The magic of sewing clothes

Here is the last of a number of stories dealing with the conflict between traditional and modern life. Mr. Mafulul Lek from Daffo recorded it in 1992 and helped me transcribe and translate it.


Kike ti tor Ɗaam

Kike ti tor ɗaam ɗes, mmit findel ma kang kwa. Ɗaam ma yish ndee si yaas ti a kasuwa, naf si gon kek, si shitai ɗam mama si twaar tihi kwa. Si haalai kek, wa’ ɗamani a ti’ kike. Si niyai, nan kike ti ngguli tuni ti. Taa, andai ti kwa.

Ɗamani nai ti lang la kong, shin ta gon fata’ ti mwa, ta yu, ɓa si toris. Naaf ma tori – Makpan ɗiin – ta wal a mba sis, ta kiris ren tima ta tik la, ta mat ɗaami. Nai ta niyis wawa’, ma fuk, ta toris, ta wop a wis ti ɗama mmis.

Nai Makpan ta shitai wet, ta niyis ye, ɓa ta mun a mamun, ta toris. Nai ta kir nggong a mamuni. Maɗam ta tek bakam ti lef ɗaami, ta ɓaak ti fata’i la, shin mma yit yis a shyaatan fo. Ta kinggit hai, ta kir a ndik, ta shitis Maɗam fo, ta niyis: “Mimai nai a masayi?” Ta niyis: “Ɗaman fat mi?” Ta niyis: “A tek ɗam, a lyaafen ti fata’ la pasarak, yo tite ndai?” Ta nii, miis ma manii, ngga’ mama si masaahai nai, si ku si tik a tof la ti yo gugwini; ta niyis, yit a shyaatai tindai masut ti mburati kwa. Ta niyis, ye, ɓa ta mun a mamun, ta shitai; ta niyis, a kwis.

Ta niyis wa’, mma ma wis a matik ti cif ma fata’ tima a goni kwa, naf ma ɓur si shitis kek. Ahun wa’, ɗam mama a mba sis ti, a ku a ɓaak fata’i la sai, a ti’ mi? Ta niyis wa’, a ngyaa’ai sis ti ɗaman sai, ko mmis a tek kwa. Wa’ ɗakwai yit fata’i ti, ta mbiis ti a yish ɗak!

Naf ndee si tof, si kai yit a wis a mbayat, Maɗami yit a nun mwat, yis a tor ɗaami. Ta wal, ta faris naf a mamun, ta ku ta tal cif ma tor ɗaami, ta rang ti. Ɗes, wa’ ta yu a wur, yit a nan ta mburu, ta mbiis ham a hai ta wa’ ngga’ mama naaf ma tor ɗaami a nggyaa’ai sis ti tep, ahun ɗam mama si mbaa ti ɗaam ma tori.

Taa nani, naf ma tor ɗaami ndee si tyaak a lef ɗaami, naf ma ɗaami sin a shitayi, kwa – mma si shitai miis ka’ ti kurkwil a hai. Ɓiil gbum gbum, si waan mmis ɗaam, mama si walan a tori a kaswa a fa wa’ ko mmis a fuk, si nggyaa’is yish ti ɗam mama si mbaa ti ɗaam ma tori sai kwa. Andai ɗes, si kwis ti ɗaam ma gonjong mama si gwaan la kyani. Si nii wa’, ɗaam ma naf ma mamot mi. Wa’ motan tima ti hek naf ma ɗaami mu yet ti a yish ta ɗaami. Ahun, mma si kai ko, si gon ɗaami, nai si wop a wan ta mburai, si faris shir, si damai hai tawe, si ku si shu a yish – ka ndok wa’ ɗama ɗiin a niyis.

The sewing machine

In Ron land, the sewing machine, too, caused a lot of trouble, when it first appeared. Before its arrival, people only bought ready-made clothes in the local markets. They did not know how the clothes were sewn and what the sewing machine looked like. Some people took it to be a kind of bicycle, since it was called Keke (‘bicycle’) in Hausa.

