Gisaro and the Opposition Scenario

  • Edward L. Schieffelin


What, then, is Gisaro all about? The songs project the members of the audience back along their lives, through images of places they have known in the past. As a visiting government interpreter once remarked to me, “It is their memory.” Tragic situations are renewed, allowing people to take account of them once more and settle them in their hearts and minds. It is not the nostalgic content of the songs, however, but the angered and anguished taking of account in Gisaro that is most striking to an outsider, and it is the taking of account, I believe, that to the Kaluli gives the ceremony its special character. The listeners’ feelings and reactions are not merely a response to the performance; they are integral to its structure and significance. The dancing and singing by the performers and the weeping and burning by the audience stimulate and aggravate one another. If the aa bišɔ fail to respond to the songs, even enthusiastic performers soon lose interest, and the ceremony falls apart before the night is over. On the other hand, if the aa bišɔ weep and burn the dancers even desultory performers rapidly pull themselves together and assert a determined momentum. The movement of Gisaro is ultimately to be understood in terms of the opposition scenario.


Body Part Stinging Nettle Rock Crystal Visible Body Ceremonial Occasion 
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© Edward L. Schieffelin 2005

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  • Edward L. Schieffelin

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