Nzulezo — A village built on water and superstition (Saturday, January 4, 2014) Pg 15


 

Superstition abounds in Nzulezo that people with evil intention cannot cross the Amanzuri lake.
Superstition abounds in Nzulezo that people with evil intention cannot cross the Amanzuri lake.

“Nobody with an evil intention can cross this lake and come here to harm us.  We are protected against evil plans,” Francis Erzoah says before launching into another rendition of melodious whistles while his fingers are wrapped around a sharp knife chipping away what is gradually transforming into a miniature canoe from a piece of wood.
Occasionally, he wipes beads of sweat from his brow with the back of his palm and continues sculpting what would put bread and butter on the table for him and his family. 
 
Like many inhabitants of Nzulezo, the stilt village in the heart of the Amanzuri wetlands in the Jomoro District in the Western Region, Francis believes that the location of their home is divine.

The superstition is so deep that the people believe if anyone with evil intention attempts to cross the vast lake to attack, steal or cause any mischief in Nzulezo, the person will not survive.

Asked whether that would not amount to leaving people involved in genuine accidents on the lake to die, Francis shook his head and insists that “such people will not go far.”

History

While it differs a bit with each telling, the basics of Nzulezo’s history are the same. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the ancestors of Nzulezo fled tribal wars in what is now Mali, following a god that took the form of a giant snail.

“Anytime our god moved, it meant the enemy was coming after us, so we had to move,” Francis explains.

Eventually, they came to this place, where, they built a house for their god, which was just a stone’s throw away from the villages for whom they still perform sacrifices and observe sacred days.

While some people have left for dry lands, the villagers claim if too many of them go away, disaster will strike, so they have to stay.

The belief is that an epidemic will break out among the people should everybody leave the stilt community.

April 18 (every year) is an important day in the stilt village. Sacrifices are made for the snail god to express appreciation for its protection.

On that day, relatives from far and near come home for the festivities, which include drumming and dancing.

This also means that for the many inhabitants of Nzulezo, eating snail is a taboo.

The reverence for the snail god tucked away in the mangrove notwithstanding, Christianity has a big place in Nzulezo.

Christmas
There are three churches at Nzulezo – Christ the King Catholic Church, Methodist Church and Church of Pentecost.

Among the three, the Methodist Church has the most glamorous building in the community, with plastic panelling.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has a building that seems to have seen better days—it appeared tilted as if it would cave in at in moment.

The Church of Pentecost, however, remains only in name. It was carried away by the a flood that hit the community last year.

Between the two churches - the Christ the King Catholic Church and the Methodist Church, the latter was prepared for a Christmas service but the congregation was nowhere to be found.

Although Christmas activities revolve around church activities, at Nzulezo the congregation did not show up on Christmas day.

Kwame Mensah, a resident, summed up the reason: “Christmas is for Christians. Here, most of us are traditionalists and traditionalists celebrate the New Year.”

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