Performance of Folkloric Art in the Sudan Example of Zar

Tue, 17 Apr 2018



Dr. Adil Harby

 

 Abstract

Zar is considered a communal ritualistic cult and is one of the popular practices that unearths the psychological characteristics of members of the society and reveals their capability to maintain equilibrium between themselves and the surrounding realities of life which are concealed within the realm of the subconscious mind and that of the spirit. Zar also displays the creative abilities of people as they are expressed in customs and traditions. Zar hosts a myriad of artistic elements of performance that can be summed up in enactment, spontaneous behavioral acts, rhythm and induction individual to put up with and maintain his or her balance against a plethora of psychosocial ailments. Besides, being a traditional practice passing down through the generations, it is also an effective means of abreaction for the person involved.

 

Introduction

Zār and the art of folkloric practice

Zār, concept and belief (dogma)

Clairvoyance in Zār:

Elements of the Zār folkloric performance in the Sudan

Rhythm and Spontaneous Performance

Conclusion

Footnotes

 

Introduction: 

Zar is a folkloric ritual cult and a type of traditional practice that involves the engagement in particular dancing episodes and expressionistic kinetic performances accompanied by loud rhythmic beats and uttering of special phrases that follow a specific drumming pattern and burning of incense. In this mystic atmosphere, differences become indistinct between what is factual and what is imaginary, what is real and what is delusional, what is fact and what is faith, what is possible and what is impossible, what is visual and what is metaphysical. In zar, differences dissolve between celebration and the rituals, the conscious and the subconscious, all becoming a unified social entity engaged in unified art traditions that get along side by side. The fact of the zar being connected to the economic, social and environmental conditions and situations, lent the practice a ceremonious psychological status which brings about pure ecstasy, abreaction and relief.

 

Zār and the art of folkloric practice:

Zar is considered a folkloric activity type of art hosting a number of clairvoyant elements which create an illusion in mind through art with its musical, rhythmic and singing constituents and through the display of elements such as costumes, make-up, masks and accessories, beside other folkloric inspirational elements like perfumes, incense and sacrificial practices. Put together, this myriad of effects helps create an artistic folkloric model of performance.

 

Zār, concept and belief (dogma)

The word zar is Arabic, probably of Amharic origin. Some researchers maintain that it is actually Arabic derived from the expression zāir al shñm which translates 'ill-omen visitor'. This group of pseudo rituals is thought to be instrumental in exorcizing demons which haunt some individuals. Hence, zar, according to its advocates has a therapeutic role. MuÊammad al Mahdi Bushra thinks that Zār first came into existence in the adjoining Red Sea coastal areas of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Somalia, Yemen and Hijāz, and that its inaugural practice in Sudan took place during the Funj dynasty era. According to the researcher Zār gained maximum popularity in the Sudan during the Turkish rule of the country. He believes that this was attributed to the fact that a daughter of a pasha got sick and was cured by Zār. Accordingly; she held the Zār organizers at high esteem and showered money at them causing Zār to spread out to all towns in the country. When Mahdism came to power, the practice was abandoned in response to the Islamic reference background of the regime. With the advent of the condominium rule, zar made a triumphant and more popular come back to the point that there was almost not a single village or town where no Zār sheikhdom was found[1]. Zār developed into a technically and functionally perfected practice with a legacy of inspirational and therapeutic rules and techniques.

Others posit that the word zar is indeed borrowed from Amharic language (the language spoken by Ethiopians) and that it is associated with Zara, the god of heavens in a local religion there called Agād.

 

Clairvoyance in Zār:

Zār, sometimes the term Dastñr is used instead, is a cult restricted                                                                                                                                                          to women. It is considered a folkloric ritual practice that basically depends on incarnation. Individuals attend this rite seeking ther, relaxation and a quest of happiness. It is associated with the world of spirits and disguised powers which zar goers seek to please or rid themselves of their evils.

