Saturday, April 17, 2010
No Boys Allowed
She was like the incarnate of Nancy, Fairuza Balk's character in "The Craft." Her eyes were wild and her stare was almost fiendish. This diminutive being flew over to me from across the ceremony as if in a flash and grabbed onto my arm. Words both known and unfamiliar were being flung out her mouth like she was speaking Krio, the English/indigenous mix of Sierra Leone. But we weren't in Freetown and here in Nanhimbe I still didn't understand her. I wasn't sure if she was possessed by a colonial spirit or if she was drunk, but I felt that in the midst of all of this I was a member of a studio audience who'd been unwillingly selected to be embarassed publicly by the host. Don't expect me to be inside your television any primetime soon. I got invited by Fatima to an initiation ceremony for two girls who'd just reached womanhood. Some 200 ladies from all over the community showed up to celebrate their feminity and it was a beautiful event of proud solidarity-except for this spritely creature who'd pulled me out of my protective barrier of neighbor-friends to go dance. With the rythm of the drum circle and the chorus of voices it was impossible to sit still so I thought, "Yes. Let's dance and they'll surely get a kick out of the white girl attempting to shake her hips." I was guided hand in hand outside of the womens-only venue to dance in front of another band of musicians. I danced. And I swayed my hips and I shimmied, all the while reflecting on the phrase "dance like nobody's watching." But they were watching and they all seemed to be boys and men. Then I'd realized that this drunken baffoon of a woman had dragged me into the all-male portion of the ceremony and for all I knew I could be committing traditional sacriledge by being out there. If there's one thing I've learned while being here it's that making a fool of yourself is a given. If there's two things I've learned here its that and that we will never fully understand what's going on, ever. So it's best to be confused whilst in the comfort of the local women who brought you. Back into the Estrogen Tent I fled, hoping to at least make an ass of myself in front of my own gender. The rest of the ceremony went like a combination of a Fourth of July parade and a birthday party, with designated party-goers showering us with coins, matches, pins, cookies, candy and capulanas. The purpose of the ceremony takes place after all of the guests leave, however when the young girls' family elders teach them about what it means to be a woman. And I hope that they grow to realize that it is awe-some.