The sheep has knocked me

31st October


There is a saying in Wolof

‘xar mi mboka na la ci tobaski bi’, which translates as ‘the sheep has knocked me in the stomach’, but which effectively means ‘I have eaten so much rotten meat this Tobaski that I have diarrhea.’

Tobaski is the Wolof name for Eid al-Adh which is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honour the willingness of the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his young first-born son Ishmael as an act of submission to God’s command and his son’s acceptance to being sacrificed, before God intervened to provide Abraham with a Lamb to sacrifice instead.

The main event of the celebrations in a Wolof village is the slaughtering of the sheep and rams. I found it slightly daft. Nobody at any other time eats meat in village, then Tobaski comes along and everybody goes and slaughters as many goats, rams, and sheep as they can lay their hands. All at once. And then some weird German Turks donate a cow to the village and demand photographic evidence that the cow has been slaughtered.

You go from having no meat in your diet to an excess. In a hot humid country, in a village with no electricity or refrigeration, this excess leads to stinking rotten meat. My compound ate the meat killed on Tobaski for four days – I tried my best to eat around the eat in the food bowl but its taste suffused and lingered in all the food.

The sheep certainly knocked us this Tobaski. Most of the kids in the compound now have the shits, something which can be life threatening problem here. I tried to explain to my host father, the head of the compound, that if you killed one goat on Tobaski and then ate it, and then the next day killed another goat and ate it, and then killed another the next day and ate it, the meat would be fresh and your children would not be sick.

“No we always kill the goats on Tobaski” he replied, smiling at the sad irrationality of the traditional situation.


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