A thing which captures a soul

Here is another story written down by Mr. Mafulul Lek from Daffo in 1992. It shows how modern life and the coming of unknown things was often a cause for alarm in the traditional society. In this story, it is the camera (“Ɗam ma tek shilim” – a thing which captures a soul”) which was feared because people thought that taking a picture of a person could steal that person’s soul. Of course, nowadays almost everyone likes their picture to be taken!

[audio http://eibach.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/dam-ma-tek-shilim.mp3 ]

Ɗam ma tek shilim ahun foto

Ɗiin ɗam ma Masara mama mburai ndee si cu ti kil fiyang, yit ka’ a malang la, yit mai ɗam ma tek shilim, ahun foto. Wa’ ɗam ma tek shilim, mma si tek shilim ti naaf ti, nai gbum naaf ta fa motan. Ahun wa’ mma si tek foto ma naaf ti, nai ta furis masheng. A bya’, Masaraash mi, ndee si yaas a cwai kasuwa ti ɗam ma tek shilimi. Mma si tek ɗamani la, kil ti nii rikitik, naf a matutok, mawis a mawyaat.

Fe ma Ɗafo ɓiil mama si kunggo a mwa si nii, mi manggi’ a manya la ti a kaswa; Masaraash ɗiin si fa tekan shilimi. Nai si tik la a wur, si lak, naf mmis si wop a lal mburai, ɓa si mbiis ham a hai ta shilim ti fehi. Mburu nai ta mba ham, ta nii: “Waroo! Masara a walan a tek shilim ti fehi ɗamisi!” Ta nii, mi wan a mashen, kat ɗes, mma si masai ɗama ɗiin a hai kang kwa, mi wan a ɗusai maɗafal kwa gbum. Nai si niyis, ta masai ɗaman mama a laki.

Mari ta masai tite ti ɗak, kafi ti haletai kwa ɗes. Nai mburai ndee si fwaa a mburati, si fwaa, wa’ mi yet a tek shilim ta andee si teket ti ɗam ma tek fotohi a kasuwa. Sani mburu ta masai, ta wis, sani ta yes, shak a gbwya’.

Si shitai ɗamani wet, si tik a mba ham ta ɗiin mburuhi. Sai ta niyis, nzis mburuk ti gofis, kai ɗiin tima ti motet ti, ti zan yiu ti mari (yiu si shilim shak, ɗam ma ɗanggat mai.) Nai si yu a fwyai ta kayi, si masai ɗamani mama si masaahayi ti. Si yong kyasas ma kayi, si nggwaak, si ɓaak, si gam yiwi ti. Nai mburuhi ta dang kil la ti ɗama ɗiin mama a mbyaakan ti a ciring, ta nii, yiwi nda. Ahun kek, ta gof ɗama ɗiin kwa. Ta nii kek, sin mburai mi, si shyaatai ɗaam kyai – naf shak mi kwa. Kil mama mburai si nii, si wuhi nai.

Motan tima mburai si niyai, naaf ma fasa, ahun si tek yiw, ahun shilim nzis, yit ti: mma naaf a kwis ka cwai ca, ahun miis a masheng, kat mma nafu ti kaf har, ti tyaaket la. Ɗaman mama a kiris shisher a hai ta ɗam ma tek shilimi nai.

Naf ma Masara ma tek shilim tima si gwaaf yo siliman a talvishon shak si wop a tokai fo. Mma si fukis, si tek shilimi, ahun si tek a kpak, gbaak, nai si wop a wan ta mburai, si mbiis ham a hai. Ahun kek, mma sin a malang la, ahun mi wan a tek shilimi, nai si tong was shir ma kanan a yish tawe. Mayes a kwai hani, gip ma naf mi ɓat a hai ta masai ɗamani.

The camera

Another invention of the white man which was used by the native doctors to exploit people is the camera. It was feared that the camera would take away a person’s soul and death or serious diseases would soon follow.

In the beginning, it was only white men who sometimes came to local markets with their camera. Once they brought out the camera, people would run helter-skelter and hide.

A white man took a picture of a newly married couple on the market place in Daffo. Trembling with fear, the couple immediately returned home with the story. The native doctors were called in, to examine whether the souls of the young couple had been trapped.

After asking the oracle, the native doctor told them: “Oh no! The white man has captured their souls!” He seriously warned them, telling them that unless they got ‘treatment’, they would get sick and die without any issues. The parents asked him to treat their children. For some reasons, the young couple in fact did not get a child. Several native doctors tried to ‘heal’ them, but all in vain.

The last one claimed that his own oracle told him that the couple’s souls had been captured by an old woman, who had died. So they went to her grave, dug out her bones and cracked them. He showed something he had kept under his fingernail to them, claiming that it was their souls. He might as well have shown nothing at all, as the native doctors often tell people that only they are able to see the souls of human beings.

The diseases associated with the capturing of a soul by a camera are the same as those believed to come from contact with heavenly beings: Continous loss of weight and appetite, miscarriages and abortions. This is the main reason why people fear the camera.

Even nowadays, some people don’t like to be taken by camera, even by state television. Whether they are compelled to be filmed or agree to it, they will afterwards see the native doctors. Or else, before the pictures are taken, they will rub a medicine on their bodies to protect themselves.


2 responses to “A thing which captures a soul

  1. In Ron language, the use of the word shilim for soul is incorrect; in a spoken form, ashilim is the shadow of a human being. Typically, pictures are referred to as ashilim, while camera as ndam ma tiek ashilim; the thing of taking a shadow.
    The correct Ron word for soul is yiw [yuiu]. The symptoms or evidence that the soul of a person is captured is continuous loss of appetite that results in severe weight loss as well as incessant pregnancy miscarriages or abortions. ‘Naaf am fasa’ means that the person who exhibits the symptoms of a caged soul has his or her soul hidden up above [ in the skies]. Sometimes, ‘bhurruh’ or cooking fireplace could the place of hiding such a caged soul.
    As a growing young lad in my father’s compound, I personally witnessed how bhurrai or native doctors restored a caged soul to its owner. Thereafter, all the symptoms associated with the caging of a soul disappeared and the person is begins to live a normal life full of zest and vigour.
    In addition to soul and ashilim [body], the third being that makes a human being a person is spirit or luah in Ron language, which is entirely a different subject matter or knowledge field that is not associated with the mystery of the camera.
    Thank you. JSAkuns

  2. Thank you for this addition. There are a number of stories written/collected by Mr. Lek that mention the three words/concepts – shilim, lwa’ and yiw. Of course, not everyone will agree with his translation and his analysis of the involved rituals.

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