Union Jack

     English Wordplay ~ Listen and Enjoy

Of Water and the Spirit by Malidoma Patrice Somé
dramatized by Shaun MacLoughlin

Part 8: The Fifth Initiation, The Kontomblé World

PART 9: AFTER INITIATION, THE WHITE MAN'S WORLD

MALIDOMA: The next day as we entered the village we radiated a sense of peace and completion.

SOUND OF A GUN SHOT

Somebody fired a gun as a welcoming salute.

THE SHOUTING, REJOICING CROWD COME RUNNING TO HUG MALIDOMA AND THE OTHER INITIATES.

The crowd rushed towards us as if we were manna dropped into the desert. My mother could not hug me enough.  My sister shook hands with me and addressed me formally in French.
SISTER: Bienvenue chez nous.
MALIDOMA: My father waited in silent communication.  Now I was a man I had my own room and the first thing prepared for me was a warm bath.  Then my father dressed me in traditional costume.

GUNSHOT

And then after another gunshot.

DRUM, XYLOPHONE, FINGER CYMBALS, WHISTLE AND DAGARA CHANT AND DANCING

Was the song of return.
FATHER: (OVER IN ENGLISH)
I had a date in the bush
With all the Gods
So I went
I had a date in the bush
With all the trees
So I went
I had a date in the mountain
With the Kontomblé

I had to go away to learn
How to know
I had to go away to learn
How to grow
I had to go away to learn
How to stay here
MALIDOMA:
Warrior Dancers
Warrior Dancers, Burkina Faso
A power surged from my belly, up my spine, invaded my heart and reached my eyes that filled with tears of joy.  The memory of fifteen years' brainwashing at the seminary stood timidly in a corner of my mind, afraid of competing with what I now knew.

The circle of over sixty dancing initiates looked like a huge precious ring presented to the villagers.

SWELL MUSIC

Happiness poured out of every face like a flow of pearls given to a bride. Then xylophone players, singers, clappers whistlers stopped simultaneously.

MUSIC CEASES

There was a profound silence.   I retired to my own room.

One night about a month later my father woke me up.  He had just come from a meeting of the elders.
FATHER: Do you remember what the Chief said about your sudden return?
MALIDOMA: (ALOUD) Not much, except that Fiensu made me feel very ill-at-ease.
FATHER: The Chief has found out through divination that you are to be our mouth.
MALIDOMA: What does that mean?
FATHER: It means they want you to return to the White man's realm.
MALIDOMA: (HIS HEART IS SINKING) Am I not a member of the village?
FATHER: Of course you are. Everyone knows that. But things are happening fast.
MALIDOMA: What have they to do with me?
FATHER: As an initiate the council thinks you could be of more use away from here. The chief said you are the way that the hyena and the goat can learn to walk together, because you know the ways of the Dagara and the ways of the whites.
MALIDOMA: All I know is reading and writing and the terror of the white man's world.
I just want to be left alone.
FATHER: I understand.  But let me tell you this.   When the white man first came to the village he cost me a wife and four children.   The elders see in you a person capable of taming the white man.  The white man needs to know who we really are.  You speak his language.  Go and tell him.
MALIDOMA: (NARRATING) I felt a dark bottomless hole.  My father saw my distress.
FATHER: Your grandfather told you when you were very young that you would have to go and live in the white world.  You survived initiation in order to help us.  We can't survive if you stay here.
MALIDOMA: My father took me to Guisso.   After he had consulted his medicine objects, he said.
GUISSO: Go and let yourself be swallowed.  Your ancestors will do the rest.  You cannot be who you truly are until you put into action what you remember.
The ancestors will ensure you survive in the white man's wilderness.
MALIDOMA: When I finally left to study for a degree in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, it was with the conviction that the support from the elders and the ancestors was genuine.  Elders have an irreplaceable function in the life of any community.   Without them the young are lost - their overflowing energies can destroy society.

After four years I left for a scholarship at the Sorbonne in Paris and then to university in the USA.  I remembered Guisso's words:
GUISSO: Go and allow yourself to be swallowed.
MALIDOMA: I felt I was not travelling alone. Guisso was with me as was the spirit of my grandfather.  I was finally living out the destiny foretold by my name - Malidoma - he who makes friend with the stranger, the white man.

BRING UP MUSIC BEHIND CLOSING CREDITS

For more information please go to The Healing Wisdom of Africa, Malidoma Somé's Website. and to Drums of Change, Drums of Spirit for some inspiring you tubes.


I should like to thank John Minshall for introducing me to Of Water and the Spirit.


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