Friday, July 26, 2013

Stumbling Upon a Wedding

November 5, 2000
The day started off peaceful enough, but soon emerged to be a day filled with culture. In the morning, I heard some drumming (which is not unusual). First it sounded rather novice, as if someone was simply plunking on the drum. I continued what I was doing in my home, continuing to keep an ear out just in case there were further developments. Later,the drumming sounded more significant and refined, peaking my interest. With a small digital camera in my hand (just in case), I proceeded to start walking towards the nearby-sounding drumming. After the second turn, I heard my name called out. Here it was Wasa, the downstair teacher's housekeeper. It was not the Wasa I was accustomed to seeing though. Instead of the plain purple overlay that she typically wore, Wasa was dressed up in her finest. A dark green dress (West African style) with multicolored ornamental decorations and a U shaped neck was worn. Around her shoulders draped a white veil-like scarf Most impressive was Wasa's head. Each small section of hair was wrapped in glistening black coils, forming a decorative pattern. By the ears the coils also revealed small golden-yellow small balls, about 4 or so cascading down in an ornamental fashion. In her ears were beautiful gold earrings and around her finger was a matching ring. A headwrap from the same fabric as the dress covered a fair amount of her hair. Around the headwrap was a woven band that I had seen before. Instantly, I knew Wasa was involved with a wedding. Wasa invited me to join her at the wedding and asked me if the downstairs teacher was awake. 

I quickly went home to the duplex to get the downstairs teacher and her 4th grade daughter. This time with two cameras, I went back towards the source of the music. Like Wasa, the women were all wearing their finest clothing and jewelry, with the addition of a special hairdo. Underneath the large tent, women began gathering for their portion of a wedding celebration. After we were introduced to several women, Wasa encouraged us to sit down. For the next several hours, I witnessed women celebrating their portion of the wedding celebration under the tent. I will need to find someone who can explain all what occurred, but I will now present my observations. Several other women were also wearing the striped woven band, just as Wasa did. The middle part of the long narrow band which was tied around the forehead revealed the woman's name, carefully woven in capital letters. The bands were golden yellow with another contrasting color such as black, purple, or maroon. 

Two female singers and three male drummers provided the music. I am assuming that the singing was either general wedding music or words specifically directed towards the bride, etc. Women would get off their chairs and join a procession of women, already forming a line towards the music. Typically the "train" would repeat its course and go towards the music a few times before the women once again took their seat. Sometimes a few women would then begin doing the energetic West African dancing. It appeared as if the main drummer's hands and the dancers were talking to each other. Typically one woman danced at a time, before the next woman took her short time in the spotlight. Interspersed throughout the time of celebration that I witnessed were a few women who directed some words towards the crowd. I think they might be part of the griot family, which does the storytelling and recounts memories/events. During this talking, the arm of one of the women wearing the bands would have their arm raised by a neighbor, evidently recognizing that person. There was a lot of socializing occurring, women "sharing" the darling little ones with other women, and even some passing of money to a select few women. Some of that money appeared to be given to the drummers, but I'll have to inquire more. I'm sure a lot of the subtleties (and perhaps the not-so-subtle parts of the ceremony) passed by without my knowledge of what I was seeing or perhaps not seeing it at all.

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