Tuesday, August 26, 2014

From birth to a new name

Here in Niger there are very specific events that follow a birth. My last post here talked about the process of birthing here in Niger and some of the unique places and situations that happen.

Exactly one week after the baby is born, there will be the naming ceremony called a bapteme. This is not a baptism like we are familiar with in North America, but more like a naming and presentation ceremony. Until this day, the baby's name is kept a secret from all but the parents and close family members.

Because of my close relationship with the mother and the fact that the father walked away from the marriage, I had the honour to be asked to be part of the naming process for the new baby girl.

I had told Miriama about how in our culture back home you can buy books full of names and their meanings. She asked me to pick some culturally appropriate names with good meanings that she would like for her little girl. Another friends of ours told Miriama that she thought she should name her little girl Sarah, after the story of Sarah in the Bible. When I submitted my list, the local variation of Sarah was also on this short list. Miriama said we both felt this was the right name and she approved, and thus she decided to name her daughter AZAHARA.

The works for the party starts the afternoon before. We went to help out and enjoyed the quiet time of working alongside our friends. We were given a huge platter of garlic flowers to shell. My poor fingers were smelly garlic nubs after that!


The sheep hung out with us for the evening, not realising his fate to be our main course the next day! I didn't take any pictures of his slaughter, but early the next morning a specialized meat butcher came to their courtyard and slaughtered and cut up the animal to go into the large pots immediately after the prayers were finished.


The party chairs were delivered. With weddings and baby ceremonies being strong cultural obligations and big parties here, there is a booming business for those who rent cheap plastic chairs and somewhat questionable tarp tent roofs!


All the early preparation was happening right here in this kitchen. Pots and buckets and fire and platters and food, all tucked into this open air kitchen space. Late into the evening, even when all light was gone and we were using a flashlight we continued to cook. In the dark under the flashlight we had the kids tying up baggies of popcorn to give to women the next morning when they came, after the traditional dates and kola nuts had been handed out to the men. (Check out Arielle enjoying her mortar and pestle role in the background!)


Bagging popcorn by flashlight


During this time we also got to enjoy the first real bath for the baby (before this it was just wipes they had used while the umbilical cord dried up). So fun to see Grandma taking the active role and showing her daughter how to bathe the baby. Loved seeing this bonding moment!


The next day dawned clear and beautiful. Because it was still during the period of Ramadan and most people were fasting, there was very little food present during they day. Only nursing Moms, the elderly, the children and the sick would be eating. So the noon meal was very light with few people. The large crowds were expected at sunset. But even the lack of food did not dampen the festive atmosphere around the large cooking area!

There is a prickly tree in their courtyard that has a large shade footprint and is nice for sitting under. Its thorns also steal my veil off my head quite often. All the community women come and chop up food, stir and gather around huge pots of rice and meat and sauce. They stir and sweat and LAUGH laugh laugh! There is so much conversation in several different languages that it is hard to follow, but I also enjoy sitting and watching this distinct cultural experience.

blog-5As the afternoon wore on and the food smells became tantalizing, more and more people showed up. Those cheap plastic colourful chairs became full of people. The local young men pulled out their guitars and started to play. Thankfully guitar music is highly appreciated by Tuaregs and thus these young men actually had some great music for us to enjoy!

And of course the young children played. I barely saw Bennett all day as he played soccer all day long with the other boys. He was sweaty, dirty and completely happy! Arielle was thrilled to sit with the women and cook and she liked to have her chance to use the heavy wooden stick in the mortar and pestle.




The view of Bennett while sitting in the hut with Mom and baby at one point.



And then finally it was time to eat. As dusk drew near and the sun hovered on the horizon they got the food ready to be eaten right after the evening prayers when they break their fast. I don't have pictures of the meal itself because we ate it in the dark Smile And in true McIver fashion, Bennett was running in the dark after the soccer ball and ran smack into a lady carrying a platter of hot meat and veggie sauce. It ended up all over him.

Cutting up chunks of bread baguettes to be dipped in to the meat and sauce.


The star of the show- baby Azahara. I see her every week and cannot believe how she is growing and chubby and healthy and happy. I am so thankful she has a wonderful Mom and community around her. We had the opportunity to pray over her and invoke Gods protection and calling on her life. May the Lord be gracious to her and an ever present source of comfort and joy to her.




Pamela said...

Oh, how I love to "see" your life in your words and pictures. Thank you for sharing the cultural differences when babies are born, and how life works during these amazing events.

I absolutely love the picture of Arielle and Azahara together. I think there might be a special bond between them! How lovely to, that Ella will grow up with a friend close to her age, just as you and Miriama have become so close. God brings the most wonderful people to us, doesn't He!?

God bless you all! Miss you and sending you all love!


Brenda said...

WOW thank you for sharing the pictures. They are wonderful. But can't help wonder what happens to the family when a father walks away? What happens to the father?

Pamela said...

Chantelle, it's such a joy to be reading all your blog posts again! I so dearly want to come to Niger and see your life in action. Praying that God sees fit to make that happen.

In the meantime, know that I am praying for all your girls in school, for the ladies in your area whom you enjoy such friendship with, and for the men who are working so hard to provide.

Much love to you, Paul and the kids!