Friday, 5 April 2013


We’re here.  
It’s today.
The day that everything has been leading up to…
It’s finally Sainabou’s wedding day.

The two little ones give Sainabou a big hug after they come out from the shower.


A big hug and then a few tears…

Actually, we all had a hug and probably a few tears, as it will be

Sainabou’s last proper day in the family house and we all know,

and it's going to be sad for all of us.
After tonight she’ll be a guest, and not part of our family, but Djibbi’s...

We got a huge laugh when Lamin, who normally looks like this,

turned up that morning looking like this...

He'd 'borrowed' his Mother's drying dress from the clothes line, so that in disguise he could sneak up on Sainabou and get a hug, too...

And what is more, he succeeded...
But we still named him 'Fatou' for the duration.

All the kids are off this morning to ‘Tapha Kebbeh’s compound where his wife, Fatim, and her team of helpers are going to get them all ready and dressed for the day.
Two handmaidens, three bridesmaids, and, lest we forget, one bride ?
All to be kept out of the way until they are brought back to the compound all dressed up in their wedding outfits in the late afternoon.
Cue Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers singing ‘The Waiting is The Hardest Part…’ which now goes into permanent repeat in my head.

The women are finishing off the washing and the cooking.
Grilled chicken, Benechin, platefuls of this, that, and a lot of the other.
We could probably feed an army which is just as well, as some of these people would seem to have been starving themselves for months ?

The compound is beginning to fill up with people.
Actually, the compound was already filled up with children.

Binta & Maramisha

Where this lot had arrived from, The Lord only knows ?

'Baby' Sarjo second from left.  His next victim, Omar, is on the right...
Mind you, we all had a laugh at 'Baby' Sarjo's teeth.
Poor lad looks like an extra in the next vampire film.

Binta.  Think 'Dennis The Menace' and you won't go far wrong...

It was full of them, all shouting, playing ball, being cheeky and doing what children do all over.

Fatou Bintou & Maimuma

Some of them I recognised from the locality but not all.

N'dey & Fatou Bintou

Still, they’re a happy bunch when they’re not arguing between themselves.

The official photographer and his assistant has now arrived again and so have some of the wedding guests, closely followed by the griots…
I get the job of supplying seating for all the important guests, Imam, councillors, family etc…

Easy, I thought, until I realised I could supply as many as I needed, but it still wasn’t going to keep any other guests off them.
Screw it !
Whatever ?

 The kids are back with Fatim Kebbeh, and they all look absolutely stunning.

Housainatou and Hassanatou in matching outfits that differ very slightly, to reflect their own personalities, look stunning.
Twins, Mum & Awa

Mariama, Jalika, and Ida in three identical cream coloured bridesmaids dresses, all with their hair up and extensions in, match the twins in beauty.

Ida, Fatim Cammara Kebbeh, Jalika, Sainabou & Mariama

And the bride, radiant and beautiful Sainabou.  
Now they are going to wait in the girls bedroom until their big entrance while the griots are going for it in a big way.
It’s their last chance for a big payout here, so everybody they recognise by name is being named and tapped up for money.

I think the best thing is just to plonk myself down ‘stage centre’ as it were ?
I’m now straight in front of where Sainabou is going to be sitting and that will suit me.

The ‘service’ is apparently going to go on for some time so I might as well get some reasonable pictures…
Haddy is wearing the largest headdress that I've ever seen her in, so she is definitely going behind me.

Well, that warning was correct.
It did go on a bit.

The bride, flanked by her twin handmaidens and all covered properly, was surrounded completely by guests.
All went according to plan until one of the twins poked her head out for a look,

realised she’d been spotted and covered herself again.

Then the other one did it.
So I hid my face behind my hands and ‘peeked’ out…

The fact that I was directly in front of them causing some heavily muffled giggles.

