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Title:Mediating Threads: Clothing and the Texture of Spirit/Medium Relations in 'Bori' (Southern Niger)
Author:Masquelier, AdelineISNI
Book title:Clothing and Difference: Embodied Identities in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa
Editor:Hendrickson, Hildi
City of publisher:Durham, NC
Publisher:Duke University Press
Geographic term:Niger
spirit possession
Cultural Roles
Religion and Witchcraft
Abstract:This essay focuses on clothing as a principal medium of communication between people and the spirits among the Hausaphone Mawri of southern Niger. Devotees of the 'bori' possession cult learn to identify the spirits who incarnate themselves in their mediums during possession ceremonies primarily by observing the deities' respective stereotypical gestures and attitudes. But the spirits' identities also lie in the very fabric of the wrappers, robes and shirts the mediums are dressed in during possession ceremonies. Clothes express the commitment of the living to the spirits and the harmony between them. A spirit's clothes can be used as a channel through which communication with the spirit can be effected in private, domestic contexts. The author notes that clothing aptly expresses the ephemeral nature of the link between living people and the spirits: both the garments and the relationship should be periodically renewed. She also links specific ritual uses of body coverings with the symbolism and use of everyday clothing. While the tying of clothing is metaphorically linked with marriage and reproduction, and with the initiation of relationships, untying speaks of relationships severed and death. The essay is based on research conducted in southern Niger in 1988-1989. Notes, ref.