Fate has painted a traditional men’s Ujawé initiation ceremony. Her late husband, Fall Savari, told her the story of how he went inside the guai—an ancestral underground site in the forest on the ouskirts of a village. Pubescent/teenage children stayed in the guai for a period until they reached sexual maturity and were ready for initiation into manhood and womanhood. Before their initiation ceremony boys and girls were tattooed inside the guai by their families. Mens’ entire bodies would be tattooed while only the cheeks of women were tattooed.

Fate tells how tattooing had begun on Fall but due to the pain he left the guai and did not go through with his Ujawé initiation but his friend Ureekureh, otherwise known as Tabarigua [1], did.

The painting shows Ureekureh at Borrohojë, one of the villages of Gora in the Gora valley, during the Ujawé ceremonial feast after emerging from the underground guai (tattooing pit). It is a big and lavish celebration attended by the whole community. Through Ureekureh’s nose is a bisone (bone jewellery for initiation nasal septum piercings) and a dubié (ring for nasal septum piercing). His hair has betelnut tied to its ends and he wears a headdress of feathers from birds such as the gojave (parrot) and booroohidahe (eagle). The band of chevrons across his forehead is an aresai, which was made from shells traded from coastal tribes. Around his neck is a necklace known as tamajai which is made from stones from the River Nëhö. The circlular motif around his navel is vinohu’e (tattoo design of the bellybutton). He is surrounded by foods prepared for the ceremonial feast including deji’e (yams), mage (taro) and mahubiroge (pig meat).

The circle at the top-left is a design known as ije bi’weje (boys cutting the leaves of a tree). Fate explains: “The mother was cleaning the bush to make a garden with her two young sons. The boys climbed a tree to cut all of the branches and leaves down. The branches fell down and the mother took all of the leaves and threw them away. Then the mother got plenty of bananas, taro and yam to plant in their newly cleared garden. When they finished planting all of the plants, they ate all of the food from the garden and lived a long life.” The border is painted in the traditional Dahorurajé style with gori hane, Dahorurajé clan design of the fern leaf.

The animal seen at the bottom righthand side is called a jubujé. It is a small to medium sized noctural marsupial that live high in the mountains. Ömie people use to hunt, trap and eat the jubujé. When I asked Fate why she drew it she said, “That is me”. I was confused, so I asked her again what she meant and she said with a big smile on her face, “That is me because my hand draws fast!... just like the jubujé hunts through the trees!” The jubujé was Fate Savari’s artist signature in many of her works.

The border is known as orriseegé or ‘pathways’ and provides a customary compositional frame. The bristle design around the orriseegé is nyoni han’e, the Dahoruraje clan design of the fern leaf.

Note [1]: At the time this information was recorded in 2010, Tabarigua’s son Jackson Tabarigua was living at Kinado, the next village over to Borrohojë at Gora in the Gora valley.