Waiting for the opening of the ceremony
The children & men hidden under fabrics
Women queing to see their beloved ones
Pause in the shadow with a coconut
Rosa´s son and brothers are back
lunch with friends in front of her house
Drums & Dance with the returned men
People stand on motos for better view
Little ones proud to show their dance
For two months, almost half of the men in Fada disappeared. Now they are back. Their return was celebrated by a huge festival in every sector in Fada: Dance, drums and food. Where have they been? What did they do? And why do they speak another language now?
The returned men knee on the ground. Hundreds of them. They are all covered by a traditional African fabric. We are invited by Rosa, a friend of ours, who will today see her son again after two months. She is very excited and also a bit nervous. "Do you think he has grown up? Do you think he has changed?", I want to know. She replies: "No, within two months nobody can grow up. He will be the same quiet and shy guy as before."
For now, she can´t see his son, because he is still hidden under the fabric. However, she told us, she has already identified him. The way he walked and his size. A
mother recognizes her child, even without seeing the face. It is part of the game, that Rosa´s sister has to find the six-year-old boy, who is then "liberated". If - for some mistake - the wrong
child is selected, you have to pay a little amount of money to his "right" mother. Houndreds of women standing in line to wait for their turn to identify their male family members. There are some
gate-keepers with wooden sticks that secure the place and take care that all men are well hidden at all time and that the women wait properly.
"Nobody know what´s going on in the camp. The participants do not talk about it. It is only for men"
Man of all ages, the little ones only three years old, have been in a camp outside the city for the last two months. The decision, who participants obliges most of
the time the uncles, older brothers or teachers (because people going to miss school for two month, including the exams). I asked friends, if toddlers can be two months withut their mum without
fear? The response: "They are not alone. They are with their uncles and brothers or fathers. Also, they get three meals a day."
It is exclusively for men and its strictly forbidden to know what´s going on in these camps. However, I´ve heard, that men getting a formation on "how to be and to act like a men": What ever this means!?! They are all naked in the camps, anther reason why its forbidden to come closer to the camp than 300 meters.
Some chosen woman, who are responsible for the food of the men in the camp, have to place the pre-cooked meals at a secret spot at night. Two selected men of the camp have to collect the food from this place then. Food, material and the dresses for the big festival are paid by official sources. The major of Fada donated over 1.000 Euro to the camps.
"Often it is not the mother who can take the final decision to send her toddler to a camp or not. Teachers, Fathers and Brothers often decide it."
It is said, that the men learn a common language in the camp. A language, that is no official one, but rather a fantasia-language. From time to time, the initié
(the insiders) come back to Fada, to "beat" people who don´t speak their new learned language and thus are not part of the camp and the community. The initié are painted with white color and they
carry a straw mask to cover their face. (They don't want to be recognized). People in Fada find it very funny, we have seen it several times. People only run and screem and rund and scream and
are curious who has been hit by the initié (insiders). The ritual of "beating" people, is not meant to hurt them, but to tease people, who don´t participate and don´t share their tradition. It is
a bit like my very last school day, where we marked the younger students with red lipstick, who havn´t graduated
Rosa has her son back. He is visible tired and overwhelmed by the situation. He barley speaks to his mother. She is however very happy to have him back and told me,
that she was worried every single night during the last weeks. She was thinking about his health and his general condition. In 2024, when the next camp takes place, she won´t let her second boy,
who is now one year old, participate. Regardless what other people will say.
Tobias and I are so thankful for being part of this very special day. Every seven years the event takes place and we have just arrived in the right moment! What an experience.