The practice of zar takes various forms; however in essence the phenomenon has its roots struck very deep in history. Its provenance goes back to the ancient civilizations of mankind. The Greeks, for instance, have known it as part of the rituals practiced on tops of the mountains within the winter noisy festivals held every two years. This hypothesis was verified by AÊmad U’thmān who posits that women are the ones engaged in those violent rituals, and goes on to hold that they would pose clad in deer skin as Bachusians (Bacchusians: taking after Bacchus, God of wine in Greek mythology) placing serpents in their hair and carrying glowing torches in their hands then dart to the tops of the mountains in a state of ecstasy powerfully banging their castanets with violent beats and blowing the pipes enacting hunting of animals, tearing their praise apart and devouring their raw meat[2].

Zar was associated with the black continent Africa as well and that comes at no surprise. This content was known to have the peculiarity of holding a strong belief in the world of spirits and disguised powers and that is why some viewpoints attribute the provenance of zar to Ethiopia.

'Zara' is the name given to a god in polytheistic Ethiopia in whose honor rituals and practices were carried out. When Christianity or Islam arrived, those Ethiopians who believed in either of the two religions discarded the notion that Zara was a god among other gods. Accordingly zar lost its religious and traditional role but that was only in name. The customs and rituals related to it went on as social phenomena[3].

In an educational event about Zār in Africa held at Khartoum between the eleventh and the thirteenth of January 1988, Sāmiya al Hādi al Nagar defined zar as a word derived from Zara, a town situated in North Iran or an Arabic village in eastern Yemen with the name 'Ziara'[4]³      

Notwithstanding the definitions and arguments about the origin of Zār, the researcher believes that the practice has established ties with the Sudanese society and its African cultural origins that took interest in the world of spirits and the metaphysical paving the road for its spread. Due to the influence of the Islamic culture in Sudan, the spirits associated with Zār acquired the name al RÌÊ al AÊmar or the Red Wind and were given the identity of jinni or Satan (demon) which represent the powers that bring sickness and weakness to the individual. Such complaints are mostly, if not always, characteristic of women who are more vulnerable to them. This can be explained by the fact that women's position in the Sudanese society, especially in its early days, was for most of the time, marginal. Women, therefore, became involuntarily, subject to frustration and psychological depression with no men in their everyday life to help alleviate the stress they were under and no room for them to express how they felt and what they couldn't put up with. Hence, Zār became their exit from such a stressful reality.

The study of Zār fascinated a number of orientalists and scholars interested in the study of African and Islamic folklore practices. Writes explorer Kluzinger about the Sufi dance and how it was practiced by men. He describes the practice and explains the way dancers go into a state of trance. He goes on to liken zar to Sufi dance maintaining that women were excluded from the latter practice as a result of their enslavement by men. Zār became an alternative means for women to express their state of mind and is considered by Kluzinger as the female equivalent of Sufi dance[5].

There are several types of zar in Sudan the most noticeable of which are basic forms, namely £umbra Zār which is restricted to men, and Bori Zār which is the subject matter of this research and the main interest of the researcher who followed and studied it. Bori Zār is confined to women and associated with spirits incarnation. It is known to all women throughout the Sudan. It contains rituals which begin with mobilization of women for a day, three days or a week depending on the condition of the patient. If it Convened for one day, Zār is called Yauwmiya (day event), and if it is arranged to take three days, it is called £aîbira. A week long Zār is called kursi.     

 

Elements of the Zār folkloric performance in the Sudan:

First, Incarnation in Zār:

The linguistic meaning of the word incarnation is derived from the phrase 'he incarnates someone else', in other words he imitates and emulates him in his behavior and appearance[6]. Incarnation in psychology is an involuntary act manifested as the adoption of the individual of the characteristics of someone else and unification with him. Incarnation acts as a defensive mechanism whereby the individual dodges his own conflicts by craving to live someone else's life[7]. Anthropologists define it as the ability of the primitive person to imitate and simulate nature describing the process as a built-in instinct which was functional in developing his skills and educating him. In this case, various rituals, customs, festivities and anniversaries are nothing but enacting and imitations of the events that take place in real life as he conceives them. They are actually a projection of his own desires and needs or the interests of the society to which he belongs. The imitation or replay of the maneuvers that occur between man and the animal during the hunting episode was an incarnation of real events as well as being a psychological drill that prepared him to carry out his assigned mission when his colleagues set out for animal hunting.

