In Fouta [Northern region of Senegal], society is organised in castes: the craftsmen (blacksmiths, woodcutters, weavers and shoemakers), the fishermen, the Torodo (noblemen), the Peulhs (nomadic herdsmen). These castes relate to a social division of the work.
- The marabouts direct the prayings, teach the koran and the religious practice,
- The Maabo, are the potters and the weavers;
- The Laobe (woodcutters) work the wood to make the canoes, the kitchen utensils and several objects;
- The Baylo (blacksmiths and jewellers), work the metals. They make the weapons and other hunting tools to fight the crocodiles (rifles, ‘coupe-coupe’, spears)
- The Cubalo, they are the fishermen, masters of the river from where they get the science and the mysticism. They have they mystic knowledge. They have their common sense… They are gifted. They can damage their enemies with their powers. They fight crocodiles, hippopotamus… and the water mermaids. That means that they can talk with the water mermaids. They do many things. If you say Cubalo, you say water, in all Fouta they equal water. They possess everything that is in the water.
These activities are today seen with nostalgia and in a playful way during the religious ceremonies in the villages. They are about to disappear, and the Festival de l’eau in Fouta wants to preserve them: DAY-DAYRE (crocodile hunt), FIFIRE (canoe parade), PEKANE, …
The FIFIRI is an event where a whole region meets by the river, to a part of the river where they say there are crocodiles. All the Cubalo from the region gather in groups. The night before they gather at the village square. The singers of PEKANE come and chant. [PEKANE is the fishermen traditional chanting]. During the afternoon, in preparation for the crocodile hunt, each fisherman, through different incantations, boasts to be the best. They say “tomorrow, if God allows it, I will do this and this and this”. “Tomorrow it will be me getting the crocodile first”. Group after group they do this. They show their mystical knowledge, which allows them to locate the animal and kill it first than the others. Each one says to be the best, the one who knows better and the more skilful. The crocodile hunt is a competition indeed. It is the battle of knowledge. The first person in taking a crocodile out of the water and killing it triumphs and is flattered by the others.
I have recorded many parts of these events, but unfortunately I am not a filmmaker.
I attend this event since 1997. The Festival de l’eau has gathered us by the water.
We use the water, but how do we use it?