Tuesday, June 22, 2010

naming ceremonies

so this weekend i went to a naming ceremony in a village to the north of me (actually, all of the gambia is to the north of me). naming ceremonies themselves are a site to behold. don't let the "ceremony" fool you, they're mostly parties. epic, day-long parties. this one was in Jambangjelly (pronounced jom-bon-jelly), which has a fantastic name itself if you ask me. this was a huge naming ceremony, a rager if you will. most of my family here made the trek, they had chartered gellys running back and forth.
i know that sounds convienent. but it's still trying to get roughly 20 women (men attend ceremonies, but travel and do pretty much everything else seperately) all in a car at the same time. 20 excited women, dressed to the nines, yelling over each other, and lugging tons of food. and it's hot out. but we got everyone in the car and drove approx 2k/hr through the village so the women could shout to their friends out the windows, a gambian equvialent of ron burgendy "everyone come see how good i look!" then of course we had to close the windows so nobody's hair got messed up.
the afternoon before the ceremony was spent cooking pancatos, which are kind of like doughnuts, and preparing a sauce from baobab, peanuts, and fake banana flavoring. all of this came on the gelly with us, and of course the pots and giant spoons, that make even the tallest person look like a keebler elf when she stirs the vats of sauce.
we arrived around 11, and i immediately sought out the world cup, while the glammed up women got started cooking breakfast. after the game i came back and was fed the delicious baobab sauce over rice porridge, and chatted with the ladies. my favorite thing to do at naming ceremonies is ask people what the baby's name is, and then count how many people they have to consult before they know. this one was particularly big, so we got up to 6. here, it's tradition that you don't say the baby's name (even if you've picked it out) until it's announced by an imam or other holy man at the ceremony. so it's the point of the party, but everybody gets caught up in clothes and food and i've been to probably 15 naming ceremonies in the past 2 months and seen the baby once. after breakfast it was time to cook lunch and complain about how hot it is. they also prepared a soup to eat while lunch was cooking. they were really confused when i didn't want to eat it, everytime you say you're not hungry, this is the answer you get: "here is africa. it's not about being hungry. you eat."
needless to say i watched the second world cup game of the day and ate mangos with the teenage boys.
then it was time to (you guessed it) eat. and after lunch (rice and chicken) everybody gets changed into their other super-classy outfit, re-does their make-up, and gets ready to cook dinner while the ceremony begins. i missed most of this one because i had to eat other lunch in a neighboring compound (i wasn't around for 1st lunch due to my soccer addiction), but it's basically a lot of greeting all the village elders publicially and talking about the guests. than there' about a 3-minute window where the baby is featured prominently, and then the name is whispered and shouted, and the ceremony is finished. the baby dissappears to sleep, and the mother changes her outfit for the 5th time (mothers are supposed to be the prettiest girl at the ball, so they get multiple outfits made and are photographed over and over again) and struts around, graciously accepting money. also the dancing begins. this ceremony had a dj, but the music is often interupted by the griots. griots are sort of like town criers, combined with court jesters. they sing, go around villages annoucing ceremonies, births, meetings. but then they attend the ceremonies and aggressively serenade people until they give them money. technology has been kind to the griots, nothing makes that job easier than a megaphone. one of the griots at this one would make the dj turn off the music, get on the mike, and just begin naming as many people as she could as they streamed in and out, handing her more and more small bills.
so eventually the griots run out of steam, and there's dancing and juice. juice is my favorite part, because it's delicious and not oily. it's baobab, banana (real banana), sugar, and coconut. somebody apparently leaked that i'm obsessed with this stuff because people just kept giving it to me. luckily i accumulated an entourage of small boys who had no trouble picking up my slack.
and dinner made it's appearance, and the ceremony begin to wind down. the dj packed up, the pancatos had all been distributed, and i missed the 3rd game of the day because i was in a car headed back. a car full of happy, full to the gills ceremony attendees. a car i interrogated comepletely, only to discover i was the only one who, in fact, knew the baby's name.

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like a fun time! I love this story. Love you too

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