Monday, 7 September 2009

Tamale Relious Life

Ghana, especially Tamale, is a very religious place. The predominant religion here is Islam and everyone else is Christian, although traditional religions are incorporated, especially voodoo. The religious language and symbolism is everywhere - shop names, billboards, taxi windows and even the 'pure water' sachets we drink from. Every day we hear the call to prayer five times, and at the 1pm prayers I pass many small outside mosques on the steet, enabling to observe to my hearts content. Friday afternoons are also particualrly impressive as it is when everyone come out to pray. The big mosque in town has rows of people outside too and all the doors open.

Everyone in my office (all three of them) have decided they want to convert to Judaism despite them not knowing a thing about it, me telling them we don't believe in Muhammed and the fact that two of them have Mohammed in their names. Sulley actually used to be a Christian. I called him a religious slut but I think he did not understand me properly. Last week we invited our NGOs round on our Sabbath to show them what we do and they seemed to enjoy it a lot.

I have been into a few mosques but never during services. A few days ago I went with Amy to see the Church of someone from her NGO on a Wednesday evening. We walked in the dark for about thirty minutes through boggy land until we reached a field dimnly lit by stars and the far off lights on a building . There were five men standing around in a circle. We joined and Amy's friend Katherine was leading the service. She began by speaking briefly about thankfulness and asking us to think what we are grateful for (fans, broadband internet, pickled cucumbers, life) then everyone started pacing around a bit and muttering to themselves. Us four little white Jewish girls stood awkwardly. After a while the mosque kicked in to add to the oddness and so I decided the only thing to do was to mutter the Shema - one of the 'greatest hits' of Jewish prayers - loud enough for them to know I was praying too. This was followed by a lot of preaching from Katherine about Christ aimed exclusively at us although we were still standing in the circle.

Today our last Sunday in Tamale and I realised I still hadn't been to Sunday church service. Victor from Jonny and David's NGO invited us and so three of us went for another bizarre but very differnt religious experience. When we arrived, there was a keyboard making organ-like sounds and a full drum kit being played with a few microphones going around. The community was in a three walled tin roof classroom with rows of wooden benches. There was some good hymn singing and we were made very welcome immediately.
We had been picked up by the Pastor and out of curiosity had asked how long the service goes on for. He made a fuss of introducing us and talking about all of our names - Deborah the prophet, I didn't really understand what he said about Catherine but when it came to me he thought my name was Jasmine and started going on about jasmine rice and fragrance which somehow linked to god. Ghanains have massive problems pronouncing my name - most people think it is Jesscan, and on my last day of work I saw that my boss had me saved in his phone as 'Jasican'. The Pastor then went on about how we had asked him how long the preaching lasts and that in England everone walks out after half an hour so he was going to try to keep it down for us, which was slightly embarassing. As it went on he kept asking our permission to go on longer. At one point Dez had discovered a lump on her arm and I was inspecting and speculating when i realised he was saying "My sisters at the back are chatting - they are bored with our long preaching!" The preaching itself was interesting and went on for fifty minutes in the end. It was hard to follow at times because it was constantly being translated in to Dugbani and at random times in a sentance there would be audience dialougue interruption which went along the lines of:

By Jess

No comments:

Post a Comment