Saturday, 16 October 2010

A man with a story

Our trip to Gaoua and the Lobi country included some interesting villages. One, Gbombolora, was the home of the extended Da family. The current head of the family is a wonderful story teller, and told us that he had travelled to Germany and other European countries, and been interviewed by several anthropologists. The really famous one is his father, who is buried in this tomb – in the family compound. As you can see there is provision for food and drink, and there were originally elephant tusks on the tomb in recognition of his fame and success as an elephant hunter. He killed several elephants, with a gun, and he was never afraid of getting hurt himself because he had a very powerful elephant fetish. He would put this on the ground, and if the elephant came after him and reached the fetish, the elephant would walk around the fetish several times and then return to whence he or she came.

The grandfather was the head of a large dynasty. He had 39 wives, although admittedly he had only fully married – with dowry and celebration – 29 of them. He had 86 sons and 88 daughters, and to tell his children apart some of them were given facial scarifications – our host was at pains to point out that his facial markings were for identification within the family, not tribal markings.

To educate his offspring he persuaded Père Boulanger, a Catholic missionary, to come and build a school near the family compound, which was completely filled with his own relations. But the missionary was not allowed to build a church, and the family remain firm animists.

A year after his death, when the family gathered to mark the occasion, his children and grandchildren numbered 400.

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