Wednesday, June 17, 2009

getting an additional name

Naming ceremonies:
For most of our time here Betty and I have participated in the weekly ‘Hash’ club events. This group of up to 100 Sierra Leoneans and internationals every Monday runs or walks through backyards and along dirt paths through neighborhoods whose residents welcome us, cheer us on and point the way for stragglers to catch up
In the honorable tradition of the ‘hash, you get ‘named’ in a ceremony in which everyone pours water on you (a few enthusiasts who empty a bucket on your head). Names range from the ridiculous to the historic. Betty and I were lucky, we got historic ones.
At my naming, many people assumed I would get named ‘Obama,’ which is the nickname that has stuck more than any of the others I’ve been given here (see a separate entry on this. My full name up till now has been Bob Bangura Jalloh Obama Press). At the last minute, my Sierra Leonean friends chose Bai Bureh. He was a local chief who resisted the British imposition of taxes on the homes of people in the 1890s. He led a ‘hut tax’ war against the British and had the upper hand for a few months, eluding capture. He allegedly could become invisible - and could hide under water for long periods (I think I’ll skip trying that one). He was finally captured in 1898, sent into exile in Ghana and finally brought back in 1905.
After our last run/walk, Betty was named “Mammy Yoko,” after a brilliant, beautiful Paramount Chief in the 1800s who “saved her husband from a long imprisonment under the British. She made a personal appeal to the Governor, “who was charmed by [her] beauty and feminine graces.” (Now I know who to turn to if I ever get arrested.
Actually, getting Sierra Leonean names is much more meaningful than some of the rather crazy names often given out. And it means we take an added bit of Sierra Leone history home with us.)

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