Now that the ancient world of primitive societies was filled with spirits, gods and the ancestors, the powerful invincible forces and that those souls are connected to the powers which control nature, then the researcher maintains that incarnation has taken various other forms that have transcended the boundaries of nature imitation and associated itself with the world of spirits and ancestors.

Participants in the Zār party arrange themselves in a circle with the 'Sheikha' (spiritual guide) occupying the central position. She plays the role of the mediator who is capable of creating a state of harmony between the patient and the spirit or otherwise performs exorcism to expel the spirit. Getting along with the spirit or exorcizing it can only be achieved through the exercise of rituals and it is the 'sheikha' that initiates and supervises these rituals.

The 'Sheikha' shows up accompanied by the drummers and singers then the fumigators, the incense, the henna and the perfumes are set. The 'sheikha', then, gives her consent for all instruments to start playing and inaugurates the ceremonial rituals, a process that is used to diagnose the patient’s illness which begins with what is known as opening the can just the way doctors analyze the patient's condition and diagnose her disease.

Incense is released and drums start to beat. The Zār string is passed over to the patient, a description of the state of mind and the subsequent incarnation she will go into assisted by the singing and the 'Sheikha's' gestures and other ritual maneuvers. This mystic atmosphere causes the patient to start swaying dance pompously. She assumes a squatting posture, her upper half swinging flauntingly and rippling in a stately manner. This process goes on and on till the patient turns half unconscious and enters into a state of mind similar to the trance achieved by Sufi dancers. At this stage the incarnate person becomes qualified to ask the psychic 'sheikha' for help and expel the spirit out of her body.

The patient keeps moving from one character incarnating another in keeping with the changes in singing and percussion. The 'Sheikha' assists this transition by organizing the costumes and accessories and by the release of incense. She is in full control of the transition. MuÊammad FatÊi posits that this transition is nothing but a transformational process. The patient here appeals to the characters of the spirits and engages in a specific practice and conduct giving the impression that they are prompted by these spirits. The practice thus mentioned escalates till it reaches its crust which is the state of trance[8].  

Incarnation in Zār has the property of enabling the patient to assume multiple personalities in a single session of practice and rituals. The assumed characters are representation of the society, its various classes and careers. We also find that the character subject of incarnation has a realistic imagery of the precise features in both form and substance.¹

Incarnation in Zār takes place as a result of the coincidence between the concept and dogma and the generally accepted belief that the patient is haunted by demons or jenny in addition to the unique atmosphere rich in artistic elements that surrounds the ritual manifested in the display of dancing, gestures, music, costumes and accessories. All these factors confirm the overwhelming conviction that expulsion of demons can only be realized through the Zār 'Sheikha' and the practice of the particular ancestral Zār rituals.

The Zār 'Sheikha' is, therefore, the one and only person directly responsible for the diagnosis of zar conditions by way of a spiritual process called 'Alag', which is a piece of cloth taken from the patient's cloths. The 'Sheikha' takes the 'Alag' and places it under her pillow before she goes to sleep at night. She, then, receives telepathic images from the Zār spirits during her sleep. The images display the persons directly involved in the disease or its causes.

They talk to her and express their demands and insist on fulfilling them. The requirements are mostly arrangement of a Zār party, token of gratitude, or supplying cloths or perfumes. The 'Sheikha' in turn, conveys the demands to the patient's family in accordance with the following steps:

1st. Step:

  • Opening the can: small tin or plastic can containing zar incense which is thought to be associated with the jenny's nature or genesis.

2nd Step:

  • Introducing the spirit that haunts the patient. This is followed by activating the process that is supposed to effect control of the spirit by way of the Zār cult and the 'Sheikha's' method of treating the patient.

