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Chouathong X.

LBST 2102-338

Of Water and the Spirit Questions

1. The death of Grandfather Bakhye had a serious impact on Malidomas early life.
Malidoma was considered Grandfathers brother because of the message that was
conveyed to him by the ancestors. When Grandfather passed, Malidoma did not quite
understand the situation and was baffled by the events leading to and at the funeral
This funeral ritual can be considered a salvation ritual for Grandfather Bakhye. A
salvation ritual pertains the destiny of an individual. In this situation, the villagers guide
him to meet the ancestors within the afterlife by physically taking his body to a mourning
site, mourning the deceased, and reciting prayers. However, Grandfathers death can also
be viewed as a re-vitalization ritual as well. A revitalization ritual revolves around a
collective destiny of a group. This death can be considered a revitalization ritual for the
village because they must live on after an impactful figure in their village passes.
Grandfather Bakhye was a leader in the village which had a strong war, religious, and
generous influence with the Dagara people. Furthermore, being an elder, he had the
ability to contact the ancestors and communicate between both the living and the spirits.
Various symbols were introduced during the liminal phase of Grandfather Bakhyes
funeral, such as: the hyena tail, the opening of the eyes of Grandfather Bakhye, and the
baobab tree. The hyena tail was interpreted as a remote to reconnect Grandfather to the
world of the living. It was a final means of communication between the deceased and the
deceaseds love ones. Similarly, Grandfather would only open his eyes when he came
in contact with the hyena tail. This was not interpreted as him literally opening his eyes,
but was aided by the people to communicate with Malidomas father. Therefore, he was
present as a body but absent as a living individual. The opening of the eyes might be
how Malidoma viewed the situation at his age at the time. Within many indigenous
cultures, trees are viewed as a connection between the spiritual world and the reality
world. Grandfather was taken to the baobab tree, in which his funeral mourning would
take place. This can be interpreted as the end of his living life and the beginning of his
journey to meet his ancestors.

Chouathong X. Lo
LBST 2102-338

My cultural background is Hmong, therefore there is not much difference in the practices
that occur during the funeral process. Thus, I will be sharing a difference and a similarity
between the two indigenous cultures. A minor difference would be the interaction
between the deceased and the family and friends. In Grandfather Bakhyes funeral, he
was always communicating with his family; whereas, in the Hmong culture, a similar
communicating would be showing respect to the deceased (mainly compared to an
elder that had influence within the community). A similarity between a Dagara funeral
and Hmong funeral is the appearance of the drum. The drum is played for a similar
reason as it is struck while another individual is reciting a song. This is to communicate
and guide the deceased to the afterlife.
2. Education for Malidoma transitioned between traditional education and seminary
education. His traditional education was given to him by the Dagara village people, more
specifically by Grandfather Bakhye. The seminary education was giving to him by priests
when he moved a boarding school in Nansi.
In his childhood, Malidoma was educated about the myths and spirituals beliefs within
the Dagara village. This revolved around learning about the importance of elders and
their connections with their ancestors. Furthermore, the diverse teachings included
various medications and symbolic objects used during rituals.
During his years at boarding school in Nansi, Malidoma became indulged in knowledge
about the outside world from the village. To just name a few, he learned of World War II,
Nazi Germany, and the stories and figures within the Bible. However, a huge difference
between his traditional education and seminary education was the daily schedule. As
provided in the reading, Malidomas schedule at the boarding school was back-to-back
classes, prayers, eating, or work from 5:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night.
In comparison to how I grew up, I experienced a similarly dual education. At home and
cultural events, I learned the importance and practices of the Hmong culture. It all ranges
from the male practices at the table to the importance of the females and children helping
one another to showing face at an event. The male are dominant within the culture;

Chouathong X. Lo
LBST 2102-338

however, depending on their attributes they can either help with the cooking or guide the
young men to prepare an animal (normally pig or cow) properly. The females and
children have the most importance role as they prepare the food to be served at the event.
Normally these dishes are common dishes prepared at these events; therefore, each
female can usually work as a team to complete their tasks at a fast pace. Children,
normally around the teenager age, aid in preparing food as it is practice for their future.
3. Upon Malidomas return to the village from the boarding school in Nansi, he has a
difficult time readjusting to the village life. His spoken language changed and confused
the villagers. He was not able to completely enjoy the village food as he once had. He
lost his ability to deal with darkness as he stated that this was not one of the functions a
Dagara villager. The villagers learned to function in the dark and believe darkness is
The elders and Malidomas mother believed he has become a victim of the divine will.
The advice given to Malidoma was to become closer to the village again was to rid of the
proselytization and undergo a rite of passage to become one with the community again.
By passing through this rite of passage, he will experience salvation and reconnect with
his ancestors. Throughout his salvation, he must experience separation, transition, and
incorporation. Malidoma is separated from the village and placed in an initiation camp
with other individuals that undergoing the rite of passage. This separates him from
culture and society. While staying at this camp he will transition from being an other to
a member of the Dagara people again. In this situation, he is revisiting his roots and
reconnection with his ancestors through exercises, such as meeting the green lady.
Finally, he will be reincorporated into the culture once he completes his trial.
Malidoma had to travel through various holes; or how I interpreted them as gates. He
had to physically strain his body to create visions and understanding. Diving through a
hole, envisioning images, and being reborn were all exercises to reincorporate the
individual back into the culture. The phrase the womb equals the tomb can be applied
to this situation because the human body is born and buried into a close-quartered body.

Chouathong X. Lo
LBST 2102-338

The human body is brought to life from the womb; then, it consequently leaves life into
another womb, the placement into a grave.
4. Malidoma Patrice Somes name means be friends with the stranger or enemy.
Throughout his journey he has lost loved ones, met a new religion, and revisited his roots.
Certainly, Malidoma has befriended the stranger and the enemy. The enemy to the Dagara
people were the white men. During his time at the seminary, he learned a new religion,
new culture, and new understanding from the so-called enemy. This enemy became his
friend. Similarly, when Malidoma returned to the village, the Dagara culture and the
village was a stranger to him. This can also be viewed as he was the stranger to the
village because of proselytized views. To become reacquainted with the Dagara culture,
he befriended the strangers of the village by revisiting the strange roots of the culture.
Ancestry applies to naming by giving the individual a connection to their history of the
culture. Applied to Malidoma, he was named by Grandfather Bakhye because he wanted
his grandson to be interconnected with the ancestors. Similarly, the name is important
when being compared to reincarnation. Reincarnation brings forth a new life; however,
their belief is they are still related despite the difference in name. This explains why
Grandfather Bakhye calls Malidoma his Brother because he is the reincarnation of
Birifor, Grandfather Bakhyes deceased brother.
From the perspective of an outsider, this naming process of the Dagara culture is arbitrary
and somehow it became reality. However, from the perspective of an individual who has
a background in an indigenous culture, the naming process can be a difficult process
because it must be a name that provides the individual with protection and satisfaction. In
the end, the name identifies more than just the individual; but who they were, who they
are, and who they will become.