Finally the black scarf is placed around Sainabou’s head,

and with his hand upon the top of her head (and Hassanatou’s) The Imam pronounces the blessing on the bride and the union, and hopes that she will be fruitful…
‘Oi, not me, it’s her…’ says Hassanatou, loud enough for the whole compound to hear her from under her covering, because the Imam’s other hand is still placed firmly on her head as well.
Cue the whole compound erupting in laughter…
‘In your time…’ says the Imam, removing his hand, and causing another laughter outbreak.
I have no idea what Hassanatou said at that moment, because she said it under her covering but I can 
guess ?
Roughly translated it’ll be something like ‘Bloody Cheek’ !!!

The official photographer is now getting in everybody’s way, even the griots, which obviously makes him an ally until he plonks himself in the doorway to the compound and won’t move.

It’s all well and good trying to get the best shots but there is a tide of humanity trying to get out and wave the bride and the girls off, and that tide of humanity is a lot bigger than he is.
And so, like a cork from a bottle, he’s moved…
More by force than judgement I would say.

 The girls along with their guardian are now transported by official car to the reception/disco at the community centre where food will be provided for them and their guests.
There’s going to be a lot there, I have no doubt ?

It has been decided.
Haddy is staying in the compound with some of the older guests who might not appreciate the disco, and I’m going to the community centre.
I’m still in my ceremonial African suit, but hey, it’ll wash.

I walked up with Little ‘Tapha

and Bubacarr.

The older guys, Aliou Bah, Kawsu, Lamin and the rest are there already,

setting things up and handing out drinks to the arriving guests and those gatecrashers who have managed to infiltrate in the hopes of a free meal.

When we arrive, Sainabou and the twins and the three little ones are seated at the top table while the griots, who must have run faster than anyone else to get there that quickly, are doing their megaphone and loud-hailer bit again.
Somebody shut them up… Pleeeeeeease.

Amadou and Awa are here too, as are Housai' and Jatou Nyang...

Drinks are being offered and so I take three.
One for me, and one each for the two lads, who, as soon as they are spotted with them, have them taken away by one of the bigger lads serving the drinks.
Not good.
These two are with me.
As the drinks come round again I take two more and give them to the lads.
I’m not sure the ‘official server’ appreciated my action but these two kids are MY guests, plus they are friends of the bridesmaids and their family, and they probably know the bride better than half those people here ?
Cue Tom Petty again.
‘I won’t back down…  No I won't back down...
You can stand me up at the gates of Hell, but I won't back down...'

There might be an ‘adult’s first’ pecking order in the country, but there isn’t one here.
This is a private function and we set our own rules here.
And one of them is ‘Don’t piss off the Father of The Bride’ !
‘Hey, Mr Chris…’

It’s Badou, from the market.

‘Hi mate, have a seat…’
And I gave him mine before taking one that wasn’t in use from two tables away.
If I hadn’t then it would have befallen one of the lads to give up theirs.
Food is being brought round in small take-away boxes, a piece of chicken, fish pie and a piece of cake.
As soon as the boxes are given the boys, they have them taken away.
I’m getting seriously pissed off with this, but the bridesmaids save the day when they arrive, having escaped the ‘official table’ to greet their own friends, a couple of seconds later.

‘Hey Mariama, can you get me two boxes for the lads and one for Badou, please ?
No sooner asked than done.

She and Jalika swoop on the next boxes to come round, one for Badou, and one each for the boys.
I can see one of the guys doing the serving heading in our direction and he’s going straight for ‘Tapha and Bubacarr…
‘They’re with us (indicating the bridesmaids too) Let them eat in peace’
It doesn’t seem to have gone down too well, but that’s his problem.
Suddenly the lights go out.
Power cut.
Yes and no…
The electricity is on a token system and the token has run out, so a collection is started and a runner is sent to the local shop to pay for another token.
Unfortunately the cut off has tripped a switch on the disco gear and this has not started up again, and so the DJ is kept in limbo until he can re-set the tripped switch.
It seems I’m not the only one who is fed up with the griots, who have stood over the top table while loudhailing, until Sainabou went on her official walkabout to greet all the guests personally,

