26 July 2008

Happy Bastille Day!

14 July

Happy Bastille Day!

Yesterday I went to the 'Intronisation' of the new chief of the village
Apegame. Apegame is right next to Kumawu, just a bit closer to Mount

Chiefs here are selected from amongst the royal family. So it's a
hereditary role, but not specifically passed on from father to son.
When a chief dies here, his death is kept a secret for several months.
If anyone asks where the chief is, his relatives will say that he's
gone to Notsie (the ancestral village). They quietly bury the chief in
the family plot, officially announcing his death after three months.

It can take up to 3 years to put together the funeral ceremony for a
chief. The ceremonies will go on for days, 'tous les tam-tams du
village sortent', they create a big feast with a freshly killed cow,

Anyway, the previous chief of Apegame died a year and a half ago, I
assume they've already taken care of the funeral. Yesterday was the
coronation of the new chief, who just happened to be the grandfather of
a family that one of my stagemates is in.

My family got dressed in their nicest duds and we left the house around
9.30am. We walked through the village and stopped by many different
houses to visit family and friends. At the house of my host mom's
mother, we stopped in to see baby twins. They were absolutely adorable.
Then we went to the next room to look at the picture of my mom's mom.
It wasn't until this point that I realised that this house USED to be
my mom's mom's house, when she was still alive. She died several months
ago, which is too bad. I am the first volunteer to live with my family
who didn't meet the grandmother.

After that stop, we headed to the Place Publique. It's a beautiful
little area, well-shaded, with a big statue of a cross and two people
kneeling in prayer.

The ceremony itself didn't start until we'd already been sitting for an
hour (in the rather uncomfortable but seemingly universal plastic
chairs with numbers painted on the back). All the other local chiefs
showed up in their lovely toga-style pagne. Then four young women came
into the center of the gathering place and sang a song. One of the
women had a large basket on her head with a couple jars. The man in
front of me explained that the young women would traditionally have
walked to the village all the way from Lome, carrying the jars on their
heads. They are a reminder to the chief to keep in contact with the
voice of young people.

The new chief finally came in, following a procession of his eleven
children, baskets of pagne and other gifts stacked on their heads. He
was protected by a special parasol, with a bird on the top. Whoever was
holding the parasol kept it spinning and spinning above the chief's

After speakers chatted a bunch about the chiefs' education and work
experience, putting special emphasis on his education in English, the
'intronisateur' began the ceremonial bit. The Intronisateur is a role
passed down in the family of the founders of Apegame. They serve as a
kind of balance for the chief. If a person ever objects to a decision
that the chief made, they can bring the problem to the Intronisateur
and try to resolve the conflict.

Anyway, the Intronisateur plays a special role in the ceremony of a new
chief. He calls on God to bless the gold-woven sandals, the crown and
the specially designed and painted machete that are all symbols of
chiefhood. It was pretty neat. But a bit long, especially since it was
all done in Ewe, a language which I can only speak enough to introduce
myself. (I'm working on it!!!)

So enjoy the photos!

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