On Saturday (22 April) in the village of Gomon -- chief village of the Abidji seventy miles (116 km) north of Abidjan -- the New Year was ushered in with demonstrations of magical powers, self-inflicted knife-wounds, and the ritual expulsion of death.
GV Village of Gomon villagers gathering
TV Crowds around drummer & musicians (4 shots)
SV Villagers blowing horns in streets
SV Villagers led by headman with faces daubed with white clay (4 shots)
LV Villagers rolling on ground (5 shots)
SV Women dancing with children carrying ???anes
SV Villagers with self-inflicted wounds
SV Minister of Education Akoto Yao & party
CU Man's stomach bleeding
LV Man rubs dirt into wound
SV Man stabs himself in stomach
SV Villagers dancing (3 shots)
Initials SGM/1722 SGM/1741
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: On Saturday (22 April) in the village of Gomon -- chief village of the Abidji seventy miles (116 km) north of Abidjan -- the New Year was ushered in with demonstrations of magical powers, self-inflicted knife-wounds, and the ritual expulsion of death.
The 'Dipri' Festival of the Abidji purifies the village in preparation for the renewal of the eternal seasonal cycle. It comes at the end of the dry season, just after the earth is first broken for planting.
The 'Dipri' contains many elements once common in Spring fertility rites throughout the world, and is simultaneously a funeral and a happy festival, both expunging all traces of the past year and also welcoming in the new. Thus it is essentially a purification.
Villagers are woken in the morning by the beating of the 'Ahungbanye' or sacred talking-drum, calling on the water-spirit 'Seke' to bring them fertility. They then beat on their doors and drive Death out into the streets. These other villagers led by the headman drive Death and the Old Year to the western-most house in the village, from where it makes its escape. Death and Age leave by the West, just as the sun and New Life enter from the East.
Villagers then bathe in the River Seke daubing themselves in white clay as a sing of their personal purification. As a result they are possessed by the spirit of 'Seke', often stabbing themselves in the stomach -- seat of the 'Seke' spirit -- in their frenzy.
SYNOPSIS: Last week in the village of Gomon seventy miles to the north of the Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan, the sacred talking-drum called the Abidji people together at the beginning of their greatest festival of the year.
They were celebrating the New Year -- the end of the long dry season, just after the ground is first broken in preparation for life-bringing rain. Before the New Year is welcomed in, the villagers bathe in the River Seke nearby, afterwards smearing themselves with white river-mud as a sign of their purification. Led by the headman, they return from the river with all traces of the Old Year washed away, now replaced by the spirit of the water-god 'Seke'. The possession of this life-bringing spirit, representing rain and new life, often induces an ecstatic trance. Throughout the village, possessed supplicants of 'Seke' roll around the streets as if under the influence of strong drugs, eyes staring blankly.
Villagers drive out Death and the Old Year from the streets with sticks as the process of the more personal purification rises to a climax. Education Minister Akoto Yao watches as those possessed by the spirit of 'Seke' slash their stomachs -- seat of the water-god -- repeatedly with sharp knives. They are now acting under the orders of the god who controls them, and feel no pain. The god even tells them how to heal the wounds. They rub dirt into them, and within thirty minutes the wound is completely closed, leaving only a small scar. Now the Year can come.