In Dimeh: A ‘Creek of Life’

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Dimeh, twenty minutes away from Duala, Monrovia, is small, but big in its own right. One can walk through the town in about fifteen minutes. However, a tour of the same town, through the lenses of history, cultural heritage and age-old tradition, could take the better part of two hours. No doubt, the town has fought hard to maintain its claim to fame over they years, in spite of not being officially recognized by any statutory power (i.e. Government of Liberia) as a ‘cultural destination’. Gradually, the town leadership, its people and friends of the town are working to ensure that Dimeh becomes a model of what a cultural destination should be.

When you hear about Dimeh, usually in the same sentence one would hear the name, Bai T. Moore, Liberia’s late-great literary icon, who wrote many novels, the most famous of them, “Murder in the Cassava Patch. And then one might hear the name, Peter Ballah, another great practitioner of
Liberian culture, an actor, comedian and a protégé of the late Moore. Both are buried side by side, in majestically designed tombs atop a hill on the side of the town.

But that is not all; there are certain amazing aspects of the town that render it somehow enchanted, which many do not know. One of them is a creek ‘that gives life,’ we are told.

The creek and its secret go far back to when the town was founded more than a century ago (1898 or thereabout) and its ancestors built a strong tie with the creek.

From the story narrated to LIB Life by Dimeh Town Chief Ansumana Varney and Jenneh Rogers, Chairlady of the Women of the town, the shallow, clear-water creek not only provides water for drinking and other domestic use, it posses a natural, aesthetic serenity. But what many do not know about the creek is the supernatural effect it is said to have in the town.

It is believed that the creek answers prayers for people who want children, as well as many other heart-strung desires when the prayer is offered, without any ritual sacrifice.

“Women from this town and other people from different areas visit the creek when they cannot give birth. It is our tradition and has been working for us from the days of our ancestors. You do not need to make any ritual sacrifice, but just offer a prayer,” Ma Jenneh Rogers said.

Narrating her personal experience, Ma Jenneh, who is also a niece of the late Bai T. Moore, noted that when she got married it was difficult for her to give birth, but her parents took her to the creek and offered prayers she was able to conceive.

“My first child I had was from the creek and she is now living abroad. My daughter now works as a doctor and I’m very grateful to the creek,” she said.

LIB Life asked Ma Jenneh if there was another side to the creek apart from giving life and granting the heart’s desires. Her reply was a very encouraging, “Yes, there is!”

“This one may be hard to believe but it happened for real. When the Charles Taylor war drove us from this town, we ran away into the bush and left our property. The spirit came from the creek and drove the rebels from the town.

“After the town had been cleared, there was a medicine man who came from Buutuo, Nimba County and met a boy alone in the town and asked the boy to inform the townspeople to return.

“I was the first to return. That day, I met the medicine man and he told me that it was our ancestors had chased the rebels away and wanted us to return.

“Before I returned to the bush to inform the others, I visited the creek and offered some prayer asking that the spirit should stop coming to town because we are coming back. Before I could take my leave, I drank the water, washed my face and bathed my grandson, who is now in England,” she added emphatically.

Another side to this account is that no one is allowed to fish in the creek and even when washing, if a soap slips and falls between a split rock, nobody should dare put their hands in there to retrieve it.

Joining us, Ansumana Varney, Town Chief of Dimeh, said it is the elderly people’s responsibility to take any one who wishes to go there and offer a word of prayer to the creek and the prayer will be answered, although “not immediately.”

Moreover there is a rule: No one is allowed to place a baby on his or her back to carry it to the creek; otherwise, when that individual returns to the town the child will not live.

Interestingly, as LIB Life moved about the creek, Town Chief Varney said if a man wishes to offer a prayer he will have to wash his face four times; for women, it is three times. “But remember it during the washing of the face that the prayer is offered.”

“From the day we were born, we have been going by this tradition and no one can challenge it. It is very true,” Chief Varney added.

According to him, during festivals there are special times for people to go to the creek to offer prayers. “However, when the women go to offer prayers, the men are not allowed there,” and vice versa. “If you challenge it, it will be your end.

“I have seen it,” elder Varney said. “There was time when the women were in session and a few men from the town went to see, but they did not live after they returned.”

Dimeh is a tiny town probably with 250 inhabitants, no store, a two-room school building and a women’s social and business club.

Despite the perennial dry season in Liberia, the creek remains clean and clear and never runs dry. And no matter how blazing the sun is in the surrounding area, the creek remains cool.

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