Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Spotted Man of Zondo and His Ancient Horn

Before entering Zondo I was told about the Dor-kpa (Bassa for 'lappa' or 'towel').  I wasn't told why the horn was given the peculiar name of 'lappa', but I was told that the Dor-kpa is an ancient elephant tusk horn that was captured by this village in battle more than 200 years ago.  “It was before the Independence of Liberia”, my host Floyd Morgan said.  That happened in 1847.  Heaven knows how old the horn was when it was captured.  “The Dor-kpa is very special to this village," I was told.  Supposedly many Bassa and surrounding peoples are aware of this village and know it as the place that holds the Dor-kpa, the ancient elephant tusk horn won in battle.

Floyd Morgan holding the ancient 'Dor-kpa' an elephant tusk horn.

President Sirleaf Johnson visits Zondo on April 23, 2011
(photo by Floyd Morgan)
The other thing Floyd told me about the Dor-kpa was that it was “beat” (or blown) whenever a major event happened in their community.  For example whenever a chief died or a new one was announced or as had just happened a few months before, when the President of Liberia Ellen Sirleaf Johnson visited Zondo.  In all of Liberia’s history she was the first president to ever visit this rather remote part of Liberia.  

The Next In Line to become the
'Beater of the Lappa'
I was also told that the Dor-kpa was only blown by a certain lineage of specially trained individuals and there was only one man in the community allowed to blow it.  He was currently training his son to follow in his footsteps after him as the 'Beater of the Lappa,' the only one who is allowed to blow the Dor-kpa (i.e., 'Lappa').  The last thing he told me about the horn before I arrived was that they planned on “beating the Lappa” upon our arrival to the village.  I was humbled and deeply honored.

Sure enough when we arrived we were welcomed with over 15 minutes of ancient Bassa songs accompanied by the Dor-kpa.  I have still to get these three songs translated, but the Bassa people with me told me that one of the songs was sung in ancient days for a great warrior or chief when he entered the village.  Another song was sung to us as if we were hunters returning to the village with an elephant.  It was a song of rejoicing as an elephant could feed everyone in the village for months.  The last song had something to do with the community and having each other’s back.  We were getting a royal welcome!  

As you can see from the video above the men’s bodies are painted with white spots.  This is the traditional war paint of the Bassa people and represents leopard spots.  The fact that these are warriors greeting us somehow symbolizes respect to us.  We were greatly honored and blessed to meet the wonderful people of Zondo.

The Spotted Man with The Ancient Horn Himself!

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