A Drummer's Testament
drummers
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Chapter III-12:  How a Child Is Given Birth   <PDF file>

Pregnancy and mid-wifery; bathing a newborn child; naming a child; the suuna ceremony; the child in the mother’s family house; how a child grows in infancy; differences between Muslims and non-Muslims

Paragraph outline and links
Proverbs and sayings
Dagbani words and other search terms

Supplementary material  <top of page>

Image gallery:  Dagbamba children
baby girl with nintua
baby girl with nintugari


Contents outline and links by paragraph  <top of page>

Introduction

1.  childbirth and infancy is a long talk

Pregnancy among typical Dagbamba

2.  length of pregnancy
3.  pregnancy is not something to be openly discussed
4.  for first pregnancies, maalams’ medicines and talismans; informing the in-laws; “putting the calabash” custom
5.  husband’s sister relationship to child; completing the pregnancy

Childbirth

6.  calling the midwife; delivery
7.  childbirth is women’s work; maalams’ medicines to ease delivery
8.  some women do not have difficulty, even give birth without midwife; example
9.  men do not become involved or witness childbirth

The newborn baby

10.  cutting the cord and treating the navel; burying the afterbirth; cooking naanzubee soup
11.  bathing the child with kulkula
12.  new mothers: preparing the new mother’s breast milk while another woman nurses the baby
13.  the first week before the naming, the mother’s family sends foodstuffs for cooking; the naming day

Names and the naming day (suuna)

14.  typical Dagbamba consult soothsayers; newborn child’s name is “stranger”
15.  soothsayers show the grandparent the child “inherits”; takes that name
16.  getting the name from the mother's side is unusual
17.  examples of Dagbamba names for boys and girls
18.  how parents will address the child as the grandparent
19.  the name can also come from what the parent wants
20.  Suuna: the naming ceremony: soothsayer shows the sacrifice; shaving the head; circumcize the boys; prepare food for family and visitors; sometimes drummers beat for dancing

Barbers and their work

21.  how barbers circumcize babies and treat the sore; their payment
22.  how barbers cut scars and marks on people
23.  types of marks; some show the town
24.  types of marks; some show the family or the circumstances of the person
25.  types of marks; if the family's children have been dying
26.  types of marks; "for life" or just because the person wants the mark

The mother goes to her parents' house with the baby

27.  the wife's parents "beg" for the child; carry the baby to their house
28.  the room where the baby sleeps
29.  bathing the child by older woman; shaping the head and features

Restrictions on sex

30.  not forbidden for pregnant women; women vary in their desires
31.  forbidden for pregnant woman to be unfaithful, "adding to the pregnancy"; will call the man's name during childbirth
32.  medicine to protect the unfaithful wife
33.  different from an unfaithful woman who conceives from a man outside the house
34.  if a new wife comes to the house with an outside pregnancy; what husbands do
35.  "crossing over the child's head": having outside sex while at the parents' house can kill the child
36.  no sex while at parents' house, even with husband; no new pregnancy until the child walks; quarrels
37.  white people and Arabs do not restrict sex after childbirth; babies who are not breastfed
38.  if a newborn dies, the wife also goes to parents' house for some months; no sex during that time, otherwise miscarriages and death

How a child grows

39.  teaching the child to sit, to crawl, and to walk
40.  how the child gets teeth
41.  children who cry or become sick; soothsayers show what they want: rings or bangles (nintua, bangari)

How the wife returns to her husband's house

42.  when child walks, husband sends foodstuffs to in-laws; cow forelegs; husband begs; they delay
43.  no actual time or schedule, unless the child walks

How Muslims give birth to and name their children

44.  differences between those who read and those who pray; no talisman or other customs; use midwife; maalam prays into newborn's ear
45.  all children given name, even those who die
46.  no soothsayers for naming; use Holy Qu'ran for day names; those who pray consult maalam for name choices
47.  those who pray can choose grandparent's name from the Holy Qu'ran
48.  also give name to someone who decides to become Muslim
49.  examples of Muslim names for boys and girls; preparing for the suuna
50.  suuna: prayer, naming, shaving, circumcision for boys, food
51.  wife goes to parent's house until child walks; no particular customs like typical Dagbamba
52.  when wife returns, some men wait for wife to menstruate before sleeping with her

Conclusion

53.  other childhood topics to come


Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

What is coming is not something that is going back.

“We have put her calabash”: Ti ba la o ŋmani

As for force, there is no medicine for it.

We beg for our friend that we will take him home so that we will bathe him for some days.

She has added to the pregnancy.

“She has crossed over her child’s head”: O yɛɣla o bia zuɣu:
`
A dog and meat cannot gather at one place.

Tomorrow is also medicine.



Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>


Chiefs and elders
Yidaan' Gunu  (chief of barbers)
Savelugu-Naa Mahami

Names and people
Abdulai (Simaani)
Alhassan (Ibrahim)
Fatawu (Ibrahim)
Kissmal (Ibrahim Hussein)
Osmanu (Ibrahim)
Danaa
Dawuni
Napari
Naparo
Nayi
Neempaɣa
Paɣanaa
Paɣawuni
Saampaɣa
Saandoo
Sibri
Tidoo
Tipaɣa
Wumbee
Wumbero
Abubakari
Amina
Ayishetu
Azima
Fati
Fuseina
Ibrahim
Iddrisu
Lahiri
Mahamadu
Mimunatu

Towns and places
Dagbon (Dagbɔŋ)
Karaga
Larabanga
Savelugu

Cultural groups
Arabs
Ashantis
Dagbamba
Dagbana
Frafra
Gurunsi
Gurunsis
Hausas

Miscellaneous terms
bagyuli  (baɣyuli)
bangari  (baŋgari)
biekoba  (biɛkɔba)
calabash
cedi, cedis
chahinchegu  (chahinchɛɣu)
coalpot
cowives
cowlegs
dawadawa
dura
duumbilga
fula
gbargu
groundnut
gurundoo
Holy Qur'an
housepeople
jengberi  (jɛngbɛri)
kalanchahili
kanaafiri
kpaankobga  (kpaankɔbga)
kpakahil
kpalgu
kpihiginintam
kulkula
maalam, maalams
Muslim, Muslims
musuulo
naa
naanzubee
naming
nintua
nintugari
nmam-ma bihili  (ŋmam-ma bihili)
O yegla o bia zugu  (O yɛɣla o bia zuɣu)
pagpuulana  (paɣpuulana: pregnant woman)
pesewa, pesewas
pirba
sabli
salinvogu  (salinvɔɣu)
shea
suuna
tapalli
Ti ba la o nmani  (Ti ba la o ŋmani)
tolana
walga
yokolgu (uncircumcized)
yoli
zana
zoli