Towards the end of the koumpo performance that we put on for Overlanding West Africa, something rather special happened, something that neither I nor Khady had ever seen or heard of before. We were called into the circle with Gulliver and Alfie as dusk fell. The koumpo made strange squeaky noises, like a clanger and had some communication with the group leader who relayed the message, in Diola language, to the crowd. It was only afterwards that Khady explained to me what was going on. We all had to sit huddled together whilst the koumpo moved towards us and then consumed us within his reeds. Even given this close proximity, I got no sense of there being a person inside the koumpo – maybe the Diola are right and it is a forest spirit! Alfie lasted a couple of minutes before scampering off. He’s a tough kid though and wasn’t too phased, unlike Gully who was petrified. Essentially we were being protected. If we have any problems in life, the koumpo will be watching over us. I’ll try to remember that next time I’m stopped at a police check point. Some of the reeds were plucked from the creature and presented to Khady. The next day, she took them to the gris-gris maker who sewed them into leather pouches and we all now wear one around our waist.
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- A gray cat slinks past a wooden house. There’s something a little intimidating attempting to describe.