I got to experience a funeral in the Bamilike tradition. I say experience because this fete (party) is bigger than any wedding I’ve attended. Me and Aledji went to Lumn, a town about 2 hours from Bangou, and on the way we picked up a friend volunteer. She hadn’t been to a funeral yet either and she agreed to be my date. We got a hotel and went off to the first house, the house of the Chief of the Bangou people in Lumn. The Chef superior of Bangou assigns a ‘Chef de Cartier’ or neighborhood chief for each of the villages within Bangou. As well, he assigns a ‘chef de cartier’ for each larger city where a significant number of Bangou people live. We sat down and ate some cow hooves in some green sauce with plantains. After, we had some annana (pinnapple). We hung out there for a bit then went to the house of a ‘notable’ in the village. There was fish, chicken, some salad and macabo which is similar to potatoes with less flavor and color. We had a good time there joking about my French and they were all amused each time I would speak something in their patois or local language. I’ve been making an effort to learn the local language a bit and it pays off in large settings with people that don’t know me from Bangou. It really impresses them. Still, it’s more memorization than knowledge, and I barely piece the 20 words I know in the patois into anything that makes sense. If my French is at a 5 year old level, my partois is at a 1 years old. At this point in the evening it was starting to get dark, which just meant the party was about to get started. I could tell my date was impressed by how integrated I was in the Bangou community, but in reality, it’s the Bangou community that has embraced me. I could clearly see it when comparing my experience to not just my friend accompanying me, but to other volunteers I’ve spoken to. I was placed in an amazing village where, from the Chief, down, everyone is hospitable to strangers and look for ways to make them part of their family. Next we went off to the house of an elite who invited the notables over. Elites are different from Notables in that they are well off financially, but the Chief has not given them the title of Notable for whatever reason. However, they are respected for what they have accomplished and if they eventually help their community, they will become notables themselves. There, we ate again, fish and plantains as well as some salad. We spent about an hour there, then me, Aledji, my date, and two other notables headed off to another party being thrown in honor of another funeral, which was being attended by Aledji’s daughter. Once at the fourth party, we sat down and opened what may have been our 5th bottle of wine and ate again; more chicken, more fish with some potatoes. I got stuck with the fish head this time, which people actually prefer here, but not me. This party seemed a little less structured, probably also because it was later in the night after many hours of drinking, and some of the girls got up and danced while the guys went up to them and put 500 frank bills on their forehead. It’s tradition for the men to do that if they enjoy how the women are dancing, and they really enjoyed how my friend danced. She left with about 3000 franks that night. So I guess you could say she made 3000 franks dancing at a funeral.  Next, the same group went back to the hotel and brought another couple boxes of wine (Most wine that you drink here come in a box), and hung out in the patio of the hotel. There is a boite the nuit (night club) in the hotel, so even if we did want to sleep we wouldn’t have been able to. We hung out and drank, then danced a bit, which wasn’t fun at all since I spent the whole time getting guys from groping the girls. I finally said I wasn’t having any fun doing that and went to bed. In the morning Aledji and I went to visit some people in the morning, which meant two house visits and two meals, all before 8am. After that we headed off to the main event, which is the end of the funeral. People walk/dance around in a circle around some people banging on some drums. At some chosen point, the drums pick up the beat, people break away and start running around some people with sticks and ladies with giant hats, where you’re supposed to throw money into to help offset the price of the funeral. Next, we returned back to a room where the notables of Bangou from that village have their meetings, and eat goat, with plantains and drink wine, as well as some whiskey. Before we left, the Chief of Bagou of that village made a small speech where he thanked me and my friend from coming, and said that it signifies that we truly want to be part of the community. After being fed, given drinks of all types and treated like not just one of their own, but as a notable, it was me that wanted to say thanks. It was by far the most fun I’ve ever had at a funeral.   pclumfuneral23.jpg

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