Cracking peanuts in a big round

Now that many have arrived from near and far, the homestead and all the individual households are filling up with young, old and adult children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and many other relatives of my adoptive mother. Titus gathers the younger ones in the evening. Benches and chairs are put together and again and again the round is extended. In the middle are boxes of soft drinks and two more large bowls of unshelled peanuts. A carpet of sound weaves itself from cracking bowls, giggling and murmuring. A happy gathering that night. Only the teenagers, who grew up in the city and never lived in the village, seem to have to get used to everything, are still shy. Some of them don’t even know Dagara anymore, but only English. They understand Dagara, but cannot speak it. Like Ransford, Titu’s son. Some are only here in the north and in the homestead for the second time ever.

Titus addresses each of the children in turn: “What’s your name? In a low voice, the children answer, at first quite reservedly. Then Titus asks, “And what is your Dagara name?” Sometimes he reaps silence, asks, and it always comes out that really all of them have a Dagara name, which like mine – Nmingmale – has a special meaning. Titus later explains to me that he wants to make sure that the children and young people know the roots of their names, even though they mostly just use their Christian names. Titus’ younger and older brothers all sit in the round and explain the origins of many of the names, especially if their bearers don’t even know them. It remains a happy coming and going for a good hour and a half until dinner time arrives and the round disperses.
I experience Titus relaxed and fun for the first time that evening, despite all the turmoil and effort surrounding the upcoming funeral. I sense a sense of community, of everyone’s joy at being a part of this large family. Especially the older ones like Zumeh and Francis are clearly enjoying having the homestead full. So much offspring. So much life.