vendredi 7 mars 2008

Madame, They Will Hit you!

It was a regular wednesday evening. Nothing special. I was walking to buy bread from Alidou, my bread guy, and I saw a huge crowd of people along the dirt path. There were many huddled in a huge circle obviously watching whatever was going on in the middle of the circle and also many others selling typical Burkina snacks and chatting etc. I asked one of my students what was going on and they told me: Masks! Burkina, indeed West Africa, has a long traditional history of mask festivals so I was excited to finally get to see some for myself. However, my students quickly warned me, "Madame, they will hit you!"
"Did you say hit??"

Yep, they said hit. Part of the dance of these particular entourage of masks was to hit the crowd gathered around with sticks. Okay, no. They dont hit hard. It's more of a playful whack. The Mask dancers are dressed in what essentially looks like a series of mop heads made of big fat hemp. The Mask itself is wooden (i'm told, made from baobob wood) and painted. As far as i could tell it wasn't a representation of anything, just a mask etc.

There are bongo drummers who do a flirtatious musical dance with the masks. The drummer advances and beckons a mask forward. Then, the interactive dance begins: the masked dancer stomps in tune with the elaborate drum music. Jumping and kicking and whirling and whacking the crowd. It was pretty cool. Then that masked dancer sits down and another is beckoned forth. I was pressed in with the pungent sweaty crowd and anytime a mask moved in close the crowd would jump away trying to avoid being smacked with a stick. I'm white and therefore obviously not from Tougouri so they wouldn't hit me . . . not that I think it would have hurt.

I always like it when I see traditionally "African" displays of culture. After several centuries of colonial rule so much of the traditional culture has become replaced by "francophone" culture. French bread, tea, language, education system, lots of things are distinctly "french" though always with an African twist to it. But it's things like the Masks and To which make my African experience, African. En tout cas, it was pretty cool.

1 commentaire:

Molly a dit…

I like that your students were concerned, though. Madame, they will hit you! Pretty cute. Glad I sent them some ribbons. They're preeeeeeetty special! By the way, you still haven't gotten that letter, have you?