Sunday, August 23, 2009

Palauan First-Born (Ngasech) Ceremony, Part Five

(There is nudity in this post)

Last-minute preparations:

[These girls come out before Emadch]

[Emadch is only allowed to walk on the woven coconut mats, so when she crosses onto the next one the ladies will grab the unused mat and move it to the front]

The band is playing the whole time while the little girls come out and also when Emadch comes. As soon as she is in place a song starts and the most important people - like the husband - do the first dance. The 'dance' is uniquely Palauan and involves a slight shuffle of the feet and waving of the hands (imagine a dance that requires the same skillset and difficulty as walking and you've got it). Also, a dollar bill is waved in one hand.

[Desi's job is to collect the dollars (I know the dollars are collected and kept, but I'm not sure who they are distributed to)]

[This is the position Emadch will hold for 1.5 hours, though she can sit for the second half. But she isn't allowed to wipe her eyes or move her arms. If oil or sweat gets in her eyes the older ladies will hopefully wipe it out]

This presentation is the culmination of nine days of steam baths for Emadch and represents her purification or cleansing. The ceremony will be the single largest community-attended moment of this woman's life until her funeral. Weddings are of lesser import in Palau than the first-born ceremony. There is no male counterpart to the first-born ceremony, which is really cool for those of us who note how societies treat their women.


Tamara said...

I just read all of your posts on the Ngasech and they were amazing. I thought you might like to know that 3 years later someone is still learning and enjoying your photos and information. How is the Mom and firstborn doing btw?

Dave said...

Thank you, Tamara. The Palau posts are actually some of my most visited blog posts - they get hits daily as I think they come up high in Google's search results. But I'm glad you enjoyed them! The mother and daughter are doing well in Australia. They actually have another sister now, too.

brewchef said...

This is an awesome well written blog....nice to see my people getting some attention.

Tanmi Fyers said...

The money is actually kept, its the money that kind of kick starts raising the child.

I lived in Palau for 6 years. :)

Norleen Kumangai said...

The money is kept and given to the childs mother to help her start off...:)