"Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language. But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace."

-President John F. Kennedy

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bugum "Fire" Festival

Let me give you a brief, not-too-boring and not-too-informing, explanation of what I figured out from the fire festival. Of course, a Wikipedia search would explain better. The fire festival is only celebrated here in Ghana by several of the main tribes of Islam in the northern regions. It doesn’t exist in the south, mostly because none of the tribes or peoples are Muslims. It has to do with (I think) Abraham going out with a search party to find his son. I was told they carried a gun but now I’m realizing that of course they didn’t have guns then, so they must’ve carried some weapon or something that made a loud sound to scare spirits off. There is a gun nowadays. They played drums to bring good karma or something, and then of course carried many torches to light the way. So now the recognize and celebrate this by the village drummers drumming around the chief’s palace, shooting off a gun no finite amount of times, and then the chief will walk out to a certain lookout area (it’s flat here so there isn’t really one) and then go back home. Let me describe my experience.

A boy who lives nearby told me the day before the festival that he would come by when it was the right time and we would go over to wherever together. I knew it would be after dark (6pm) but had not idea other than that. He showed up at about 730 and off we went, that is, after putting on the glow sticks I had that were sent to me. I figured that’d be my little touch on the festival. I gave some to the kids who were walking with us. They all carried four-foot-long torches made from sticks and other browned tall grass. They gave me one. They weren’t lit yet though, that only happens at a specific time. I hadn’t yet walked through my village in the dark hours, so that was kind of cool in itself; the moon lit the way. We could hear some drumming off in the distance, and other people were weaving through the paths between huts going toward the chief’s hut. I attracted quite the following of little munchkins on the ten minute stroll.

We got to the chief’s palace and there were plenty of people already there, and the big moment was about to happen. I was told to cover my ears as we saw the guy with the gun about to shoot. I didn’t see it coming one of the times and the rifle shot five feet away made my ears ring quite a bit. The chief and several of his elders were coming out of the home and we all started walking toward the main road. The drummers were drumming away as we walked a short distance, I was snapping pictures, and more and more people started coming out of nowhere. Next thing I know, the gun goes off and within seconds there were at least a hundred torches lit. The kids were running around whooping and hollering, and the light of torches was coming from everywhere it seemed. I can only imagine what this would be like in a bigger village or town here in the north.

The chief and co. turned around and walked back to his home with the drummers drumming and kids running around everywhere with flames. When we got back to his palace, the boy I was with pestered his way in and asked if I could sit with the chief and get some pictures. I didn’t want to be snapping pictures like the outsider, but this boy took over that task for me. I was welcomed to sit with chief and co. (pictures on facebook, maybe I’ll upload one here sometime) and had a front row spot for the drumming and dancing that ensued. People were dressed in all sorts of weird things, and many carried machetes for some reason. Needless to say, it was an eclectic scene on the dance floor. I got up and did some dancing, if you can even call it that, and that got some hoots and hollers.

I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the whole experience. It really only lasted less than an hour, but since I had no idea what was in store for me when I left my home, it was entertaining to find out as it all happened. It was too dark for any video to turn up, but I took a short recording which sounds pretty cool. It was certainly one of the best nights I’ve had here in the village. I also realized that a tourist would never get as authentic of an experience as this. This really only happens when you live and integrate with the community.

No comments:

Post a Comment