University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Gender and Women's Studies Collection

Page View

Graeve, Oscar (ed.) / Delineator
Vol. 118, No. 5 (May, 1931)

Singer, Caroline
Drums and dancers,   p. 14 PDF (627.8 KB)

Page 14

D E L I N E A T 0 R
With illustrations by
the author's husband
HREE months ago in Ca-Matidi-a
huddle of thatched round huts lying be-
tween stark buttes of the Sierra Leone
J   hinterland-Kunlungki died.
Father of the Village Chief, he was in-
-        fluential.  A thrifty farmer and astutc
trader, he was rich, possessing a herd of six cows.  But
neither influence nor wealth was of avail against the
Evil One who, despite the many sacrifices of chickens,
remained implacable. To the incantations and spells
of the Medicine Alan he was also immune. With the
Evil One, Kunlungki, lying upon the mud platform
which served him as a bed, struggled valiantly. But
being old he wearied of the battle and eventually his soul
passed from the visible to the invisible world. Thus do
people die in Africa ...
Wrapped in his finest sleeping mats of woven grass,
the body of Kunlungki was lowered into a leaf-lined
grave, covered over with leaves, the boughs of trees, and
earth. Before the empty hut his widows wailed. One of
his best cows was sacrificed and its flesh shared with the
But the period of mourning was brief, for it was then
the rainy season. The dancing space before the Chief's
compound was a muck of wet clay. And for the cere-
monials due a respected and mighty man, folk unclad ex-
cept for cotton skirts require burning days and moonlit
nights with dry dancing spaces, hard and smooth as ball-
room floors.
IT IS the dry season. The gilded days, the silvered
nights are here. Throughout the hinterland, word has
passed that on the morrow honor will be paid the soul of
Kunlungki in order to give him prestige and happiness
in the invisible world. On the morrow will begin the
"big waily," as such a second funeral is called.
And so, from Ca-Mabai to Ca-Matidi we have come
on foot guided by Boumba, our "boy," who is usually
employed by American missionaries and therefore speaks
a little English. He is a Christian. Precisely what this
means to him. I can not say. However, while all about
him pagan men maintain polygamous households-he is
sternly monogamous. There is not another w-man here-
abouts who enjoys the idleness, the luxurious isolation
known to Mrs. Boumba, wife of the Christian. Having
.s-.. \
W    HEN the sun swept upwards, routing the spirits
Vwhich inhabit darkness, bare black feet-never really
black but brown, with soles clean and yellow like the bellies
of salamanders-began to move swiftly, silently along the
bush paths. Since daybreak Biriwa-Limba men and wo-
men, their naked bodies freshly oiled, their cottons freshly
laundered, have been marching, stopping only to wash
their feet in every wayside pool; the women, many with
babes upon their backs, carrying upon their heads rolled
sleeping mats and bundles of provisions. Not all the
Biriwa-Limba folk have come to Ca-Matidi, for the tribe
scattered throughout a sprawling hinterland numbers
twelve thousand. Those of far-away villages never knew
Kunlungki. But his scores of relatives, their scores of
relatives, folk of nearby villages and his lifelong friend,
the aged Paramount Chief, have come.
Truly regal was this over-lord's entry. Apprised of his
approach, youths of Ca-Matidi went forth. With their
machetes they slashed away overhanging boughs and
tall grass-blades, widening the path so that his caravan
would not be raked.   And then     (Turn to page 48)
In many countries
a wage-earning husband able to purchase foodstuffs,  Caroline Singer and
she need not farm. She does not carry loads as other  her husband wander in
women do. Her aristocratic distaste for work is very  search of material
evident. Officially our laundress, she is to be found, on  for pen and  pencil.
wash-days, lolling upon a convenient boulder, directing,
but never assisting, the soap-and-water activities of a  Here's an African
younger sister, a puny thing of twelve. And the ironing  adventure  of theirs
is done by Boumba. For ironing, like sewing, is thought
by black men-servants to require intelligence and manual
skill beyond the capacities of black women-folk.
A Christian's wife, Mrs. Boumba wears thrice the
number of garments owned by any pagan woman, in-
cluding all-enveloping blouses devised by Boumba. And
evidently she may not travel-not even to a funeral!
For when I suggested that the decorative minx might
accompany us, Boumba objected with a fervor unusual
in one who is so uniformly passive. Therefore at dawn
when we joined the processions advancing upon Ca-
Matidi we left her in their hut, which stands at some
distance from the village-of which the Boumbas are
not natives-and is so placed that its one entrance is
visible not only to every other mission dependent, but
also to the two white missionary women. Safe indeed, we
left Mrs. Boumba.
1 4

Go up to Top of Page