Saturday, May 06, 2006


Dust, dirt, and impurities are kind of a theme of Winyé masks. The masks are agents of purification, often associated with funeral ceremonies. As a result, one of their main duties is to stir-up, roll in and generally kick around in the dust. This can present problems for your average allergic, asthmatic mask enthusiast. That would be me.
We had great seats for the second half of the day’s dancing- cushy armchairs front and center. As a mark of honor, masks often end their dance with a jump that lands them directly at the feet of an audience member. We were made welcome this way several times, especially after the master of ceremonies made a speech thanking “Madame Jacob” for bringing “special guests” from Ouagadougou. It was so sweet, but it got the masks rather excited.
The dancing was great in the afternoon. The griots (men from the special musicians’ caste) played rhythms on their drums- each pattern specific to a certain type of mask. Each mask has a specific dance that accompanies the music and is under a lot of pressure to do it correctly. If the mask dancer does not know his moves well, the griots quickly change the music, inviting someone else to take his place.
Back to the dust. There they were, kicking up giants clouds of it, as I began to feel sicker and sicker. Sinuses, lungs, and just general bad feelings…..I went through all my kleenex and then on to Jennifer’s package. I took some medications, to no avail. But Jan offered me her small stash of Nyquil caps, so I figured I would at least sleep well.
After the dance ended at 5:30, we went to our hotel to get washed up for dinner. At the “hotel”, we each had our own small, windowless hut with a straw roof and no running water. Amenities included a slightly hole-festooned mosquito net and a small, yet curiously deafening electric fan. We each got our very own bucket of water to wash with and at that point, it seemed like a great luxury.
We had dinner with JP at 7 at a new outdoor night-club/restaurant. How could we tell it was supposed to be a nightclub? Well, it was very, very dark and the scratchy sound-system had the music turned up very, very loud.
Here is the menu, as related to us by the young waitress: peas, rice, spaghetti and french fries. We can say that this is not a good country for doing the Atkins diet.
I was too ill to eat anything, but I took the Nyquil. We didn’t linger too long over dinner, but JP and Tim decided to go on to a screening of some footage from previous festivals. The rest of us just wanted to get back and go to bed.
I guided Jennifer as she drove us through the dark maze of streets and back towards our hotel at the edge of town. We were quickly back and ready to sleep. I unlocked the metal door of my hut and said goodnight to Jen and Cynthia. It closed behind me and I turned to open it again, as the hut was so hot. But it wouldn’t budge- must be that stupid key stuck in the outside of the lock. I called out to Cynthia in the hut next door., “Hey, could you open this dumb door? It locked me in;” Well, she gave it a few turns and it quickly became evident that the lock was working fine. It was the door latch that was broken. I poked at it intently from my side with my swiss army knife blade. Jennifer got out her impressive tool kit and went to work on the outside. Cynthia gamely held the flashlight. After a while, they gave up. “We’re going to get the caretakers. Don’t panic! Do you need one of us to stay with you? Are you panicking?” Well, no. I didn’t even know panic was an option. How interesting. Are there really people who would freak out after being locked in a hut for a little while? I should hope I am made of sterner stuff than that. I knew that I would NOT spend the rest of my lifespan in a thatched hut in Burkina Faso, so why worry?
The hotel caretakers came along with local agricultural implements and started prying at the thick metal door. It was slow going. They alternated with Jen, who had got the plate off the door latch area and was trying to force the metal bar to move back out of the stone wall. Finally, she gave up and just let the guys pound away at the door. It caved in after about another half an hour of prying and hammering.
Many thanks to Jen and Cynthia. They stood by the whole time, even after I told them to go on to bed and get some rest.
The photo at the top is an old and powerful Viper mask. The two blades on it are NOT bunny ears!
Tomorrow you will get to learn about the motorcycle and the prostitute and the rest of my very long night in Boromo…..

2 comments:

MLW said...

Oh, memories of the mask festival and those dust-borne viruses, multiplying as you try to sit still at the VIP lunch at the schoolouse... sorry you caught Guest Disease. Feel better soon. Love the blog.

lynsey said...

Congratulations! You still have men dancing and falling at your feet. Sounds like one of those college parties we crashed.