and they decided to go along with her and the cameraman.
That’s it.
No more.
Even the other guests have now had quite enough of their caterwauling.
When one of them tells me that I should be giving her money, I ask why ?
‘I don’t play the game called ‘screw the toubab’ which is why I don’t carry money around with me’
At which point Mariama chokes on her fish pie in a fit of giggles.
If looks could kill then I’d be hanging by my balls somewhere, that is, if they’d left them on me ?
No, not any more.
I’d been counting and it’s the twenty seventh time they’ve hit on me today, and I’d had enough.
Finally the disco gets underway and the dancing begins again.
One of the other guests taps me on the shoulder and tells me that it was a nice thing I had done for the two lads.
‘Nice ?   No, I just looked after my guests.  I think it a shame others did not see it as such’.
I hadn’t realised I’d been being watched.
Oh well, whatever ?
‘No, it was a good thing’ he says, before he introduces his friend to me and asks if I’ll take their pictures
too ?
Of course

Two satisfied punters.

Just then the call goes up that the official car is here again to take Sainabou away to change again for the last time.
It’s going to be the end of an era.

Slowly, saying goodbye to some of the guests on the way, we make our way outside and walk down the road back to the compound.
Me, Little ‘Tapha, Bubacarr, and the three bridesmaids.
Fifty yards from the compound and you can hear the party here is still underway.
When we get inside I realise that it’s not going to end at any time soon because the women have found things to beat and use as drums and are dancing and singing up a storm and the resulting noise is going to be keeping everybody in the vicinity awake…
Not that it really matters because everybody from the vicinity is here, anyway.
Sainabou is finally leaving for the last time.
The older girls are all going with her, including Awa this time, but they’ll be back.

Our two bridesmaids have now changed out of their bridesmaids dresses and are now joining in with the rest…

It’s sheer pandemonium but it’s a happy pandemonium

and it goes on until about 4am

when we finally manage to get Mariama and Jalika into bed.
Hopefully two exhausted little girls and two exhausted parents might be able to get some sleep ?
Cue laughter track…

Hopefully get some sleep ?
Somebody’s having a laugh…
The early call to prayers intrudes and an hour later, round about half past six, any chance of sleep is finished by a bunch of cars, toot-tooting outside the compound.
They’ve got to be kidding ?
They’re not !
Just as she’d promised, Sainabou had been a virgin and the news is out…
Probably within three minutes there are people hammering on the gates trying to get in, and within seconds of having achieved it, the party has started up again.
Accompanied this time by a couple of Gambian Drum Monsters, well… Three actually,

because big sister Awa has managed to get hold of Mariama’s drum,

Mariama now has mine and has tied herself to it with the leg tie, and Jalika has the Tama (Talking Drum) but is more interested in dancing right now...

Along with them, Binki Ami has a couple of sticks and an empty ten litre container

and former bridesmaid Ida has the top of one of the cooking pots and is hitting anything in range with it, and so the Fajikunda Ladies Singers and Drum Orchestra have their second gig, all bashing, all singing, all dancing…
‘Darling… It’s half past eight and I really do think you should ring the school and tell them that Mariama and Jalika are in no fit state to go to school today…  That is, after you’ve walked about half a mile to make the call, otherwise somebody is going to hear them and you will never be heard otherwise…’
Blimey !   Now the men are arriving…
Buba’ Sainey, and a couple of the councillors and mosque elders.
They have heard about Sainabou and all have smiles on their faces.
It means the marriage contract was ‘just’.
The fact that she was pure and untouched means a lot here.
Certainly a lot more than it does in the West.
The party is starting to happen all over again, and so they install themselves in the lounge where it’s slightly quieter by about one quarter of a decibel.
Outside it’s just total mayhem.
Drumming, dancing, singing…
Finally, bearing in mind most people there had only had about two and a half hours sleep at the most, it winds down at about 11am and Jalika and Mariama are finally ushered inside for some sleep.
Exhausted, if they are anything like me ?
That’s it, everybody is out.
Lock the gates and sleep.
Oh well, we got a couple of hours…

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