3rd. Step:

  • Getting into the state of incarnation and transformation through beating of the drums, chanting of Zār songs and experiencing a ritualistic condition that leads the patient to the anticipated state of incarnation which is characterized by a spiritual semi coma. The patient is then required to butcher a lamb as a sacrifice because letting blood is a necessary component of the Zār ritual procedures. The Sheikh has full responsibility on the whole Zār party particulars.

Thus the Zār patient can only be treated in the concomitant existence of some principle factors which work together to cure the ailment. These factors are: belief or dogma, the psychic or spiritual guide, the artistic elements which include practices and rituals.

  1. Belief or faith:

Man, by virtue of nature, is inclined to embody his beliefs in order to sense their intimacy and satisfy his psychological needs. MuÊammad al Jawhari defines faith as:

“The beliefs people adopt in regard to the physical and metaphysical worlds. It is not a matter of primary concern, though we lend it much attention in our studies and analysis, whether these beliefs have emanated from the depths of people's hearts through revelation, vision or self clairvoyance, or that they were originally beliefs transformed in people's hearts to new different forms under the effect of man's ancient heritage that is laying dormant for generations."[9]

The Sudanese society is rich in believes that are connected to the spirits and their forms and to the supernatural forces and many Sudanese people believe in the existence of a mediator between them and their creator. They also believe that there are powers capable of bringing in good and warding off evil.

Folkloric art practices are associated with believes characterized by deep psychosocial properties that exist in people's hearts and mould their imagination. They arouse in both participants and spectators amusement and excitement that lead to the moment of emergence of social realities in the depths of the collective mind and produce the perfect effect in both participant and spectator.     

In Zār, instrumental is the belief in demonic spirits that haunt the persons and that must be exorcized by way of persuading them to haunt others. The Sheikh invokes clairvoyance in the patient and guides her by way of summoning the spirits[10]

  1. The Mediator:

The mediator is a world of her own where potential powers are crystallized. She is able to transcend the ordinary and let herself into the moment of the subconscious where she rids herself of the thick ordinary human nature and experiences through the state of trance the transparency that enables her to interact with the disguised spirits mingling with whom allows her to explore the amazing secrets hidden to the mind. By means of this acquired transparency, the mediator is able to penetrate to the world of percipience, explores the future and acquires special psychosocial powers[11].

In Zār we encounter the Sheikha (spiritual guide) or the 'kudiya' who plays the role of mediator between the patient and the evil spirits who are meant to be expelled or reconciled with and the good spirits who are meant to be personified. The Sheikha is an influential character when it comes to the spiritual and executive leadership of the ritual. She leads the patient into the impression that she is conducting the act of exorcising the evil spirits and having them replaced by summoning them by way of a musical dancing festival accompanied by sacrifice. asabu Suleiman senior consultant of psychiatry and general manager of mental health in a television interview said: “ Zār is an attempt treats and abreact by letting off the suppressed emotions. The Zār patient's cure is subject to (the nature of) her condition and how prepared she is to get rid of her sickness. Treatment in Zār depends on the Sheikha that investigates and analyzes the patient's condition just as doctors do; treatment being between one person and another.”[12]

This statement emphasizes the role of the Sheikha as a mediator in the (psychological) effect, because the patient's acceptance of the abreaction process and transition from one character to another is realized by the Sheikha's help and her laying down of the favorable atmosphere.

  1. Artistic elements:

The artistic elements included in the practices and rituals (related to zar) create an illusion which is brought about by the mystifying effect produced and which is shared by both the executants and the participant. Combined with the mediator's response and faith (in the ritual), this effect generates a practical inducing outcome. Technical elements include musical components of both rhythm and singing, art components such as costumes, make-up, masks, tattoos and accessories, together with some folkloric elements of induction such as perfumes and incense. All these elements take part and help in the induction process and make what the executants and the participant believe seem real. 

With this spontaneous congruence, the values of various forms of folkloric practices and rituals in the Sudan are achieved; the elements of performance manifested in suggestibility, gestures, rhythm and (psychological) induction remain to be their core and central pillar.

