Iraqw Slufay

Thanksgiving Traditions of Slufay

Slufay means ‘to praise’. The slufay is ideally performed in the early morning at sunrise at the end of the party celebrating the first beer of the new harvest of millet. The times of the harvest differ in the different regions, and can be from the end of August to the beginning of November. The ceremony is called i'yanto.

In actual fact, the slufay is performed at many occasions. The performer is usually somebody who is good at it, but any male person is allowed to do one. The slufay is performed inside the house. Men and women sit around the beer. The performer stands near to the open door. This place is also referred to as geetla/angw, like the beer of that ceremony. Light must fall on him. The association of sunlight is with God, looa, which is the word for ‘sun, day’ and ‘God.’ The performer has grass, or barsi, in his hand and dips this barsi into the beer. Barsi is a symbol for peace and blessing. It is put under the roof above the door (as you can see at the end of the video). This can also be done if one enters the house of a friend with the aim of a serious request. In short, the barsi is symbolic for praying for blessing.

The slufay has a double bipartite structure. It consist of an introduction in normal speech, and a recited part. This double structure is repeated for a shorter second time. In the introduction called fiiro from fiiriim, ‘to ask, wish and pray,’ the performer speaks in a strong voice. When making strong wishes and curses, i.e. “strong words” which are attributed with power, he raises his voice and shouts. The audience joins in by chanting ‘let it cool’ and point to the ground or raise and wave their hands. These are the oaths or curses. In the fiiro the performer discusses the state of the people and the land. Furthermore, he wishes that the people will recover from their illnesses, that people have good health, etc. While the fiiro is adjusted to the specific circumstances of place and time, the main text of the slufay is conceived of as fixed. And indeed many lines are verbatim identical in the various versions that were collected. There is, however, considerable variation between different performances of the slufay.

beer photo
  • Watch a full slufay performance here