow you make a choice.
Shafiq Mylo Kifaya grew up in Aboabo. Even though he has relocated he is proud of his upbringing.
He recounts, “Zango is a particular place, especially where we were brought up, it’s kind of intertwined, a lot of good stuff are there, and a lot of bad stuff are there. It’s a place where you get to see what is right and wrong. So when a kid is growing up, he sees both and then he will add it on his plate. So either choice he makes, he is certainly going to be responsible.”
Zangos are by far very religious communities. At every corner, you find a mosque and within intervals you hear calls for prayer. The setting on Fridays is entirely unique. It is more of the “traditional” Muslim dressing and devout residents converging to observe the collective sallatul jum’ah even within working hours.
An Islamic scholar at the royal mosque at Asawase Malam Abubakar Lamin explains, “Zangos were settlements of Hausas and they were also Muslims so everywhere they lived were deemed Muslim communities”
Zangos retain the bragging rights for the best waakye, Hausa koko and “Tuo Zaafi” joints. And the most intriguing part of it is that they are as affordable as one can think of.
A resident of Nima Mohammed Muntala could best be described as a walking Google map for the best food joints in the Zango.
He outlines, “I can mention waakye for instants, there is one joint at Sawaba Sisala line, there is a woman called Baabani, I can tell you it’s one of the best Waakye joint. There is a food joint called Areeba, at Kantudu close to Alabar. That food too is from a different world, very attractive. Talk of Tuon Zaafi, there’s a lady that prepares it in my house and takes it to race cost to sell, and then Hausa koko, one joint which I know a lot of people can relate with is the one at (KTI).”
Zango is also a very commercial setting. Undoubtedly so because we are not taught to be lazy. You can find all kinds of crafts engaged in by Zango Men and women.
Shaibu Fuseini is a trainer with the No Business As usual Hub; an NGO located within a Zango to prepare young residents for employment and entrepreneurship.
He disagrees with any thought that Zango dwellers are lazy.
He insisted, “No, no, Zango people are not lazy. A lot of the times, people have been made to believe what is not. Take me for example, take AL haji Hafiz Bashir for examplee, he’s the managing director for the Hafiziya plastics, this is a company that was raised right here in the Asokore Mampong municipality, employing over 148 workers. I know of Nas Sannah, he has a clothing line. I know of Sadat, who is doing a lot of artwork, painting wallpaper, interior décor. I grew up here, I went to the university here, I came back here and I’m doing a lot of work here. The negativity comes in because there are a few of us who did not get that exposure with the education. So they resort to some other means.”
Well Zango was once innocent. Contrary to the seemingly popular view that Zango is a slum and the people in such communities are violent and allergic to “sanity.” Zango has a bright side too.