Friday, March 9, 2012

Holidays in Tutu

Tutubuka is considered to be a Christian village. Church is attended frequently, especially around funerals and holidays. Sadly, funerals in Tutu are much more common than holidays.

(funeral procession of men close to the deceased going to burial ground downriver. This is after days of mourning, staying up all night each night, and some ceremonies. The eighth day after death is also recognized, as well as 6 weeks after. Funerals and grieving are especially important to all community members, often due to close family ties.)

Holidays are also recognized by the entire community. Often by attending church for a very long time. We're talking hours on end.

(this is the entry to the church in Tutu)

(Christmas service with everyone in their finest whites)

But most holiday traditions take place as part of the daily routine. Just like the "odi", or greetings, that people must exchange in passing, "Bedake" (= Merry Christmas) is said to all, even those people that are partially hidden in a house, around a corner, not paying attention to you...literally all a comical extent at times. The best part about the Bedake exchange is the delivery - you gotta say it to the other person faster and more times than they can deliver to you. Often people get out a solid 3 or 4 Bedakes before they realize that you are also saying Bedake and that their message has made it through. It's much more fun than the comparatively solemn "Merry Christmas" exchange that we are so used to.

Saramaccan women love to cook.  One of their specialties is cassava bread made from bitter cassava.  Interestingly, cassava roots contain cyanide, so must be prepared properly.  After pulling them up, they are roughly chopped, then ground/grated into small pieces.  Next they are all placed into a long, thin basket
(metape) to allow all of the cyanide-containing water to drain out:

Once the dried cassava is ready, it is poured onto a flat hot plate to cook on a wood fire:

Each women has her own designs that she traces into the bread:

There is plenty of cassava bread to go around during the holidays.  Plenty.  More than enough.  That stuff is sooo dry, kind of bland with a hint of bitterness, and will make your stomach hurt real bad if you eat too much of it (mmmmmm....cyanide...).  But they love it.

Between Christmas and New Year's there was a traveling group of singing children, as well as a traveling drum circle.

New Year's also includes festive odi exchanges for yai, or "year". Customary is a long duration handshake with multiple yai's between two people, and the yai's continue as the handshake is brought up above head height, then unlocked with a final yai-ooooo yai, followed by much smiling and laughter.

Around the 1st, people generally wash with a particular type of leaf purported to cleanse the last year from you and bring good luck for the new year.

On the 1st, everyone dresses in their New Year's finest.

(Jan 1st, 2012 - Jill in her kousu and hangisa, wrapped around the waist as a sign that she has a man. The women in Tutu were insistent that Jill wear one, especially with all the out of towners in Tutu for the holidays. They're looking out.  Mike was lent this traditionally cross stitched banjakoto for the day. It was somehow still that white when he returned it)

Much of NYE we spent at our place with toasts of Borgoe rum, and the traditional lizard dropping from the ceiling (analogous to the old fashioned ball drop).  The village was relatively sleepy until midnight (in fact, most were at church since 8 in the evening...), but at midnight, a container's worth of fireworks were going off in all directions.  Kids were mostly in charge of the mayhem, and absolutely loving it.

(this lizard did not drop from the ceiling on New Years.  This one's just really ugly)

The real parties picked up on the 1st (much more so than the night of the 31st) and continued through the whole month of January.  That's a fun tradition - to extend the celebration.  At a "tapa yai" (= end the new year party's) party on the last few days of January live bands played in the town hall with most of Tutu/Tjai in attendance.   An all night shindig.  Not a bad way to bring in 2012, no matter what the date.

Some people tended to get more than just a buzz on during the holidays.  And sometimes they just need a hug.

(you never know until the shutter releases what type of pose a Saramaccan has in mind for a picture)

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