‘We di chop, we di chop, we di born. We di born, we di born, we di glad, we di glad, we di glad, we di fat’.
I don’t know what those lyrics imply and even as an adult, I can only try to speculate their meaning. One thing was very clear to my childish mind back then. This song was and is still very popular in homes welcoming a new baby. So to my young mind, it meant whenever this song was heard, there was going to be food, drinks, palm wine, white powder and dancing.
We kids used to look forward to the discharge of a new mother from the hospital because it meant enjoyment.
Item 11 was always aplenty; with neighbours bringing in food to help entertain the guests of the new parents. Those who couldn’t go to the hospital remained behind to collectively clean the compound and prepare the main dish which has come to be known as the famous ‘born house planti.’
Apparently, born houses are slowly losing their importance. Gone are the days when new mothers are welcomed with songs and dancing and steaming food from the hospital. This is especially true in our big towns and cities. The reasons for this are many. It has been stipulated that changing times are making it increasingly difficult for such born houses to be organised by many people.
Life generally is busy and many relations like grandparents are quite busy to supervise these born houses. Canned drinks are replacing palm wine, cola nuts and this special food ‘born house planti’.
The adaptability of western cultures is also a factor. Many today have traded the more ‘cooler’ and modernized baby showers for born houses. While both of them are important to any who wishes to do it, they are not the same thing. They are as different and unique as their names imply. One prepares and supports the parents while the other welcomes the baby. Considering how important a child is especially for us Africans, It is reasonable to think born houses should take precedence.
One other thing that is slowly killing this practice is the heavy financial toll on new parents. Many have to entertain guests again and again. Depending on the number of social groups the new parents belong to, these entertainments though not bad in themselves, can be financially draining for the new parents. Of course, some visitors come with food and drinks but gone is the solidarity that existed in the yesteryears when neighbours collectively cook to welcome the baby as we observed growing up or read in African Folkloric novels like The White Man of God by Kenjo Jumbam.
So my dear J2Eners what do you think about these changing trends? Should we hold tight to them or slowly let our identity continue to be eroded by the globalised village and modernisation we are caught in?
For me, I will prefer to continue eating my ‘born house planti’. Not only is it special, it reminds me of a cultural identity I should be proud of.
Who will join me in eating ‘born house planti?’
(Ngomtarre aka born house planti cooked and served. Picture credits Mrs Prudencia Asanga Cho)
ARREY E. AGBOR-NDAKAW.