If you see our newsletter, you probably know that we have a firm assignment with the Makaa language group. If you care to know more, I'll provide the details that I know about how this will look.
Right now, the calm is that I'm doing administrative-type things. Today I was working on creating paperwork to obtain a research permit.
The research permit is important for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's a tool that allows us to do arts research. One thing that I respect very much about SIL is that we're pretty thorough in what we do and try to do it to a high standard. In the work of trying to understand local arts so that we can encourage its use in the church, we do our research in classic academic fashion. Lots of folks from SIL publish their findings in linguistics and the arts in academic journals, present papers at conferences and the like. I'm looking forward to that aspect of things, really. In terms of arts research, there's some low-hanging fruit. A lot of the artistic life in this region has not been thoroughly documented, so topics to bring to light are plentiful.
The other reason for the research permit is that it gives us an opportunity to give something valuable to the community. In documenting their music and making it available to be understood and/or heard, it lends dignity to the cultures involved. And that dignity can be a big step toward understanding the value of oneself as "made in the image of God." We don't conceptualize this too well in North America, because we have a relatively homogenous culture and we value equality and pluralism. But in Africa, some cultures really have identity issues that affect the self-perception of entire communities because of their status as a non-dominant culture in an area. It's been demonstrated many times in our organization that when a culture is dignified by our presence and research, they often become open to hearing the gospel.
Anyway, I hope to have the research permit business done really soon. I just need to polish it up a bit.
|A Presbyterian Church building in the village of Bagbeze in the Makaa area...|
|…complete with a church bell.|
The other part of the coming change is taking on language learning and finding a music teacher. I'm going to start learning the Makaa language as soon as I get hooked up with a language helper. A Makaa gentleman in a church I've been attending is trying to find someone for me. I'm a bit intimidated by learning Makaa, because it has some difficult elements. First of all, it is tonal. That shouldn't be too tough because I'm a musician. But it's different, so one never knows how tough it will be. Second, I'm told that the language has about 10 noun classes. And your next question (if you're not one of my linguist buddies) is, "what are noun classes?" Well, take French, for example. Nouns are either feminine or masculine, so there are two noun classes. In German, there is feminine, masculine and neuter - three noun classes. Definite articles (the), possessive adjectives (his, her, their, our, etc.) and other things may change depending on the noun class. So I guess I'll eventually find out what the 10 noun classes in Makaa are based on, because it surely cannot only be gender or lack thereof. I'm anxious to get started and find out!
|Some typical tam-tams (or slit drums).|
As an aside, you might ask, "Why do you need to learn the language?" I'm not going to be translating or anything like that, true. But I've always told people that in SIL we believe that "one doesn't learn a language; one learns a culture." Well, that cuts both ways. If my job is to learn the Makaa culture and music well, there are certain intangibles that one can learn through learning the language.
Finding a music teacher might be a bit more tricky, but in the end probably more fun. I'm going to learn the instrument known as the tam-tam. It's from a class of instruments known as idiophones - which basically means that the instrument itself is vibrating but without strings or a head of any sort. The tam-tam is actually best described as a log drum. Some call it a slit drum because of the opening on the top. This instrument is at the core of a lot of Makaa music. It also has had a communication role throughout African history. Tam-tams were used to communicate messages over long distances (like several kilometers - village to village) by drumming out rhythms that evoked the tonality of the language. I was joking with Lori that apparently Africa has had wireless communication for millenia!
So a little bit of change is coming, but mostly just for me. The rest of the family is happy that we don't have to move and they will get stay in their schools and that their routines won't change much.
As I get some music recorded, I hope to be able to share some interesting things over the next several months. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, enjoy some more pictures of the past few months.
|Meeting with a church leader in Campo, a village in the Iyassa language group.|
|Limbe, Southwest Region. This is a much more beautiful beach than this picture lets on.|