samedi 20 décembre 2008

Genies and Sorcerers

"They sold their blood??" I can't believe it.
She explains: "Yeah, at the clinic in my village they were pulling more blood than necessary for HIV/AIDS tests and selling the extra blood to the fetisheur!" 
Sarah, a fellow PCV, works at the local clinic in her village. As all Burkinabe are first animists and then Muslims or Christians, visits to the fetisheur (or witch doctor) are frequent. I was aware of the not-so-under under current of animism among burkinabe but the particulars and superstitions were not clear to me. Stories like Sarah's above are shocking but not unheard of. SO, like i always do when then nuances of Burkinabe ways and means evade me, I asked Konate.

"Konate, tell me, what exactly are genies and sorcerers?"
She's not surprised I'm asking of course and jumps into a brief break down.
"There are two kinds of genies. Genies that work for good and genies that work for bad. The people, they believe when something good or bad happens to them its because of the genies." Seems simple enough and not unlike American ghosts.
"Do you believe in Genies?"
"Me? Hiya! Things happen. You dont know." She is a math and science teacher and is avoiding just flat-out saying YES because she wants to be 'western' or 'rational.' Often, when babies die or the rains dont come or you fail a test etc. Burkinabe just say . . . that's a bad genie! One week Salmad was being weird and fussy and not his usually giggly self and Mariam kept saying "What is with my baby? Theres got to be some kind of genie in the courtyard." Of course she is half joking but she really does believe in that genie half. There is a really really smart kid in my 5eme class. His name in Dramane and his test scores are always way above everyone elses in every subject. Bienvenue, who is in his class, says,"Hiya! When you look at Dramane . . . in his eyes . . . he's got to be a genie." Of course, Dramane just studies which is a foreign concept to the vast majority of students. But genies are only part of the story.

"What about sorcerers Konate? What do sorcerers do?"
"There are good and bad sorcerers too. They curse people." She seems more confident about this aspect of animism.
"Would you ever go to a sorcerer?"
"Me? Whyee! If someone put a curse on me I would definately go get a counter curse. You've got to protect yourself. People are mean, they'll curse you. They get jealous. The bad sorcerers, they are just bad mean people. Thats how you know them. You know a good sorcerer because their family and friends prosper and they are very nice." Apparently, sorcerers dont advertise, its all speculation.
"Do you know of anyone that you've suspected to be a sorcerer?"
She gives this some thought . . . real thought.
"No . . . well . . . hmm . . . n-n-nooo . . . No, I dont know anyone ive suspected of sorcery. C'est du mal" It's not a good thing. Intriguing

I tell her the story at the beginning of the post about the clinic taking extra blood to sell to fetisheurs. She's outraged. "People" she says "Ah! They can be bad!" Then she tells me that some people get rich by selling people they know to fetisheurs who kill them for their blood. What??? For their blood??
"Yeah, you see africans with cars . . . where did they get that money??"
Geez! Obviously this doesnt happen toooo often but i believe her that it does indeed exist here.

We talk about how people hide behind sorcery and genies to explain illnesses and poverty because its easier than the alternatives: western medicine, admitting that the environment of the country isnt intended to support life (theres no water here! you cant grow anything!). Of course all this was done in french and i might have misinterpreted some things but i think not. 

Hah. Africa. No matter how long a person lives here, a person not born here, they can never really understand this place. Every month Im more and more aware of how much there is that i can just never understand. I can be culturally appropriate - know the people in that sense, their practices, daily lives, etc. but something will always be amiss. A lifetime wouldnt be enough.

3 commentaires:

Jill a dit…

I'm digging all the sound effects. I hear in my head what sounds they're making, but I still picture a bunch of Burkinabe randomly karate chopping while saying "Hiya!"

Molly a dit…

Trust me- the same can be said of some places in the States. I'm not naming names. ahem. New Mexico.

MEP a dit…

So the first question that comes to they test the blood first, and only sell the HIV negative blood to the sorcerer? Nevermind, dumb question.