Ephraim: Preserving tradition, living with the new

BRIN, SENEGAL
We start our day a brainstorming session about what would be good for me to learn about, experience and share while I am here. Customs, changing traditions and day to day life.

I want to learn to fish, to climb that palm tree, cook meals ... and then share everyday life and traditions preserved and changing with people. What is life like here? What is important?

My work will hopefully complement the language studies that Abbie Hantgan, phD, and the team are doing, specifically on Joola, in the Bondial community.

They are small languages spoken here, with dialects as distinct as regions but people blurring the languages and speaking several even in the same sentence. My images should paint a picture of what it’s like to live here.

I start to transcribe my first interview with Abbie from yesterday, as we hide out from the most intense afternoon heat. It actually heats up after 3 p.m. and hits 37 Celsius -- something like 99 degrees.

At 5, Dodo (white shirt), Eme (blue shirt!) and Lina come to take us on a walk through part of Brin, the village. They are part of a five-person team of residents who translate Wolof, Joola and other languages spoken into French for analyzation. They are super friendly and make me feel right at home as we try to talk without any of us really speaking the other’s language. They are such that it not awkward at all to try. Eme is wearing a Santa hat from Secret Santa, Dodo has swagger and Lina speaks about everything with the gusto usually reserved for favorite meals. I like them.

First, we go to Ephraim’s house. It is a juxtaposition of new and old. It is made mostly out of hand-formed mud brick, with cement reinforcement. Hes’s got wooden beams on the ceiling, with a metal roof above it. Electricity. TV. Out back, a separate cooking area with fire as the stove, and traditional pottery vessels beside plastic containers. I love the photo I take of Dodo and Ephraim: It is a perfect mix of modern and traditional, with Dodo with his headphones and Efram with his homemade flute.

He brings out and plays a very old and sacred drum made out of a tree, covered in animal leather, used for initiation – when the boys are circumcised and become men. He also plays a flute made out of a bamboo stalk.

I vow to come back and interview him because in addition to living old and new, he’s dedicated to preserving the old ways and items.

The team, outside of Ephraim's house, which was cool in every way, includng the sunset lighting. Dodo, Eme, Abbie and Lina.