The Dagara. My Community and Rituals

By Sobonfu Somé

In the heart of West Africa lies a country called Burkina Faso – a Country made of sixty tribes speaking as many languages. It is not a big country but a relatively small one the size of Colorado. I was born in the southwestern part of this country.

My people the Dagara people live in community. Their life blood is ritual. As a child I never thought much about ritual and its implications. I thought everything was a given and every where I went life would be the same as in my little Village. Indeed traveling within Africa gave me that sense of protection, care and security.

However, my innocence went flying out of the window when I was thrown into the heart of the West (Michigan) in the middle of winter. No more community, rituals and safety. Life suddenly became a journey of transformation and self discovery for this Village woman.

A wave of grief and deadened energies took over my life. My daily realities were now painted with loneliness, boredom and dismazement at life. I began to wonder what phenomenon was happening to me for, I never had these feelings. It suddenly hit home that I was being initiated — but by what? Which entities? And without a community? Who would then welcome me back from this brutal initiation that nearly knocked the life force out of me?

As I prayed and tried to fight my way back to freedom, I realized from talking to people that is was a “normal” way of life. Something within me refuses to take that as an acceptable answer and with determination I began my search for community far away from home.

It was only then that I found the missing ingredients in my life: community and rituals — the life giving force of every human being.

While in the Village, I would have never understood why anyone would want to create community or rituals. In fact, I would have laughed at their face if they ask me to teach them about rituals or community for it is a given in the Village.

My experience being away from my community has taught me that the close relationship I experienced with community was essential for the growth of human Spirit and necessary for peace within the community. That at the core of my longing to belong was a desire to connect with something bigger — something sacred — which the psyche of the human being need to keep its life balanced.