Friday, November 16, 2012

The Naming Ceremony.

Tenengfara women at the naming ceremony, working and laughing hard. Bori (my mother is in the black shirt), the women with the white scarf is the chief's wife and the head of the women's group, the women in the back is one of my favorite women in village she is constantly teasing me and laughing. 

This past week there was a naming ceremony at a Fula compound. Naming ceremonies take place 7 days after a baby has been born and the purpose it to introduce the child to the community and ...give them a name. I've seen wolof and mandinka ceremonies but the fula one was very different. There was a moment where an aunt sat holding the child under a white cloth while a elder man poured some milk, water, wood-bark substance onto the baby's head and shaved off the hair, at the same time 3 women pounded corn together next to the baby, at the same time the Imam of the village slaughtered a goat into a hole to let the blood drain, and at the same time that another elder lead the gathered people in prayer. It was quite the moment and orchestrated perfectly. After this all happened the mother was brought out to hold the child and had parts of her head shaved, money was then put on top of the white cloth and wishes were announced, a large number of men who attended were served a breakfast of mono, or millet balls in a liquid with sour milk on top, and dried balls of millet or corn with sugar. With traditional Islamic societies the men and women rarely socialize in public. I am, however, the exception, because females from other societies tend to fall into a third category, somewhere between the traditional roles of men and women in this culture. It seems like even the locals don't know where to place me, and I don't try to define it, I just adapt while allowing them to adapt to my differences and try not to offend anyone. I always sit and socialize with the women, rarely doing more than greet the men unless otherwise invited.

This was the first day that the women included me in their gossip circle. I had always sat with them but didn't understand much. I have started to understand more of the conversations and at the naming ceremony, the women were sharing the gossip of the village and asked me what I thought about it. So yes, gossip happens everywhere especially in small African villages where there are no other distractions like TV or books and everyone lives  2 feet away from each other and everything is heard by your neighbors. There is a proverb that goes, "the foot is on the ground, the snake is on the ground." Meaning neighbors must learn to get along with each other because they all share the same ground.

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