Sunday, November 27, 2011


The above was the prompt in our class a few weeks ago. My piece went like this:

At the end of the street was a narrow alleyway. We were not allowed there as children. Most adults didn't go there and none wanted to be seen in the vicinities. Some did venture behind the formerly white cement wall now rendered ochre by the flying dust from the unpaved road nearby.

They were men. Oftentimes, they went there at night but sometimes they did in bright daylight. They all acted the same way. They'd appear to wander past the compound, with no mind to the dusty walls and what bellies behind it. But you could always tell by the way they casted furtive glances to their surroundings. Then they'd suddenly turn into the gateless courtyard through a small entrance.

I knew it. I saw them. Like most children I watched the comings and goings of those men and I giggled. My mom hated them. She said that they needed to learn to control their pants. I wasn't sure what she meant but I think I knew. The mini skirts behind the mysterious dusty wall were telling.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Male Ear Piercing in Africa

A woman without ear piercing doesn't exist in my culture. Perhaps I need to be less categorical. Members of my ethnic group, the Soninke, have spread to far reaching corners of the world. I have cousins in Szechuan China, Sydney Australia and God knows where. I heard of a relative in Norway. I wonder how he survives; our roots are in the sweltering Sahel Desert and it's hard enough for me to survive the "play-winter" in North Carolina.

Back to our subject, ear piercing is a must for women in my culture. By their seventh day of life, every little girl takes a trip to the mean lady who runs needles through their fleshy lobes  and the ones of rare little boys too.

So yes, I lied to fend off repeated request from one of my sons. I told him piercings are forbidden for boys in our culture. He knows the truth now and understands it. Boys' piercings have special meanings and are generally a single hole to one ear. They do not wear a ring in it.

The only pierced man in my family was my father's oldest brother. Sometime during early childhood, he was said to have been struck by a deadly disease. His ear was pierced as a ritual to cast maleficent spirits away. He lived well into his eighties sporting a pierced right lobe envied by the males in our family's younger generations.

Male piercing for most ethnic groups in West Africa is a sort of talisman performed only in critical situations to avert evil and sometimes to attract good fortune. It's never for looks!!!