Thursday 31st July, 2008

 

Wake and Bongo in Tobago

 
 
 
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This younger dancer goes through her daring Bongo dance between to knocking pieces of bamboo.
Photo: Angelo Marcelle

By Angelo Marcelle

Steeped in a syncretism of African and Methodist religion, the Wake and Bongo has been around for along time in Tobago.

Dry biscuit was the normal fare at this ritual, perhaps because it was usually the people of the poorer class who held the wakes, and dry biscuits were sufficiently affordable to cater for the large crowds that would gather every night.

Two Tobago villages are renowned for their Wake and Bongo rituals—Whim and Charlotteville. At this year’s Tobago Heritage Festival, re-enactments were held on July 21 in Whim, with Charlotteville hosting its event on July 28.

When a person dies, the coffin is actually built in the yard of the deceased by family and friends.

After the burial, family members and friends host a Bongo, which consists mainly of songs, dance and song games.

What is most apparent in the ritual however ,is its explicit sexual content. In fact, this is welcomed, with maximum fervour encouraged.

Games like Brown Girl in the Ring and Diamond in the Ring, with routines of hugging, kissing and choosing of partners, add to the sexual appeal of the ritual.

Children were not allowed to partake in this ritual because of its sexual nature.

This year’s presentation—His Luck Run Out—was staged on July 21 at the Whim Hard Court. The play follows the life of a married Tobagonian man who is unfaithful to his wife with a Trinidadian woman.

Eventually he leaves and goes to live with the outside woman only to realise that she is averse to cooking, cleaning, washing or practically doing anything for him.

The old saying “the grass does always seem greener on the other side” quickly comes to the man’s mind.

He returns home to reconcile with his wife in Tobago, but as he is about to make love to her, he suffers a fatal heart attack. Thus the play’s theme, ‘his luck ran out’.

Continues on Page C7

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