When the sewing machine first appeared in the Ron land, a certain Ron man bought a piece of cloth and took it to the tailor. The tailor, an Ibo man, took the man’s measurements and told him to come and collect the clothes the next day. But the man wanted to wait until he had finished sewing it.

So the tailor asked the man to sit down and wait. Then he took his scissor and cut the cloth. When the man saw this, he became annoyed and asked the tailor what the hell he was doing. The tailor was surprised about the man’s reaction. The man asked him: “Why did you cut my cloth into pieces?” The tailor replied: “But that is how it is done!”. The man would not believe anything like that.

He threatened to take the tailor to court, unless he would pay him the piece of cloth he had torn. He was also suspicious of the tape with which the tailor had taken the measurements. When the tailor told him that he had only measured him with it, he wouldn’t believe it. He had expected that the measurements would be taken with the cloth, not with the tape.

Other people gathered at the tailor’s shop when they hard them quarreling. They had to stand by until the tailor had finished sewing the man’s clothes and the man had paid him. Afterwards, the man immediately went to a native doctor to find out whether his second self had been harmed by the tailor’s tape.

After this incident, tailors never again cut the cloth in presence of their customers – unless they already knew about the sewing machine. On the other hand, some people only buy ready-made clothes, in fear of the measuring tape.

In the same way, some people suspect second-hand clothes sold in the markets. They fear that if these are clothes of dead people, the disease which killed the former owner may still be inside the clothes. If they still buy it, they will at least ask a native doctor to remove any disease found in it before they will wear it.

More stories by Mafulul Lek dealing with the conflict between traditional and modern life:


The wrist-watch used as oracle


A Rolex wrist watch (Photo: Wikimedia)

Would you think that a wrist watch (the type with hands, not the digital type) could be used to divine? Here is another funny story Mr. Mafulul Lek from Daffo told me in 1992. Continue reading

How a student was nearly beaten up because of a tape recorder

Sony Tape Recorder

Sony Tape Recorder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is another story which shows how modern life and the use of unknown gadgets was often a cause for alarm in the traditional society. In this case, a student was nearly beaten up because of a tape recorder. The story was written down by Mr. Mafulul Lek from Daffo in 1992. Continue reading

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 ]

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.


The first aeoplanes

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 fear. In this story, it is the aeroplane which in the beginning would send people running. Continue reading

Short Stories by Amos Emmanuel

In 1994, Mr. Amos Emmanuel, a young man from Daffo, came to me with a notebook of handwritten stories in Ron. I typed them up, but unfortunately I later lost the English translations and I also didn’t tape-record them. Still, I think it will be nice to publish them. So here is a first trial version of the whole collection. Continue reading

The evil torchlight

Here is another funny story recorded by Mr. Mafulul Lek in 1992 about the reaction of the Daffo people to modern inventions. Mr. Lek  also mentions a little bit of local history: In the beginning the Ɗares clan is said to have first settled in a hill called Hurum, while the Mapun clan settled at one nearby called Ɗayi. The Mapun managed to frighten away the Ɗares from there, using something similar to a torchlight.

Mwan ti tocilang

Ndee mwan ti tocilang ti lang la, si tokai fo, wa’ mwan ti ɗigir ti. Ngga’ mama mwan ti tocilangi ti ndaa, andai ti ɗes, wa’ mwan ti ɗigir ti ndaa! Ahun wa’ mwan ti naf ma katuli ti njyaau fat ti manggawu mama a lwaak ta fulul.

Wa’ sukwyat tima si masai ti mun yo mwan ti tocilang, yit ti, ndee si masai, Mapun si nggarai ti Ɗares ma Ɗayi taa kil mama ndee si tong mamun ti a Ɗafo. Wa’ a Ɗafo, Ɗayi – masut ma Ɗares, sin mi, ndee si tong mamun a kil mama si laal yo Hurumi. Masut ma Mapun sin si mun a kil mama a ti’ Ɗayi. Nai Mapuni si shitai, Hurum, kil mama Ɗaresi mi ti, a wuis mahyau, si nii: “Ca masai tite, ca nggarai Ɗaresi la ta ti a kil sai, can ca tik ti?”

