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Moki Monono

Some reflections on the possible symbolism of the motio.

I have seen the motio performed only a few times and each time it left a strong impression on me. I ask myself if any other Bantu tribe has anything which even remotely resembles this peculiar war dance.These are the remnants of our culture which express and show the genius of our ancestors.Its a pity the sympathy of the western world will prevent us from carrying this dance abroad. I wonde if there is a more painless way for a goat to be killed than during the motio.

Each time the goat is killed at the motio there is a collective shudder of horror, particularly from the women folk.The powerful and strong goat which only a few seconds ago was alive lies dead slain in a swift and to some horrifying movement of a very sharp cutlass and some unruly youths in a reenactment of ancient war dances bite the severed head of the goat and dance around in barbaric glee.The shudder of horror which often accompanies the death of the goat is cathartic, and like in Greek tragedy it serves to purge the emotions of fear and of the horror of death.It signifies to me the transience of life, the futility of human existence and endeavor and the impermanence of all things.A goat which was alive a few minutes ago is now dead.This death is not only that of an animal it is the death which is common to all humanity.

When the goat lies dead on the dancing field the first thought which may come to us is: "there but for the grace of God go I !" The experience is humbling and very shocking to people who are unaware of the fact that the goat will be killed in the end!

The eyu or motio or even the sassa have been criticised in this forum for impoverishing a community which is not very rich by a mass slaughter of animals.A francophone sociologist used the word a "hecatombe" to describe this rite. In precolonial Bakweri society when livestock was abundant the bride price of a young maiden was 50 goats.(I ask myself if the reduction of this very expensive bride price today worth 1.5 million frs at 30,000 a goat has not contributed to marital instability among the Kpe, if I may use Ardener's strange appellation for the Bakweris) A man who had two daughters only could then be expected to have left behind more than 100 goats. Hence the saying maintained even today that a man who has many daughters is rich.The slaughter therefor of ten animals at an eyu or motio would not the have impoverished the community at the time.

Even today the sassa need not impoverish anyone as i have seen sassas performed with a single chicken, We should also not forget that the Ewinja songoh alone is a sassa which reportedly is adequate to dispatch he spirit of the dead to the land of the ancestors. Sometimes the saasa is postponed indefinely after the ewinja if the family fofoles!

R.Moki Monono

(originally posted on Fakonet)

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