Monday, August 18, 2008

My Town Monday: Life in West Africa

When I met Mr. Boh in Cameroon four years ago, a favorite topic of conversation was folklore and superstitions. In Mr. Boh's second guest MTM post, he discusses witchcraft which is still widely practiced in many parts of Cameroon. Boh Cyprain writes:

Malaah: WitchcraftWood carving with copper detail, from Yaounde, Cameroon

Witchcraft has been part of African society since time immemorial. When Christianity stepped in here, some Africans adopted it in full dose keeping aside their old traditional beliefs. They claimed that nothing associated with witchcraft could harm them if they stayed close to their Bibles. But, witchcraft practices have persisted and to the detriment of society. Those who are born with the gene, just like those who are initiated into it, practice purely evil. It has never been heard of a vampire who only defended the innocent from the ill-intentioned. In recent times, persons regarded as having the gift of being able to detect the truth in cases of witchcraft have been called to the BAR to help magistrates seek out the truth in cases where witchcraft have been presented before the law. This has been because magistrates have found it difficult to pass judgment against someone for lack of proof. The fact that the law now gives cognizance to this phenomenon is clear proof that witchcraft practices still exist in our society today.

There has been this Malaah phenomenon which most vampires have adopted nowadays. By this, they put on a DRACULA-LIKE attitude where they go out at night in search of human blood. As it is, they transform into very tiny human beings and they board what they call "Avion de Nuit" or the Night Plane. This night plane could be an empty tin of sardines or even an empty box of matches. Any of these planes can carry as many as 20 vampires and can fly out to great distances like neighbouring Gabon or Tchad with a common goal - to suck dry sleeping human beings. With the blood already gathered, they can now use it to perform their miracles all to their benefit. It is said that they could possibly transfer ones intelligence into some other person who was less intelligent at first and could render someone crippled if by so doing would halt his progress (e.g., a footballer). There are those who indulge in this to enable their kin achieve stardom in society. Worst is the fact that those involved tend to initiate their kids to ensure a successor regardless of their ages.

Last month a Cameroonian television channel "CANAL 2" broadcasted on its news 02 kids of ages of about 11and 07 who gave testimonies of how their grand mother has constantly sent them mystically at night to go and suck out blood from neighbours with the latest one being the sucking of blood from one of their cousins (just as young as they) rendering him crippled. There was contention shown in the family as the mother of the lad was shown pleading on camera with the grandmother to only help make the son walk again. These kids gave their confessions as to their innocence and pleaded with the public to forgive them as they never knew what they were doing. They said they had accepted to carryout these mal-practices because their aunt had promised they were going to be very rich in the future and were going to own their own cars.

The Malaah phenomenon presents itself as a church with its members dressed in immaculate white and go barefoot. One practice almost terminated the market of paper towels here as it was believed that they went around peoples dust-bins collecting already used napkins and getting the rubbish from it to get the owners hooked up; if you used it to wipe sweat from your face, they would in turn extract the sweat from the towel and use it against you the same way they do with the blood. This made almost everybody to either stay away from using paper tissue or dropping it beyond the reach of anyone.

Wood carving from Yaounde, CameroonIn the neighbourhood of Mbankolo here in Yaoundé, there was this old lady who piloted a night plane all by herself and went around sucking blood from neighbours and the plane crash landed on someone's roof. Since it was almost morning (daylight), she was unable to take-off again (because this practice doesn't agree with day light) and gradually she started turning into her normal human body and started crying out for help. She was so old she couldn't get down from the roof by herself. The neighbours recognizing who she was sent for the son who by this time was struggling to write out an announcement for the radio concerning the missing mother whom they couldn't find in her room that morning. Arriving the scene the son felt so insulted to find the mother on the roof and to hear what she was saying in her confession. She said she usually follows a team but since she was too thirsty that night and the rest of the associates weren't going out, she had braved it to pilot the plane. The son in annoyance left before a ladder was brought to help bring down the mother and was promising to send out every belonging of the mother before her return to his house.

Recently, a bunch of Malaah church members were dispersed by the police at TSINGA (the main junction to the presidential palace in Yaoundé) on their way to the presidency. They claimed it had been prophesied that it's only their powerful prayers that could help make President Biya to flee the palace. On their way they met police men with instructions to beat mercilessly and arrest its leaders for motives of unauthorized demonstration and unpatriotic practices.

Next week -- The Dead Still Feel Hungry
Click for other My Town Monday posts...


pattinase (abbott) said...

I wonder if our religions sound as exotic.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Wonderful! Life is so different in other places and yet for all of us, I supose that there is no place like home.


David Cranmer said...

Pattie, I will have a little add-on next week's MTM about a conversation with Mr. Boh where some of our customs sounded pretty odd to him. Interestingly, even though Christianity is the main religion, quite often men would attend church with two families because bigamy is practiced in many of the areas.

Terrie, I love visiting other countries but when I land back in the US, there's no greater feeling.

Barbara Martin said...

This was interesting, but a little too creepy for me. There are many things in the world for which there is no scientific explanation, and this is one of them.

David Cranmer said...

It does give one an unsettled feeling, especially knowing that the practice is done specifically out of maliciousness. I think if the belief was balanced with good intentions, it might seem a little less creepy.

debra said...

an intense culture--to me. I'm interested to hear Mr. Boh's impression of American customs

Travis Erwin said...

Captivating. I loved this post. One of my all-time favorite Monday educations.

David Cranmer said...

Debra, it's coming next week with a humorous discussion we had concerning of all things the tooth fairy.

Travis, I'm glad your enjoying them. I have several more weeks of this fascinating culture.

Reb said...

Wow! That was very interesting! Thank you for arranging these posts with Mr. Boh.

David Cranmer said...

Reb, thanks! I always enjoyed the times Mr. Boh and I talked about the differences and similarities between our cultures, and it's been great to share pieces of those times with everyone else.