He has also noticed that faith and spontaneity are coexistent with these practices and rituals and that decided consequences ensue which are manifested in the psychological balance that leads to purging or spiritual and psychological therapy

At the end of the day all that was said is not devoid of reason in as much as the artistic and graceful characteristics of the performer of these rituals and practices in their inner and subjective images are concerned. This vision also reveals an artistic and physical dimension whose methodology we are not about to discuss. Neither are we attempting to make of it a theatrical activity in its own accord. Suffice to

say that these rituals and practices are not free in their external and substantive logic from the peculiarity of an artistic dimension. What concerns us first and foremost is to try and make use of this wonderful physical heritage in realizing therapeutic achievements. For instance, we notice that the patient appears to have been possessed by the spirit and that she is mimicking her way of speech. This scene can only be made possible by the patient projecting the character concerned in minute details down to the  voice, gestures and the style it expresses itself to a degree beyond belief. The Sheikh, on the other hand adds flavor to this rich imagination by providing matching costumes, make-up and accessories and converse with her to ascertain her belief in this fanciful situation which she has created to convince others of its reality.

The disappearance of temporal and spatial barriers at the moment of zar produces harmony between reality and imagination, knowledge and faith, the possible and the impossible, the physical and the, metaphysical, material life and spiritual life resulting in a tightly knit fabric.

Unification: The ritual audiovisual moment is finally accomplished in form and essence. The writes and practices have done their spiritual and social tasks as best as could be done. In practices and rites the clairvoyance cannot be separated from the objective, otherwise it will be functionless. They must be amalgamated in a unity that gives life to everything.

This way Zār achieves psychological therapy, comfort and joy as the patient gradually transforms to other characters which she incarnates. Her body parts begin to vibrate and she gets gradually agitated till she reaches the climatic stage and faints. Here the suppressed emotions are released and the patient experiences balance and purging.

Secondly: Spontaneous movements:

Movement is man's way of expressing himself and is considered a language through which he conveys his feelings and emotions and transmits his inner thoughts. It spontaneously reflects all his values, thoughts sadness and joy.

Through time, human motor activity in its general form has been informative of man's attitude, his fears, will, desires and continued to be a vibrant language that enabled him to communicate and establish contacts and to express what he feels and what he believes voluntarily and involuntarily. Man, by nature has the tendency to materialize his beliefs to gain the feeling of their intimacy and satisfy his psychological and social needs. Spontaneous motor performance is looked upon as a driving force that brings out the hidden feelings of the subconscious mind employing the deep connection between man and the disguised spiritual forces to create the balance between him and the realities of his daily life or his projected spiritual image of the same.

Spontaneous motor performance is one of the most adherent manifestations of expression to spontaneity and to man's innateness. It is a direct interpretation of what occupies his heart and mind and the nature of his deeply buried thoughts. It is a revelation of his emotions and reactions to phenomena and events he encounters. Zār has a spontaneous component that is associated with the Zār and the sheikhdom and which acts to consolidate his belief in the Zār and his faith in the spiritual guide 'the Sheikha' with his body through the rhythm, music and the artistic ritual effects.

Spontaneous motor performance is characterized by rotary movements in all directions that reflect the essence of the established spiritual communication between the patient and the spiritual guide 'the Sheikha' and between the patient and the characters that fight for her possession. The researcher also noticed that the movements in the faces and limbs of a great number of performers in the zar ring were violent and convulsive expressing a state of confrontation with someone or some issue or the effort to grab something which is not easy to obtain but the strong will and persevering determination and unwavering endeavor show clearly mixed up with amusement and deep absorption in the atmosphere of noisy rhythmic beats. This entire act is carried out within a fascinating ritual framework.

The researcher noticed that despite the fact that spontaneous motor performance is carried out in a repetitive manner, expression of the spontaneous motor performance is exclusively governed by the faith code.

The performer appears to be in a state of utter submission to the concepts of incarnation, trance and unity. In return, this state o affairs frames patterns of involuntary motor activities which are naturally characterized by spontaneity manifested in the following particulars:

  1. Continuous quick pace change.
  2. Spontaneous momentarily response characterized by violent irregular transitional motor activities.
  3. Distinct facial gestures and nodding activities.

