Koza: Thank You and Goodbye!
Fr. Pedro Peñaranda, CICM
Continuing Pedro Peñaranda’s reflection on his trial period as a seminarian in Cameroon.
In Koza, among the Mafas people, it is the traditional chiefs and soothsayers at their side who make all the decisions be it on the social level (sowing, harvest, disputes of all kinds) or on the personal level such as marriage and sickness. The State is virtually non-existence for the Mafas except for the annual burden of taxes they have to remit with much difficulty even if these taxes never return to them in terms of social services. To pay t heir taxes, the men usually leave their mountains and villages during the dry season to get menial job in the cities of Maroua and Garuao, or, ironically, for those who have no identity cards, in Nigeria.
Here it is the first and the last question of survival. If in our country the problem is the system of distribution of natural resources, here there is not even natural resources to begin with. If we have to speak oppression it is oppression by nature: there is simply no water available! If we press logic further does not injustice come from God?
Dance and Song
Paradoxically, despite their hard life, the people love to celebrate. They give their all, body and soul- to dance and song on their feasts. Their music is composed usually of two or three measure repeated in monotone for hours. It comes accompanied by the complicated rhythm of tambours of different kinds and by the gandzavar or five string harp. This music taken with the local wine which is always served in a single bowl of dried calabash skin is a potent combination by which can transport anybody to a hypnotic trance. Mourning for the dead is expressed also through music and dance and continuous tapping through the night of the dinger or special tambour which is used exclusively for the wake. Anthropologist say the sound suggest the beating of the human heart. The people weep and keen along with the music.
It is the sad music of their dinger that we hear very often in the night. The mortality rate the aged and the children is quite high. The figures rise during the dry season when the contrast between the heat of the day and the coldness of the night is particularly acute. This contrast can be very cruel and one has to be strong enough to resist it. I think I am strong because until now I have no problem. I sleep well and very soundly, never enough, in fact.
Limits of Poverty
Apart from sickness and death which for the Mafas is as natural as life it self, life among them is as “dansable” as the rhythm of their tambours. As for me, I too love dancing with them, even if it is difficult to breath amidst a thick cloud of dust raised by the incessant stomping of bare feet. So I ask myself, where and what are the limits of Poverty? But that is a question that may require volumes of theological and philosophical investigations, so I leave the whole thing to the mercy of God.
(To be continued)