Monday, July 21, 2008


Boys and men at the suna; a goat has just been slaughtered behind the boys

Women preparing food at the suna

Today has been a busy day. This morning I got up at 6, rushed through a bowl of oatmeal, and dashed outside so as not to miss the baby naming ceremony of the daughter of the school headmaster, Shaibu, and his first wife, Aisha. Baby naming ceremonies (sunas from here on out) range from being a big deal to being a really big deal. Because this one was the headmaster's family, it ranked as a Really Big Deal, and there was no school today. There are lots of babies born here...lots of sunas...the rituals that they all share make them fairly predictable programs, and everyone in the village shows up at some point. They go like this: baby is born on day one; momma of baby stays at home with baby for 7 days. On the 7th day, early in the morning, lots and lots of men crowd into the family's courtyard, sit and wait. Someone brings in a sheep or goat, which is slaughtered there in front of the men (they cut its throat). Then, the town prayer man leads everyone in a long prayer-type thing (in Arabic--I don't know what he says!). At the end of this he announces the new baby's name (which was previously chosen, I think, by the father, but maybe not always). Then most of the men get up and return home/to work, while the women of the house begin preparing food, lots of food, to feed everyone who comes by that day. The 7th day after birth is also when the barber comes and shaves the baby's head, and he'll also do any ritual facial scarring that the family wants: sometimes two lines on the cheeks or by the edges of the mouth. A lot of adults in the village have these scars, but so far I haven't seen it on any babies.

This morning, Aisha's baby girl was named Malika; she's a tiny little thing with waving fists and a big baby wail. She is her mother's 8th child.

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