By lunchtime today I had visited a house where mourners gathered around a dead body, seen a man beat his wife in front of dozens of onlookers, and heard a man’s account of having shot a thief with an arrow. Even for Menya, that’s a lot for a morning.
It started at Reuben’s house (above) where dozens of people had spent the night around a coffin. Last night we heard them wailing from our house across the river. Reuben’s niece had died of HIV in a costal city and her body had been brought back for mourning and burial. Reuben told me this morning the niece had concealed her disease from the family, but if she hadn’t, they could have healed her with traditional medicine. After spending some time with Reuben, I came back to our side of the river where I found a group of men. As I approached I saw the group included just about every adult male living within a quarter mile of us. One of them, Daniel (who I hadn’t seen since returning last week,) greeted me fondly while holding his machete and bow and arrow. He quickly explained that this morning, while it was still dark, he had shot a man with an arrow. The man had stolen and eaten Daniel’s pig, then refused to pay after being caught. Since modern law had failed to produce results, Daniel resorted to traditional justice. The men, being of one clan, now sat outside Daniel’s house together in case the offender’s clan decided to retaliate. I sat with the men for a couple of hours listening to them talk until the group was interrupted by another man screaming at and beating his wife fifty yards away. The men stopped talking to watch.