These properties in essence appear consistent and with uniform rhythm in spite of their spontaneity, as if the subconscious mind here has a role in producing the ritual motor act. The Zār patient often comes up with deeds that appear supernormal in both form and concept which explains the intrinsic emotional spirit that controls the path taken by the motor activity and the form it assumes. Indeed, it becomes the performance and essence at the same time.

Third: Rhythm in Zār:

Rhythm is all around us, within ourselves. It exists in everything and everywhere. It is heard in winds when they blow, in rain when it falls, in the footsteps of the living creatures and in the heartbeats. It is inaudible such as in the succession of day and night, the rotation of moon phases, the sunrise and sunset and the motility and death of the body cells. That is the reason the concept of rhythm has excited man's imagination since time eternal and sharpened his faculty of meditation. Theory after theory emerged that embrace the hypothesis that the universe is following a huge rhythmic path and that life in its entirety is but a single beat in this rhythm[13].

Rhythm is considered one of the most prominent elements of the musical language. It regulates the tempo and gives it life and structural form. Rhythm is not a fad invented by musicians. It is a natural phenomenon with multiple manifestations in life displayed in several movements made by creatures and other inanimate forms of life. Wind blowing, water burble, rustling of trees, and roaring of sea waves are all rhythmic sounds which bring to mind how genuine rhythm is in nature. In the living creature, everything is following rhythm from breathing to the beating of the heart, pulsing of the blood vessel and talk regulation by the tongue. Hence rhythm is considered a basic indicator of the presence of life in our bodies. If one day it stops to be, then one is devoid of life.

It is probable that the word Igā’ was derived from Arabic word TawgÌ' which is a type of quick pace walking. A man is described to have Wagga’ if walks rapidly lifting his arms. It is known that man's walking style is one of the most important biological sources to which rhythm is attributed, but more important is the idea of motion in general. We also find that the linguistic meaning of the term 'Rhythm in English is actually derived from the Greek word 'Rhythmus' which in turn is derived from the verb "RhÌn' which means to flow or to stream considering that flowing or streaming are, as walking is, a form of movement. This comes as an irrefutable evidence of the intimate connection between rhythm and movement as testified by the language itself.[14]

 

Rhythm and Spontaneous Performance:

Plato defines rhythm as the regulation of movement. This definition adds a vital element of mental and logical nature which is the organization, thus opening the door to new areas for defining rhythm. We, therefore, Zakariya mention several definitions by philosophers and researchers who acknowledge the importance of rhythm in art and life. An example of these definitions is: 'Rhythm is a sum of temporal moments arranged in a specific order' and ' Rhythm is the discipline that arranges periods of time.'[15]

In as much as it is connected to life, rhythm is also connected to art in its temporal and spatial context and to all forms of expression even those related to social phenomena that include some elements like folkloric practices and rituals. As for temporal forms of art like music, rhythm is considered the most powerfully expressive musical element. In spatial forms of art such as architectural design, rhythm is to be detected in repetitiveness, symmetry and harmonic, homological proration of spaces and blocks. Nevertheless, if we go back in time we will find musical rhythm associated with religious rituals and customs being an inseparable part of the worshipping aspects or the magic rituals and dancing performances. Besides, it is associated with the daily chores and the corporal movements related to various physical activities.

In Sudan it is noticed that the folkloric performance takes place in a temporal spatial framework as it includes movements, dancing, clapping of the hands and feet stomps all of which act as rhythmic tools which regulate the tempo of ritual performances.

Rhythm in Zār takes two dimensions, spatial which are associated with spontaneous movements, their distinctive features and the performer’s ability to achieve harmony, synchrony, homology and repetitiveness of movements, and a temporal dimension which is associated with the musical rhythm of the instruments that determine the specific style of these dance. Zār applies Dalluka rhythm which is performed using Dalluk drum, 'shatam' (small frame drum), rattles and cymbals.   

Fourth: Effect in Zār:

Effect, in folkloric art performance, manifests in the dissolving of the barrier that separates the executants and the believers, also referred to as the participants. Effect is the mainstay of folkloric performance because it is associated with every day events in life and the projection of the executants and participants of the universe, their attitude towards the metaphysical powers and spirits that control the course of their lives, their actions and rituals which constitute part of their reality.

