I have never really taken great measures to post regularly on this blog and more recently I’ve been collectively using instagram, facebook, and twitter as micro-blogs. I had mainly been posting highlights of the more exciting things that I had been up to as I serve in Burkina Faso. As time has gone on, the excitement hasn’t come to a halt but it hasn’t seemed as exciting. With each passing day, life in my village has become more and more normal. When I was back home for Christmas and New Year’s, I actually felt out of place. I loved seeing all my family and friends, but I really did feel like a visitor. I was a visitor in the US, while the place I had become most accustomed to being was back in Burkina. A year ago, I never would have thought that it would be possible for me to feel at home here, yet I’m still looking forward to my eventual return to the US!
This blog post, in similar fashion to the others, was spurred by some excitement in my life. This excitement came just at the right time, since I had started to forget where I was and how amazing it is. A few weeks ago, I went to my best friend’s family’s village. His father was the past cultural chief and his brother is currently serving in this role. The oldest son in Issouf’s family has served as the cultural chief for many generations (since “the beginning” Issouf claims). As the cultural chief, his brother oversees traditional ceremonies, sacrifices, and the village’s masks. Issouf’s village, Logofuruso, was a true village. My village, Banzon, is relatively developed and this has caused me to forget what small village life can be like.
Our first stop in the village was to the cultural chief’s traditional house, which is now nearing total ruin. I was allowed to enter, being the first and maybe the last outsider allowed to enter this house. This site was a very sacred place where all the village masks were made. Parts of old masks littered a back corner room. Light shown in from a hole in the wall, which cast eerie glow upon the floor. I’m not one to believe in magic or witchcraft, but this room sent chills down my spine.
As we walked through the village, you could see that the majority of the homes had been abandoned. Most people have left Logofuruso and have headed to larger more developed villages. The sacred sites, however, still remain. Around every corner was another totem or sacrificial alter. Issouf wanted me to take their pictures, but warned to not be seen doing so. Most of the pictures I took of these sacred objects where taken from the hip.
We covered the entire village, down to the rivers edge that bounds one side of the village. As we approached the river, we spooked a juvenile crocodile that jumped back in to the water just 10 meters from where a group of women were washing clothes and dishes. The women saw both the crocodile and me, the crocodile giving them no concern and I causing quite the stir. Both Issouf and his brother urged me to take pictures of the women working in the river, but it took some time for the women to consent and return to working so I could attempt a decent picture.
While winding through the village, we found an old woman weaving traditional baskets from palm fronds. I greeted her in a local language and she greeted me, repeating over and over again with great excitement the little French that she knew. I asked if I could sit with her and watch her work. We rested there for twenty minutes as her hands moved with a speed unhindered by age and a skill magnified by countless years of practice. After being allowed to take pictures of her working, I thanked her and presented her with the money that Issouf had slipped into my hand with a smile and a glance towards the old woman.
The last site we visited was the traditional meeting hall. This building’s roof has given way and only four walls remain to constitute the structure. The village chiefs still, however, host their meetings here. I asked why they would not hold them somewhere else, while the building was repaired. The answer: “meetings are held here, only here, and we currently have no money to rebuild the roof.” This seemed to be the story for many of the ruins around the village, with each building holding a history and purpose that both Issouf and his brother recalled as we strolled.
My visit concluded with a lunch of rice and a pigeon, which was shot from way to close a distance thus blowing it clear to bits while leaving enough meat to contain remaining shot. This meal was washed down with rounds of palm wine and followed by a 45-minute nap (an attempt to sober up before I biked the seven kilometers back to neighboring capital.) As we left Logofuruso, Issouf pulled off the road, just outside the village, and bought me a coffee followed by a whiskey shot that was very much unneeded (unadvised) and out of place since Issouf never drinks. I think he just wanted to show me a good time.
Since returning back to my village, Issouf has continued to talk about his paternal village. His visit with me was the first time he had been to Logofuruso in six years, the last time being his father’s funeral and the rise of his brother to Cultural Chief. Seeing Logofuruso in such a degenerative state left Issouf despondent and contemplative for several weeks. He has spoken passionately about the status his village once held. Issouf says that the magic of his village is unmatched by any other village. I’ve heard many tales of the panthers that roamed at night. These panthers, however, where not actually animals but great village sorcerers that assumed the form of dangerous beasts in the shadow of the night. Issouf and his village believe deeply in tradition and mystic and I am joyful to have had to chance to see the magic of Logofuruso first hand.