Sunday, June 25, 2006

Congratulations! Mazel Tov! Nitizurusung!

[Naturally, "Nitizurusung" means congratulations in Dagbani...just to clarify]

Since arriving in Ghana, I've had the pleasure of attending 2 weddings and 2 adorés, with more to come! Adorés are baby-naming celebrations, and are obviously not spelt that way here - however, having been unable to find a spelling that looks anything like the way it's pronounced, I improvised. There have been a few funerals held in the community, but none of which have been connected to the family I'm staying with so I have yet to be invited. I suppose that sounds a bit morbid - to be awaiting a funeral invitation. However, having heard that they are wonderful celebrations, complete with traditional music and dancing, I am extremely interested in attending one.

The weddings were not at all what I'd expected. Truth be told, I'd anticipated some sort of traditional orchestra - complete with a variety of local drums, wind instruments...etc. And of course, the traditional dancing that would naturally accompany such music. So, I suppose in that respect I was somewhat disappointed. Although, perhaps "disappointed" is the wrong word to use - but I'm getting ahead of myself, talking about the music and dancing!

Both the weddings I attended were Muslim weddings - firstly, this means that they begin on the Friday, and go on through til Sunday night! On the two different occasions, I had a chance to partake in the various stages of the wedding. The first wedding was in Tamale, the bride being a good friend of Sadia, one of the secretaries at my office. Incidentally, Sadia is getting married in August so I have another wedding to look forward to!! We went only on the Sunday to pay our respects to both parties - and I emphasize both parties, because the bride and groom celebrate and entire different locations! (in this case, it was a 15 minute cab ride between the two places).

We began at the groom's home: in the interior of most compound houses that I've seen, there are stones set into the cement floor - these are used to prop up pots of various sizes over fires when cooking. In the interior of the groom's compound house was an assortment of foods being prepared in gigantic pots by the women, with a number of people sitting around, conversing, already eating the steaming food. Children were walking all around, offering minerals (by this I mean bottles of Coke, Fanta, Sour Lemon spritzers, etc.) Of course, no alcohol was served seeing as this was a Muslim event.

Outside, there were 2 separate seating areas. The first was under a canopy that appears to have been erected for this wedding. The second was a large gathering of chairs under a nearby tree. And between the two, an entire sound system was hooked up - a boom-box (complete with the necessary cassette player) was connected to two very, very large speakers and the music was simply booming across the entire area! While once in a while there were more traditional, Ghanaian songs, the majority was old music that I was familiar with. Some was even music that you could presently hear in any club in Toronto or Montreal. It was interesting hearing some old tunes that I could sing along to! It was a very relaxed environment - everyone just sitting around, some food being served or sold (mainly some women came by selling fruit for the occassion), and enjoying the music.

The atmosphere at the bride's was very similar, although consisted of a smaller crowd. And there, unlike at the groom's where only children were dancing, I had the opportunity to dance with some of the women. Once again, very familiar music and nothing traditional whatsoever! Except the clothing, that is. Some of the women had the most beautiful locally taylored outfits on - while walking around Tamale one can often see men and women adopting foreign styles of dress, traditional wear (and extravagent, elegant traditional wear at that!) is usually worn to these occassions.

But nothing was to compare with bride! She had on a stunning ensemble in cream, dotted with gold - and a rich, crimson and gold head-dress on to match. She looked positively radiant!

The second wedding I attended here, in Tolon with my sister Khadijah. We went on both the Saturday night and the Sunday - the Saturday night was such an occassion!! When we arrived, they were setting up a sound system (a whole DJ hook up, complete with two huge speakers). They also had 2 fluorescent lights arranged to illuminate the "dance floor'', which was indicated by a ring of plastic lawn chairs (already occupied by children of various ages). We entered the compound house to greet the bride and her family. I then had the pleasure of seeing the ritual washing of the bride. The married women in her family washed her thoroughly, while all the female visitors gathered around - and then the singing! One would start up a traditional song, and the entire group would chorus together. The washing process and accompanying sing along ended, and everyone exited the compound in time for the dancing to start.

As opposed to any occassions I've ever attended in the past, the dancing was done only by one group of people at a time with everyone else just standing around watching. Each group would approach the DJ and request a song, and then go on to dance as the song began. The dancers ranged from some religious groups, with a more traditional style - to young women, whose style I just couldn't imitate (they have a way of moving that my body just hasn't been able to pick up) - to some young men and adolescents in their ghetto dress, dancing the way a guy might in a Montreal club. Naturally, being the only Saliminpaga ("white lady") at the celebration, I was asked to join almost all of the dancers. The DJ approached me a few times to go dance alone and teach them my styles - but I didn't want to be in too much of a spotlight (with well over a hundred people watching me), so I gratefully declined any group less than 5 or so people. It was a great time, and definately one of the later nights I've had here. While I turned in late at 12:30, the dancing continued on until the morning!

From dancing at the weddings, to knocking hips with Mariama (my second mother) in the house - I've come to really appreciate what a great tool dancing is to bonding with other people. Khadijah has become such a close friend since that first night at the wedding when we really had a chance to bond, and has been an invaluable cultural informant!

Just a quick note on adorés, the baby-naming celebrations that take place 7 days after the baby is born: the first I attended was a lot of fun - food and drink served; the men sitting separately, talking and playing Owari (it's a game with stones, played in a carved wooden box of 12 shallow, semi-circular depressions - it is a game that I once played as a child, having a set that I believe was brought over from South Africa; surprisingly, it's played on this end of the continent as well!). The women are all together, some crooning over the new child and all congratulating the mother. This is the celebration part; as to the actual naming of the baby, I don't know if there is any ritual associated with it, but if so I did not have a chance to see it. At one of the adorés, I didn't even actually get a chance to see the baby!

7 Comments:

At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Issy said...

Hi darling Debs
Right now I am sitting in the kitchen at 35 Denlow catching up on all your blogs and eating all the wonderful leftovers from the Cohen/Mintz/Adler extended family gathering yesterday...you were spoken about and missed but you are fast becoming a "blog" legend and everyone is rooting for Ghana vs Brazil!!!Thanks for the use of your room and your puppies who take me on a daily walk. Enjoy your amazing experiences as you leave your mark on your community there.
With Lots and Lots of love
Issy

 
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