When effect occurs within the bound of place that parts the executants from the participant, the distance between them disappears. Shākir Muîðafa believes that what matters to them is 'the social consideration of these distances'. The disappearance of the spatial barrier during performance of the ritual brings in a state of harmony and congruity to the spatial and tempo bound. Fantasy and reality, cognition and creed intermix. The physical and metaphysical, the material earthly life and the religious spiritual life all become equal and interconnected so that they form a coherent tightly knit structure[16].

Effect becomes whole when clairvoyance takes place and the ritual practice performs its spiritual and social task. The patient gradually transforms into other characters which she personifies. Her body members vibrate and she gets gradually aroused until she reaches the climax and becomes unconscious. Then she releases her suppressed passions. Balance and purging are realized.

In Sudan there are basic factors which combine and contribute to achieve effect in Zār. These are faith, the mediator and the artistic elements that include performances and rituals.

  1. Faith:

Man is by nature inclined to personify his beliefs to feel their intimacy as a need that he fulfils. MuÊammad al Jawhary defines faith as:

“The beliefs people adopt in regard to the physical and metaphysical worlds. However, it is not a matter of primary concern, though we lend it much attention in our studies and analysis, whether these beliefs have emanated from the depths of people's hearts through revelation, vision or self clairvoyance, or that they were originally beliefs transformed in people's hearts to new different forms under the effect of man's ancient heritage that is laying dormant for generations."[17]

The Sudanese society is rich in believes that are connected to the spirits and their forms and to the supernatural forces and many Sudanese people believe in the existence of a mediator between them and their creator. They also believe that there are powers capable of bringing in good and warding off evil.                                                                                                                             

  1. The Mediator:

The mediator is a world of her own where potential powers are crystallized. She is able to transcend the ordinary and let she into the moment of the subconscious where she rids herself of the thick ordinary human nature and experiences, through the state of ecstasy, the transparency that enables her to interact with the disguised spirits mingling with whom allows her to explore the amazing secrets hidden to the conscious mind. By means of this achieved transparency, the mediator is able to penetrate to the world of percipience, explore the future and acquire special psychosocial powers.                    

In zar we encounter the Sheikha (spiritual guide) or the 'kudiya' who plays the role of mediator between the patient and the evil spirits who are meant to be expelled or reconciled with and the good spirits who are meant to be personified. The Sheikha is an influential character when it comes to the spiritual and executive leadership of the ritual.

She leads the patient into the impression that she is conducting the act of exorcising the evil spirits and having them replaced by summoning them by way of a musical dancing festival accompanied by sacrifice. asabu Suleiman in a television interview said: “Zār is an attempt to treat and abreact by letting off the suppressed emotions. The zar patient's cure is subject to (the nature of) her condition and how prepared she is to get rid of her sickness. Treatment in zar depends on the sheikha who investigates and analyzes the patient's condition just as doctors do; treatment being between one person and another.”[18]

This statement emphasizes the role of the Sheikha as a mediator in the (psychological) effect, because the patient's acceptance of the abreaction process and transition from one character to another is achieved by the Sheikha's help in her lying down of the favorable grounds.

  1. Artistic elements:

Zār includes elements of fine art, effects and accessories elements which create an illusion that is brought about by the graphic constituents such as costumes, make-up, masks, tattoos, accessories and suggestive effects like perfumes, incense and adornment. They are observed in following character patterns:

  1. al Lauliya al abashiya (Abyssinian Lauliya)
  2. al Khawwāja (The white man)
  3. al DarāwÌsh (The Dervishes)
  4. al Arabi (The Arab)
  5. al Zurg (The Blacks), and others.

With this harmony and synchrony organized at the Zār ring, treatment is secured to the patient who vents several of her suppressed feelings and resolves her pending problems arising from social, economic and psychological difficulties. Zār, as a folkloric ritual and a popular artistic performance phenomenon, still requires more studies and researches.

