Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Uncles, Aunties, Brothers and Sisters
The notion of family is quite different here. Family members are those who are in your same ethnic group or, to use the politically incorrect term, tribe. If someone tells me that his sister has just died, he might be speaking of a biological sibling, or it may be what we would call a third cousin. All of these relationships are hugely important, and less importance is put on the nuclear family. Uncles take on a special role, acting in many instances (for example, negotiating a marriage) as a father would. Aunts or “aunties” are also important. If a daughter has bad news, she will often go first to her mother or father’s sister (or even some other trusted adult) with it, so that the aunt can deal with it as she sees appropriate. Thus years ago, Coneilia came to me with the tragic news that her sister’s (Patricia) fiancĂ© had died unexpectedly. When I asked her how Patricia was doing, I was informed that she didn’t know yet, and it was my task to inform her.

1 comment:

  1. Nan, I remember when I first visited you in Yaounde and you introduced me to some neighbors as your sister, and they asked "Meme pere, meme mere?" (same father, same mother?), and when you said yes, they seemed pleased--or at least interested in the information. --Carol