Before we can get any work done on site – there is one extremely essential piece of business to attend to. In these circumstances, it is probably regarded as the most important thing. More important than the arrival of our errant rig that is meant to carry out the drilling. This absolutely has to happen. No negotiations are acceptable.
This most important thing is the “Traditional Ground Blessing”. This ceremony is carried out by the local village Imam in the company of a few local dignitaries – most notably the tribal chief, local elders and the nearest local town mayor (effectively the government representative). Due to the fact that we have several large project areas that fall within different districts/village chief domains, we have had to do this more than once already. I suspect this won’t be the last…
Warning: If you get slightly squeamish, please don’t feel that you have to read on. I don’t go into any real detail..but still.. some of you may not like it, others might think it is not detailed enough. It is detailed enough for me, thank you.
It involves the slaughter of a sacrificial cow. It is not a pretty sight to witness. I did not go. This is mostly because it is not truly fitting for a woman to be present (sometimes you get to make things work to your advantage, like this for example..so it’s not all bad :)). In addition, it would not have gone down particularly well if I was involuntarily sick, as this would not bode well for the blessing that was being sought. Even my husband, who grew up in South Africa as a sheep-farmer, makes his own biltong (USA=jerky, biltong is MUCH nicer, sorry folks ;)) and is not afraid of blood and guts, does not like to witness this slaughter. It is barbaric. It is gruesome. We left it for the local crew to deal with. Our main office administrator – a local Malian, did attend so we were not without official company representation. All in all, everyone (well, the people on site at least – probably not the cow) was happy.
Once the slaughtering process has been concluded, the cow is then immediately cleaned up, hide removed etc. It is then divided between the people of the local community and will be on the dinner table tonight in many a household across the village. We ourselves got a hind quarter, the liver and some other “bits’n’bobs”, which I chose not to look at long enough to try to identify. It is far too much meat for us at camp. We can’t keep it fresh long enough, what with refrigeration being limited. The chef (with some assistance), therefore, divides it up further and distributes it amongst some of the direct neighbours in our village. We also, somehow, ended up with the head.
Such is the normality of this way of handling animals, which is essentially food at the end of the day; the guys set the head upon a table in the courtyard outside the kitchen. I thought I had better document this in some way and decided to take a photograph of it, at least from afar and with a zoom lens on. I didn’t feel the urge to get up close and personal with this doe-eyed, body-less creature. I can also handle making biltong, but I think dealing with the fillet of an animal and dealing its brains are two entirely different things indeed.
As it happened, this head was perched on the table in such an odd way that viewed from a particular angle it looked like the table was “playing the ghost” of the body. The guys saw me trying to take a photo of it, and wanted to “right” it. I figured that would have looked too staged, and told them to leave it just as it was, lolling. I’m not sure I want to include this picture. I’ll make it a thumbnail – so if you’re cool with this stuff, you can double-click on it for a better view. Otherwise, mo(o)ve right along!
I’ve noticed that WordPress often picks the last picture in a post as the default caption picture (even when you set the feature image, I haven’t cracked that one yet) – I don’t think it should be this particular picture – so I’ve included a more pleasant one to end off on!