 

Conclusion:

The methodology applied by the researcher in this study relied on the facts associated with the ritual nature of Zār as a folkloric performance art that hosts a score of artistic and ritual concepts. The study followed the following methodology:

  1. Real time observation of Zār events.
  2.  Photographic shots.
  3. Sudan television documentaries.
  4. Special studies documents at Folklore Department, Institute of Asian and African Studies, University of Khartoum.

The researcher has arrived at the following conclusions:

  1. Zār rituals are considered a therapeutic vehicle and means that allows for letting out of suppressed hidden social and psychological feelings.
  2. Use of fine art, music, rhythm and ritualism gave zar the ability to function effectively and gained it interest and reputation.
  3. Zār has the ability and capability to develop as a effective way of treatment free of superstitions.

Recommendations:

  1. Conducting serious and in depth researches about zar to help turn it into a psychotherapeutic treatment for a number of illnesses.
  2. Improving the tools and means used in Zār and have them correlated with social varying concepts.
  3. Designing and conducting researches by students and researchers in the fields of art and human studies to be cited and made use of as a Sudanese heritage.     

 

Footnotes:


[1] Internet – Nilein website

 

[2] AÊmad Uthmān, al Shi’r al Ighrigi Turāthun Insāniyun wa A’lamiyun, Kuwait, A’lam al Ma’rifa, issue 77,  May1984, page 187

 

[3] Taha Ba’shar, consultant in psychiatry for the World Health Organization, East Mediterranean, a session about Zār in Sudan Television, , tape number 2585/ 1987.

 

[4] Samiya al Hādi al Nagar, Socio – Cultural Context of Zār in Omdurman, A Paper Presented to the Workshop on Contributing of the Zar Cult in African Tradition, Khartoum, the Institute of African and Asian Studies, January 1988, p.11.

 

  [5] Constantunides. Pamela. The History of Zār in the Sudan Theories of Origin Recorded Observation and Oral Tradition. A paper Presented to the Workshop Contribution of Zār Cult in African Tradition, Khartoum, the Institute of African and Asian Studies. January, 1988, P. 5     

                                                                                     

[6] Mujma’ al Lugha al Arabia, al Mujma’ al WasÌt. Cairo, Offset Printing Press, Sharikat al I’lanāt al ShargÌya, 1985, page 788

                                                                                                                                                                    

[7] Tala’at Manîur, and others, ,Ausus I’Ilm al Nafs al A’ām, Cairo, Anglo-Egyptian Bookshop, 1989, page 468

 

[8]  MuÊammad FatÊi Mutwalli, Istilhām al MasraÊ al Sha’bi fi al MasraÊ al Sudāni, MA thesis, Cairo, Higher Institute for Academic Theatrical Art, 1989, page 43.

 

[9] MuÊammad al Jawhari, I’lm al Folklore, Part 2, Dār al Ma’ārf, Cairo, 1980, p. 62.

[10] Clairvoyance is the mental acceptance that allows for respecting orders with total ease without questioning them and is based on belief and faith. 

[11] Pierre Daco, al TanwÌm al MaghnatÌsi, tran. by Ra’d Iskander Arkān  Bishaun, Islamic Heritage Library, Cairo, ND. P. 23.

 

[12] asabu Suleiman, episode about Zār cult in Sudan, Omdurman, Sudan TV, program, tape number 2585, 24 march 1987.

 

[13] See:  Fuad Zakariya, Ma’ al Musiqa Zikrayāt wa Dirasāt, Cairo, General Egyptian Book Organization, 1985, Pp.  55-57.

 

[14] Ibid, p.  57.

 

[15] [15] Ibid, p.61      

                                                                                   

[16] Shākir Muîðafa, “A’lam al Thagāfa al Mukhtalifa”, Alam al Ma’rifa, Kuwayt, Minstry of Information, vo. 19, No. 1, May – June, 1988, p. 57. 1988م ، ص 57 .

 

[17] MuÊammad al Jawhari, Op.Cit, p.  62.

 

[18] asabu Suleiman, Op.Cit.

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