The Yard ::mX:: a travel writers >> sacrifice in West Africa

The blood is pouring into a bucket and then gushes in a final surge. I step aside quickly because I think it will gush past the bucket and onto my feet, but it doesn’t. I’m staring at the blood, transfixed in some kind of surreal reality. I’m detached yet present. I become acutely aware of how very quiet it is. 

The ngueweul says to roll up the window as we turn off the main road onto a smaller one that runs along the yard so I do. Everything becomes hectic immediately. Beggars run along side the taxi desperate, hanging on, heads through the ngueweul’s window. We turn right into the yard itself. The beggars do not follow.

The taxi pulls up and we exit the car. I had misunderstood where we were going. It’s not a shop but some kind of shanty town. As we walk, my eyes do not leave the path because I am staring at the hooves and horns of sheep and goats that have been discarded there. Bits of bloody hide mixed with dirt.

I’m afraid to look up, to see what else I might see in this place. Everything is black, the black of old blood. I am conscious of my white-ness now more than ever before. He, the ngueweul even in his blackness, and I are both technicolor in contrast.

A small hill curves up to the left and at the top we stop at a shack. In front of it a young man is holding fresh skins while another is stretching the hides out in the dirt to dry by pounding nails in at the edges. I try not to stare. The skins are still wet.

We greet. The ngueweul and I are invited to sit in the shack to wait for Ousmane.

Flies… flies…. and more flies… more black.  Attaya (tea) is boiling and I notice more dripping skins. Sheep and goats bleating near by, hawks and vultures in the distant sky, circling. Fulani men making deals. Others pass by with potty pots. They must piss in the back behind the shacks. I’m not easily put out of my element but I am here. I’m feeling faint yet obsessed with the black that covers everything, like creosote, hanging on the table, black and grimy.

The sheep bed down and chew cud, goats frolic happily, a few butt heads. It dawns on me that they are not aware of the death around them. I listen for screaming but it is quiet. Very quiet; actually peaceful.

The flies are on me now. They are getting to me. We are waiting a long time.

Finally, a car rolls up and Ousmane steps out pristine in BouBou and Ray Bans. Greetings and a bit of business deal. I take pictures of the ngueweul and Ousmane and then Ousmane goes to pick a tender one. I divert my eyes hoping that in doing so they will forget that I am there. I am not ready to feel this.

photo&words fotoartfar::mX::: ©Lynette Wich

The sheep is on the table and they are holding it. The knife. They have asked me to take photos. I am snapping pictures with the lens cap on. I have completely left my body by now.

Later, we share the meat on the bone at the house and again in the evening, marinated, with the whole family. I am exhausted and drained from the yard.  But it’s OK because I understand something now even though I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is. Something I had often wondered about.  Spirituality and the meaning of  a live sacrifice. The knife with strong cuts cleaves open the sheep’s throat, sacrificing it. It goes quietly ……

It’s intangible, yet there is a whisper in my ear that says LIFE.

I saw it in the rush of blood.




the yard





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