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Journals from ACI Baobab Center - Senegal, Africa

2010-12-11 11/18/10 Tabaski

Written 11/18/10

Dewenetti! Happy Tabaski!

It seems like ever since we arrived we’ve been observing preparations for the Muslim holiday, Tabaski, this year celebrated on November 17th. Also known as Eid al-Adah, or the “festival of sacrifices,” and by several names including Tabaski in West Africa, the holiday commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. At the last minute he sacrifices a ram instead. In Senegal, traditions for Tabaski include sacrificing a sheep for each able man in the family, preparing the meat to eat and distribute to neighbors, and dressing up in elegantly embroidered outfits to visit everyone you know. Also, just like Halloween, children walk around the streets asking for their “gift”, usually in the form of small coins to buy themselves a treat. To say the least, we were all excited to experience our first Tabaski, yet also anxious about how we would react to seeing an animal sacrificed.

The arguably most sacred part of the day occurs in the morning when the men of the family come together to sacrifice the sheep. I spent the day with another Linfield student’s family Arielle, since my family is Catholic. Yes, Arielle and I are both meat eaters and know someplace in the American meat industry animals are killed, yet witnessing such an intimate view of death was intense. That morning the family came together briefly, said a barely audible prayer and slit the throat of the sheep. Arielle and I tried to watch the whole process but as expected it was very graphic and disturbing. Next her host brother and neighbor tied the sheep to a tree and began the process of skinning and butchering the carcass. As each step was completed, the “thing” looked less and less like the furry friend it was moments before.

As excited as some Americans can be on Christmas day, our Senegalese friends and family were in similar good spirits during the slaughtering process. Family members came together to divvy up the meat, and neighborhood males visited each other grinning from ear to ear, on an adrenaline high, covered in blood. Yet just as soon as the party began it was over, and then began the long wait between the sacrifice and dressing up in our fancy-pants tailored outfits to visit family. In the meanwhile we at more than enough sheep to last us the rest of our lives— deliciously barbecued as well as in slow-cooked stew.  

Just before dusk, we dressed up in our outfits. Mine was a royal and white boubou generously donated by my mother, which meant I didn’t have to spend a fortune on a tailored outfit like others in the group. We made our rounds in the immediate neighborhood, then headed over to another neighborhood to take a Linfield group picture and also visit our very dear professor, Dr. Cheikh Thiam. Dr. Thiam was the brain behind the Linfield-Senegal program as well as the new Francophone African Studies Major and Minor.  Some of us had the opportunity to take several of the courses he taught at Linfield before leaving for Ohio State.  

The rest of the evening we spent discussing with Thiam and his family, with whom one of the Linfield students, Jaylynn, is living. We ate more sheep, took many pictures, and enjoyed this new holiday.

Jenna Johnson
 Psychology Major, Art & Francophone Studies Minor 

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