Ya-Batari

Written by Talitha Kove

The night is dark and the moon will only come after midnight,

No noise could be heard, the whole place quiet as death,

When the last embers turn to charcoal and dogs tails curled in sleep,

They come; they come, to take what is theirs.

 

Around the freshly dug mound they gather,

Their presence felt only by the rustling leaves,

One by one they fall in line

To stand side by side in two single files,

 

Their steps make no sound

Only swishing grass skirts caressed by the gentle breeze,

With tataung in their hands and Ya Gambari on their faces,

They wait; they wait, for that appointed moment

 

As the first ray of silver touches the coconut tree,

A gentle whisper runs down the column,

Anticipation hangs in the air like a pregnant maiden,

Not yet, not yet, let it rise to its peak,

 

Huge shadows resembling tentacles,

Gradually recede from the moonlights onslaught,

Leaving behind a sight that beheld the eye,

Oro! Oro! Dariga mane da Apipie!

 

In the center of the village there assembled

Row upon row of traditionally attired beings,

Winding like the Mighty Mamba River as far as the eye could see,

We are ready, we are ready!

 

Magnificent headdresses adorn their heads,

With colorful tapa-Cloths draped over shoulders,

Shimmering deceptively as the deadly Gira River,

It is time; it is time, fingers eagerly rubbing the lizard skin,

 

They have come to claim one of their own,

A dancer in his own right, a Ya-Batari no less,

At the very edge of the vision the silhouette of a Ya-Gara can be seen,

Shake! Shake! The earth trembles,

 

A conch shell bellows and in one voice they shout,

“Pure Mai, Erio , erio, Erido  Gumbuio”

They called him forth from whence they had laid him to rest,

“Erio, erido Ya jive, erio, erido Ya Batate”

 

He rose up to their cries of welcome,

“Oro, Oro, Binandere Mai, Oro,

“oro, oro  Bau Janda, Oro”

Then as one,Giri, Giri,giri, went the drum beat,

Giri, giri, giri,Two by two they dropped down on their hunches,

Giri, giri, giri, Arms akimbo, they swung from side to side, knees bent,

The dancers resembled a huge earth worm wriggling to life,

Giri, Giri,giri, went the drum beat,

 

At the head he watched and waited till the giri stopped,

A smile lit up his face as a tatung appeared in his hand,

Ya Bate!!!! They cried, Ya Batate!!!

Up went his hands and out pealed the signal,

 

Sataing(pause) sataing (pause) satatatatataingtataing….

And so begun the revered Ario Dance,

He leading them in the steps of the ancestors,

In the steps of the age old spirit dance,

 

On they danced and entered into the spirit world,

There sure will be a huge feast waiting for them afterwards,

When the sun comes up and they are all

But dead to the world of the living

 

The End inked. 4.09pm 12.04.17

Dedicated to my cousin brother Late Michael Worei, a dance leader.

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