Abisi Bori Embodiment

The spiritual world of Abisi Bori is dynamic, it explores all kinds of stressing social situations.
Bori can evoke the past as well as the present and even the future. How is this done ?
To give an Abisi philosophical perspective on this question we have to think the relations between the human body and human ideas or thoughts not has two independent realms (body and soul or senses and reason) but as one continuous relation inside the same human person.
It is achieved by a process of embodiment which means that the invisible spirits are given a concrete form by providing them with a visible body, that of Bori women.
During /Ilinjei/ ceremony, all the senses of the women’s body are stimulated : hearing sounds and music, listening to songs, smelling scents, sensing, stomping and moving in dances.
All these sensual experiences unite their body and ideas into the same realm.
This is clearly expressed by a dance called ” Amo Insect Woman. “

Insect Women

The “Amo Insect Woman” is about the Amo people who initiated the Abisi to the Bori. It recalls the memory Bori history.
A dancer carries a calabash filled with sesame seeds. Suddenly, she sees that there is a scorpion in the calabash and gets scared but it stings her and flees with the sesame.
The dancer embodies this story and takes a long neck gourd to hit her back to show she was pricked by the insect.
But the dance has a deeper meaning hidden under the one the unsuspecting audience sees. It is also a statement about spirit possession.
Spirits are like the scorpions, they are:
“thieves who climb on the women back to dispossess them of what they are: themselves.”
The initiates know that this dance refers to the presence of spirits that dissociates Bori women’s personality and take their bodies.
Ideas about the invisible world become real, they enter into Abisi society by transforming a person into one of their medium of communication.
That individual is physically and symbolically transformed. Bori dances imitate and represent the spirit’s character by mimicking what is known or reminded of its behavior.

Embodying Memories

Abisi cultural memories are remembered through oral traditions. Older people transmitting their knowledge to the younger generation by tales or past examples.
But Abisi also carry traces of memories of wars and colonial presence that are recalled in Bori dances.

Abisi Historic Bori Memory

Past warrior /ibik/ come alive during the Bori ceremony.
One scene speaks of making war to the Kono, a group located far north with which Abisi have no real contact.
They sing
“I’m going to war with the Kono “
“Kono are crazy people”
The Kono  have a reputation of being hypocrites, deceivers, and assassins who tend ambushes to kill their enemies.
Another scene is a call to arms to fight the Irigwe with whom Abisi had important fights in 1933.
Here, the main dancer mimes a battle. She is armed with a large hunting knife and a trident wrought iron made for the occasion.
Another scene represents a Hausa attack, a raid to capture Abisi slaves.
The musicians sing
“There is smoke in the savanna”
“White Horse and Black Horse”.
The dancer mimes a sentry posted up the Hill watching the incoming invaders asking
“Are we going to wait all day and all night to fight?”.
The colonial period is not forgotten. One choreography represents the period of “Pax Britannica” when a political officer was on tour in Abisiland.
The songs were :
“The frogs’ water is dirty “
“The White Man does Gok Gok”
The women dance under a blanket held in the 4 corners and on which water is poured.
She mimics a Bature (White man in Hausa), who takes a shower and used the dirty water to gargle doing gok gok gok with his throat.
She then walks around the place with stiff knees, imitating British soldiers.
These choreographies and songs really show how Abisi make use of the irony of symbolic inversion.
They turn things upside down as a way to criticise ridicule events with a great sense of humor.
They may recall real historical events and stage powerful figures with supernatural status, but also situations where their own men were dominated by other men.
Dancing to the song about Hausas, “Are we going to wait all day and all night to fight?” becomes a call to Abisi men to stand up and fight .
Bori conversations do not stop at external contradictions: war, colonialism, and conquest.
They also discuss internal contradictions such as the relationship between gender in a show of ritual sexual antagonism.

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