Sunday, December 14, 2008

Meat, music and other events just outside our wall

Just a few yards from our apartment balcony, on the grass in the adjacent apartment, several men are cutting open the neck of a small brown cow they are holding down. A small crowd is watching, including Betty and I, while a woman in a full dress and head scarf is shouting into a hand-held megaphone. It is a Moslem holiday today (Dec 8, 2008) and this is part of the celebration for the family.

The cow has stopped its quivering. Now a man with a machete is very neatly cutting it up into pieces. The intestines have been removed and placed in a plastic bucket; a small section of the ground is soaked in blood. Most of the small crowd has dispersed. We’ve gone back to work: (Betty) editing photographs from our recent trip to Bo (Sierra Leone’s second largest city) and (Bob) transcribing an interview as part of research on human rights in this country.

I’ve never visited a slaughter house in the U.S., though I have watched butchers neatly cutting up cows parts in super markets.
A few days later, also just behind our apartment complex wall, in front of a tin shack on a grassy slope, a crowd gathered for the newly-appointed local chief to address people in the area. Several women with singers and dancers and a man with a drum provided music and earned tips. I enjoyed sitting among the crowd for a while and meeting a few people. The lead singer, using a hand held loud speaker, led a short song for me when I donated 2,000 Leones, about 65 cents.
A Christian revivalist further down the hill has been filling the whole area with songs and sermons shouted out over a loud speaker. It’s been going on for a week. I’d like to pull the plug on their speaker system. I’m not sure why religious groups have to be so loud. One Moslem sitting at the gathering for the chief said he didn’t like the noise.
Holiday moment
Two doors away from our apartment in Freetown, a large house is being constructed. The roof is still not finished, but the massive cement bloc walls stand out like a fort overlooking the valley below. In the backyard, under a tin roof, a family who works as guard for the construction eat around a wood cook fire most nights. A woman prepares cassava leaves daily, pounding them in a wooden mortar with a tall wooden pounding stick. You can hear the sounds before dawn. They live in a tin shack just behind the new house.
Today, a Moslem holiday (Dec 8, 2008), dressed in a long skirt and a white bra for the top, one of the women, barefoot, is pounding. A second woman, also barefoot, sings a repetitive (I think) song with a high-pitched voice in a popular West African traditional style, swaying to the rhythm of the cassava leaf pounding. Then the first woman stops her chore and joins in the singing and dancing. For a moment they dance together, then the first woman returns to her pounding, laughing. Suddenly the songs and dances are over and both women go back to work, preparing the evening meal.

No comments: