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Saturday, July 2, 2022

A partial catalog of the magics of the people of Gambia

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By Amran Gaye

The magics of possession.
Saf-loxo: The magic of the cooking pot. Chuyi kongs that enchant the soul, domodas that capture it, past escape, past surrender. The oldest magic, through the gut and into the heart, clenching it, squeezing it tenderly. Owning it.


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Nex-Lameñ: The sweetness of the tongue, that loves the ears, that caresses them softly and fills them with words, wishes they did not know they had, dreams that fill them with a sad longing, a throbbing that sends into the heart, of the body that they are on, an ache, an absence that yearns to be filled.


Oof-Njobort: Around a hen its chicks, and how jealously it guards them, this mother hen. A Matriarch, who stands in the centre of a circle, her arms outspread, and who dares step within the circle to disturb her brood, and how she cares for them, with every ounce of her being. And all that are in the circle’s boundaries are of her and belong to her and yet are free, and they love her with a blinding selflessness, an attachment by which they will always return.

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Baax-ndiga: The discreet magic, that is not discussed, out in the open. The magic of sighs, and darkness, and a soft tenderness the afternoon sun evaporates as mercilessly as it does dew. The magic of beads, the magic of sayrs. The magic that is timeless, and yet gets depleted by time, as if aging, a fire gradually dying, as the skin wrinkles and the stresses of life build up and menopause approaches.


The magics of discord

Ñaaw-njorrtah: To pretend to expect the best, while secretly assuming the worst. A magic that poisons the thoughts, encumbers the mind. That places a haze over the eyes, so every face they behold is a light mask over a hideous ghoul, concealing it and its dark plottings. A magic that is the cousin of paranoia, and the best friend of a self-shame, a lack of faith in oneself.


Raambaach: The magic that creates a lie that bloats the stomach, a ghastly, seedless pregnancy, its malodorous stench rising in the throat, forcing the teeth apart, and through them the lolling, bloated tongue that stretches out and spreads the lie, that infects the stomachs of others with its filth. A choleric disease, the germ growing more dangerous with each new host. The magic of fen, the magic of yaaha-derr. A magic as old as Jealousy itself, and perhaps the same thing as it.


Jowe: The magic that everyone warns against, but many cannot resist. A subtle magic, a magic that invites, and assures, and makes comfortable. That loosens the voice, from the hold of the conscientious brain, that gives it a new freedom which sets it wild and free, running with other tongues down avenues of their own creation. The magic that fills a person’s absence, with a contortion of their life, that comes close to reality, and deviates at the last minute, on a tangent of the tongue owners’ construction.


Serinñ-tu: The magic that roves in search of old men who possess means, and ways, to oil prayers with worn hands, to prepare them so they easily slide into the presence of the Answerer of Prayers, and so they are pleasing to His eye, so He may indulge us.


The magics that hold the country together

The Kurus, and the Sarah: The magic that takes as its starting place the mosques of the land, the old men who chant the xadara at dusk, the old women in their kaala sitting in plastic chairs at gamos where the night gets cold, and the minti bu nyuul and chereh are running out. The magic that is what holds together the earth itself, suufi Gambia bi, and also the hearts of the people who dwell on it, so they value peace above all else.


The Attaya, and the Jaamba: The magic that unites the youth, that makes them forget their worries and become able to bear the weight of their days, the magic that puts a blaze in their eyes and a spring in their step, despite the height of the sky they cannot reach. The magic that makes them smile, despite the dread in their hearts, of a future bleak and cold, of a lack of respect that will never be gained, a desperation that will not lift.


Jigain-ñi: The magic of the female goddesses of the land, of their hearts filled with love and their beautiful grace, of the young girls and the old, without whom the houses would crumble, nothing would remain of the homes but dust. The magic that originates in them, that feeds, and nurtures, and makes such great sacrifice, and asks for nothing in return, except to be allowed to. The magic that tames men, their wild hearts that will not rest bringing to a gentle beat, removing all agitation from them. A soft magic, a desirable magic.

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