The most significant social as well as economic event of the week is the weekly market. The dynamism of a market in full swing is caught in this photograph as well as some of the subtleties of Margi society. In the near foreground we see the back of an adolescent girl wearing a blue dyed gumbara; the slight drape revealing a provocative amount of her behind was quite deliberate. (You might remember that the next time you see a Western youth with a revealing waist line.) The woman in the center and the one bent over on the left are both in mourning, indicated by the cloth wrapped around their waists. The woman left center holding a calabash on her head is of an entirely different ethnic and biological dimension. She is a nomadic Fulani who have close genetic connections to Caucasians.
Our market was on Wednesday and drew people from an area about the size of a mid-western county. The importance of markets may be judged by the fact that the days of the week were named after villages in which a market was held. Wednesday was Suku Gulagu, Gulagu being the old name for the kingdom over which Ptil Yarkur ruled. (The word has been corrupted into Gulak, the name given by the government to the near-by district headquarters.)
Most of the products in the market are brought in from elsewhere by itinerate merchants, but it also features local specialties--ours was know for the specialties of our ingkyagu--and local surpluses when they were available. An index of the growth of population and of affluence may be perceived by the fact that in 1960 one cow was slaughtered for sale at the weekly market, but in 1987 seven cows were slaughtered.
The market is where most interaction with persons from other villages takes place. It is the perfect venue for youths courting, as well as older men looking for additional wives, or wives looking for an alternative.
I cannot resist a final market scene: the old woman sitting back to the camera is Suduyu, famously old and previously shown and discussed. Notice the wonderful expression of the young girl as she bends over to talk to her. This scene captures the Margi's reverence for the aged and their general good spirits.
In the afternoon following the market, there was always a "beer market," a custom now curtailed by conversions to Islam. Women brewed a weak beer from sorghum usually grown on their own farms and which they sold in a kind of outdoor pub. The money they made was their personal wealth. Here, while the women vendors chatted, men sat and drank with neighbors and visitors from nearby villages. In this scene, like that of the regular market, much is happening. On the large boulder in the left rear men sit and drink, along the front edge and in the right background the sellers offer their beer.
After the market, very frequently there was social dancing, which was a major venue for youths to meet one another. Nggeramu, who was previously pictured breaking ground in her father's field, was the belle of Kirngu in 1960. Here she is dancing after a beer market.
Tall and strong, she was known as a good worker as well as an attractive young woman. She led the girls of the village in innovative fashions; mostly plastic ornaments embellished with Roman Catholic religious medals (none was Christian). But on May 14th she eloped with a lover, not the young man to whom she was formally betrothed. It was a "great scandal," except that, in truth, that sort of thing happened much more often than not. It was all a rather enjoyable tempest in a teapot.
Mutusada, one of Gwashi's wives, with her empty beer pot on her head and her sleeping child on her back, heads home in the late evening sun.