Tamale Territories Research

My Plantain is Our Property
Carmen Egger and Abdul-Haqq Mahama

The film “My Plantain is Our Property” reflects territorial claims on the inner-urban Forest Reserve in the growing city of Tamale in northern Ghana. In urban agricultural zones, hundreds of farmers temporarily and permanently occupy fields in order to sustain their own lives and those of the local population by cultivating crops, vegetables and fruits.In the area of the Forest Reserve, natural and artificial markers describe ownership of the land, which is largely unregistered and exposed to informal claims. Boundaries demarcated by a row of plantain palms, for example, clarify ownership and use, but the structures of users and inhabitants with their demands on the fields overlap. The question of who is allowed to harvest the fruits of these trees leads to the discovery of the story of a single plant: the banana. Domestic, agricultural and infrastructural notions throughout the territory of the Tamale Forest Reserve represent biodiversity and coexistence that demonstrate the relationships between species in different environments within the urban-rural area and in particular, with the plantain tree. Its leaves, its cleanliness, irrigation systems, and the fruit itself are dependent on handling and contact with the environment, climate, human treatment, and the occupation of animals. In the work, the viewer is guided through the narrative in chapters – Territories, Cohabitation, Fruit and Claims – that tell different stories from a larger to a smaller scale. Overlap-ping roles and moments in the Tamale Forest Reserve are translated into various, changing media, including video, image and audio material, as well as the maker’s voiceover, which summarizes the farmers’ statements about the circumstances and problems they must deal with on the site.As the farmers in Tamale Forest Reserve describe it, everyone is a brother there and, as culture pretends, everything is shared among brothers, like the plantain fruit, being deformed from an individual possession into common property.