In Senegal, historical male ceremony collides with trendy occasions

The dancers are a blaze of coloration, swirling amid a deafening, pounding noise. Of their midst, a younger man stands up. Carrying a beaded necklace and clad in a decent pink shirt with multi-colored scarves hanging from his waist, together with his arms outstretched, he makes a protracted cry to the heavens. This is a vital second for Cedric Djikila Diatta, 21, on his path in direction of the coveted standing of manhood. Based on the traditions of the Diola individuals in Senegal’s southern area of Casamance, he has entered the interval of “Youth”-the intermediate chapter between adolescence and maturity.

To organize for the following step, a section which will take half a dozen years, he and different younger males of the identical age have spent the previous month collectively. They’ve been working within the rice fields and listening to the elders recount secret rites of passage and inculcate the values of hospitality and self-discipline. “Upon getting been initiated, you alter standing,” stated Cedric. “You might be free to journey, get married, take selections that have an effect on your complete group.”

Younger males, who will begin the initiation course of the next 12 months, blow whistles as they current themselves to the group.


Central to the transition to maturity is the notion of warriorhood-“Life is a combat,” stated Cedric. “You at all times should combat.” And this the place the dance is available in: it’s designed to strengthen them spiritually for fight, which within the Diola tradition is conveyed by wrestling, Senegal’s nationwide sport. As tomtoms and the bombolong, a conventional elongated drum, echo across the village of Kabrousse, the younger initiates leap back and forth, their steel armbands rubbing towards one another.

Some are bare-chested, others are carrying tunics, feathers or magic charms known as grigris-those males who’re resulting from marry within the coming 12 months are dressed as ladies. The dancers swirl round, some brandishing swords or staves, and even pretend snakes. Night begins to fall and a mild gentle, filtered by the emerald fronds of two big kapok timber, bathes the dancers.

Younger ladies arrive, gathering across the younger males, swinging their hips, their make-up and hair excellent, crooning their assist for his or her champions and rubbing powder on the sculpted male our bodies. Kids are there, and the aged too. The moms look adoringly at their sons on the point of manhood-“he’s so good-looking!” cries Cedric’s mom, Angele Antessey Diatta, a proud smile illuminating her face.

Threatened custom

The get together marking the top of those essential rites coincides with the top of the wet season annually in late September. Decrease Casamance is a part of Senegal’s southernmost area, and nearly separated from the remainder of the nation by the tiny state of Gambia. The rituals, instructing and secrets and techniques conveyed from technology to technology differ from village to village, stated Abdou Ndukur Kacc Ndao, an anthropologist. “However these practices are underneath risk in the present day,” he stated. “In 100, 200 years, it might be that they not exist.”

Pressures on animist-rooted traditions vary from the rising place of Islam in Senegal, higher mixing amongst ethnic teams, and migration in direction of different areas throughout the nation or overseas. Those that return deliver again totally different views, fashions and tastes. Cedric praised the traditional traditions, however he additionally had his eye on distant horizons. He confirmed off his small home, which had no furnishings, bathroom or working water or perhaps a ground.

Younger males carry out to indicate their energy as women cheer throughout a ceremony marking the top of the yearly initiation course of for younger males.

He stopped faculty on the age of 12 to assist his dad and mom within the discipline. His father fell unwell and two of his brothers additionally died of illness, missing remedy. He educated as a cook dinner, working in one of many inns in Casamance’s Cap Skirring vacationer resort, leaving for work at 4:30 am and returning within the afternoon to work within the rice fields. He stated he earned 80,000 CFA (round $120) a month. His dream was to get a job on the Membership Med, an upmarket French trip village at Cap Skirring. “Whenever you get employed there, you make contacts enabling you to go off and reside elsewhere,” he stated. – AFP



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