Yep, that is what we did this past Wednesday. We attended Mwaka Kogwa for the first time and I believe last time. It was that nuts! We drove out early after packing some snacks for lunch and arrived after many a police stop in a Southern village known for celebrating and keeping the rituals of welcoming in the new year alive. People flock; local and tourist to see the craziness. We all walked to this huge open field and slowly groups of men wearing protective clothing, masks, even a dress now and again started running in circles chanting and swinging banana stems many of which had been woven together. After about an hour (during which our girls ate some lunch and enjoyed local ice cream) the groups started to run toward each other taunting and then finally fighting. It was insane. Full out combat with these woven rope weapons. Yikes! It is said that the people get all their aggression out during this one day and then forgive each other. Because they do this there is said to be more peace and less strife and sickness in the village for the coming year. It looked like a free for all beat down if you ask this Mzungu. But it was interesting for sure!

Jason said “it is kinda like the running of the bulls only the bulls are people.” Hmmm, kind of. It was that chaotic for sure. They say there are “rules” but as an observer it looked more like chaos and mob violence with an audience to me. Just saying. Two fighters even got carried away and ran into us and the 30 people we were standing near and in my slow attempt to move I got whacked in the head with the banana stem and it hurt! After another hour of the beat down women started running around in groups singing and taunting the men and signaling the fighting would be coming to an end soon. We had met up with Jason’s good friend there who translated and explained for us as it was so difficult to understand but the songs were a bit raunchy and inappropriate in nature and then men would respond with equally icky songs. It was sorta surreal to us who know this place as a culture of separation between the genders and very strict social rules about the roles of men and women. Others here are quick to point out this festival does NOT represent the norms here but this village has held onto these old traditions despite the dominant religion. Still, it was an interesting view into the culture here. During this time the elders construct a small banda in the middle of the field. Then one man goes inside and they light the thing on fire. Don’t worry the person always escapes quickly but it symbolizes that in the sacrifice of this house the wrath burns and the hope is that this one burnt house means none will be destroyed in the coming year. We stayed just long enough to see the thing torched (from a distance) and then dragged our tired and dirt covered selves back to the car and headed home. It was crazy, it was dirty, it was…well…bizarre but we survived Mwaka Kogwa!!!

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walking in the village before the chaos began
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getting pumped for the beat down
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nothing like a ‘watching the beat down refreshing treat’
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said beat down in process
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tons of people were there
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Anni & Evy get in on the action
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the women singing and taunting the men
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lighting the thing on fire..our cue to head out
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it was a tiring day y’all…..

  1. Anonymous says:

    I saw this celebration on Man Vs. Wild or some show like that! In Chicago we would get the mess out of there!