Thursday, September 15, 2011
So after the most recent posting, you must think that we (and all Malians) tiredly trudge through village one day at a time wishing that we could be transported to a more comfortable climate controlled, hard wired life. While thoughts like these do often cross our minds, in some ways life in Mali is just like life anywhere else - the monotony of daily life is occasionally warmly interruupted by a fun life event - weddings, baptisms, summer vacation and holidays.
The fasting month of Ramadan (called Sunkalo in Bambara) came to a close at the end of August. Breaking the month long fast of Ramadan (no food or water from 4am-7pm for a month!) is celebrated with a feast day (Seli Fitini in Bambara, Eid ul-Fitr in Arabic), one of the most celebrated holidays in Mali. The largest feast day here is known as Seli Ba and will take place in early November this year.
The village was buzzing in preparation for Seli a few days prior to the feast. Going to the market the Saturday prior to the feast was like being in a grocery store the day before Thanksgiving or a toy store on Christmas Eve - Never again. I'd rather skip my weekly banana purchase than walk through the village market prior to Seli. Having a new outfit made is quite common, especially for children. The owner and his apprentices at our favorite tailor shop literally spent the night at the shop churning out clothes the two nights prior to Seli...apparently kids will cry if their outfits aren't ready.
As with all feasts, an important aspect is FOOD. Here, this means lots of meat, an expensive treat not consumed on a daily basis. So when my work counterpart and neighbor (named Capi) told us that he and his coworkers were all chipping in to butcher a cow together, we signed up too. The night before Seli, Capi gave the following instructions to George -- Meet at a specific corner of the village at 7am tomorrow. We will be butchering the cow at 4am. Oh, and bring your own bucket to haul your meat. Don't bring a bucket that you use for drinking water or your water will forever have a lingering taste of beef carpaccio. George arrived to watch the 2nd half of the butchering, which consisted of using an axe to cut hunks of beef off of a cow split open on the ground and then divide up piles of meat on a large mat to be put into buckets to take home.
The other most important aspects of Seli are - prayer and visiting family, friends and neighbors to give blessings.
Prayer takes place outdoors, in designated places in the village (known as the Seli Kene). Our village has 2 Seli Kenes, we went to the largest one, near the banks of the Niger River. Seli is lead by the Imam, men and women praying in designated areas, all at the same time at about 9am. After a quick scramble to find Bintu a head scarf we walked across town to the Seli Kene.
Following the public prayer, the rest of the day consists of greeting friends and family, showering others with blessings, eating meat and other treats, listening to music, playing cards and relaxing.
The villagers most excited about greeting and blessings are kids - during Seli kids go door to door wishing adults a happy, healthy feast day and many more to come. In return, kids are given pocket change or candy. It reminded us of Halloween in America, minus the costumes.
Posted by Anna & George at 11:52 AM