Nai si hulai mwan a lung. Si kwaan a wan ti ta fulul, si gwaafis hai bilyu-bilyu, si ndyaak la, fat mwan ti tocilang. Nai Ɗaresi si nii, mwan ti ɗigir ti. Shisher ti kai sis. Si yu, si lakis nyaas Mapun ɗamani. Mapun si niyis ye, ɓa si shen kikyali, sin si tik la a mmis, si shitai ɗaman mama si laki. Nai Ɗares si lifit taa Hurum, si tik a Ɗayi, Mapun si tik ti a Hurum.

Taa nani, si nya, si shunjo, Mapun si niyis nyaas Ɗaresi: “Hu tiket a mashit mwan tindai ha?” Si niyis, wawa’, si tik a shitai ɗaman ɗiin andai kwa. Si niyis: “Ye, findel a wal. Ninii ɗes, ni shitis ɗama ɗiin andai kwa. Nan kil mai kek, ndiya a mat hun kwa. Mma hu wal a kon cala na a nani, hu munu na, nin ni mun ti a tei.”

Ngga’ mama Mapun ndee si masai ti mwan, fat tocilang nai, si ku si pak ti Ɗares taa Hurumi, sin si tik ti. A fa hani ti, ndee mwan ti tocilang ti kiris shisher, yit ka’ a malang la.

Mayes a kwai hani, ɓiil naf si fwaak, si gofis mwan ti tocilang hai, ahun a dyar kwa. Mma sin a hatat ta fulul, si shitai, ti nda taa kima, si kiret fo ti tutok. Ɗes, a fa ngga’ mama naf si shisherai mwan ti tocilangi fo, yit ti, ti mun mwan ti shir ti mgbang, tima si haat a sherat ti ta fulul.

A fa andai ɗes a shinggil tuni, mma naaf a ndaa mwan ti tocilang hai ta fulul, ta findel kwa, ha a findelis, ta kwis ka matayi, si daash, si nii, masher mai. Gip si daash, si hek la gbum, yet mwan ti tocilang!

The torch-light

When the torch-light first appeared, people ran away from it, thinking it was ‘evil light’. According to traditional beliefs, witches or evil-doers carry a fire at night, which is switched on and off in the same way as the torch-light. A type of glow-worm called ‘Manggau’ in the Ron language is also associated with this type of light.

There is a story which tells how the Mapun group of the Ron tribe used this belief of evil light to displace the Ɗares group from their original settlement at Daffo. The Ɗares are said to have first settled in a hill called Hurum, while the Mapun settled at one nearby called Ɗayi. The Mapun liked the Hurum hill better, therefore they planned to dislodge the Ɗares from there.

At night, they put fire in a pot and went close to Hurum hill. There, they took it out from the pot and put it back repeatedly, thus producing a flashing light. They did this several times. The Ɗares thought that it was ‘evil light’ and started being afraid. They told their Mapun neighbours about it. The Mapun suggested that they should change their living places for some time, so that they could see what was happening. So the Ɗares group moved to Ɗayi, while the Mapun group moved to Hurum.

When another night had passed, the Mapun asked the Ɗares whether they had seen the light again. They replied that they had not. The Mapun told them that they had not seen any light, either. They proposed that both groups should simply stay where they were.

This is how the Mapun used a torch-like light to displace the Ɗares from Hurum hill. People were afraid, when the torch light first appeared. Even today, some people hate being flashed at with a torch-light. If they walk at night and see it from a distance, they will flee from it.

Thieves sometimes use torch-lights to frighten people at night. Whenever a person flashes a torch-light at someone at night and does not speak up, he may be taken as a thief and attacked or even lynched.