Monday, September 12, 2011

Toubab's Can't Cry

Around two weeks ago, the dugutigi (chief of the village) passed away. I was conducting my typical morning round of greetings when the concession I was currently visiting became hushed and the radio was turned up. All that I could grasp was the name of my village being repeated periodically. After the announcement, I turned to the women for an explanation and was met with their crestfallen faces. It had just been confirmed and announced that the dugutigi had died. Instead of completing my morning route, I followed the women to the dugutigi's house. As we entered his concession, a mass of people had already begun to congregate. The men were all sitting on the left quietly murmuring prayers while the women were sitting to the right quietly chanting and singing what I assume to be prayers and songs of mourning. I was given a seat among the women to participate in the vigil. As more people began to arrive, the lamenting increased dramatically. Periodically, men would stand and start shouting while women arrived wailing and crying. This would lead to an eruption of crying, sobbing, and wailing on the women's side. Entirely surrounded by these distraught people, I couldn't help but become overwhelmed and shed a few tears myself in this emotionally intense moment.
However, as soon as some of the elder women saw that I was crying too, I was escorted away from the main mass of women and made to sit in the back where the cooking was taking place. I think I even received a scolding about crying as I was harshly told that I was only allowed to give blessings. For the rest of the day all I would hear was that I shouldn't have cried- crying is bad. So, in this culturally sensitive experience, the Toubab screws up-- great.
After about 2 hours, where people from all surrounding villages were constantly arriving to pay their respects, the body was escorted our of the hut for burial in the tomb. According to the laws of Islam, the body must be buried within 24 hours. As the body was carried out, another eruption of crying and wailing ensued while everyone stood and waved goodbye. After the men returned from burying the body, the women, who had been cooking for the mass of people the entire time, distributed the food and everyone ate.
The following week, all work ceased. No one went into the fields. The men all sat around in what looked like meetings and received all the visitors who came to pay their respects. The women would spend all day cooking for everyone. As per Islamic custom, on the third day after the dugutigi's death, a small animal sacrifice was made. Then on the seventh day, the final ceremony and sacrifice was made-2 cows and multiple goats and chickens were offered. On this seventh day, all of the village and all the guests who had been slowly filtering in all week congregated at the dugutigi's concession. There was some teaching and preaching of the Koran, and then the monetary donations were given. Afterwards, everyone was again fed by the women who had been preparing for the final meal the entire previous night and morning.
Now, there is a 40 day period of waiting before the next dugutigi is chosen. All of the men will have a meeting to select from among the chekoroba's (elder men) who should be the next chief.

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