Photo Essay – Joy Springs

Sowing Seeds & Reaping Harvest

Photographs by Commnet Media

Music, folklore, poetry and proverbs characterize life in West Africa. It’s vibrant and has rhythm. But living is difficult. Resources like education, health care and water are scarce.

“In the midst of the lack, the African has found joy and exuberance,” says Eugene Yakohene, director of Pioneers-Africa. “This joy springs from inside. If you imagine adding Jesus to the natural joy that the African already exhibits, there is no limit to what can happen.”

“This joy springs from inside. If you imagine adding Jesus to the natural joy that the African already exhibits, there is no limit to what can happen.”

These photos, taken by a Commnet photographer, will give you a glimpse of the people and landscape where our African partners are sowing seeds and reaping the harvest.

A Growing African Church

West African church

This local church is a work of God through Pioneers-Africa, and it is growing. The congregation continues to meet in the smaller mud-brick structure within the new brick building being constructed around it.

window on West African worship

Music and religion in West Africa are often a singular enterprise where there is no separation of sacred and secular. Music may incorporate call and response patterns and improvisation. Drums play a central role in both song and dance.

Christians praying in a church in Benin

Benin may be the Cradle of Voodoo, but by 2013 it was among the top 20 countries where Christianity was growing. According to Joshua Project, there are 65 distinct people groups in Benin, 13 of them unreached.

African Spirituality and Scarification

African man with facial scars

Scarification generally takes place among people with skin tones bearing significant amounts of melanin—a characteristic which makes tattoos difficult to see. The cuts and scarring can symbolize identity in a number of ways, from status within a community, passage into adulthood or a connection to a spiritual group.

Africa - greeted by voodoo practioners

A group of voodoo practitioners greeted us at the entrance to their enclave with song and dance. Unlike the Christian worship I had heard earlier in the day, their song was dark and angry. Though tribal scarification likely marks this woman’s arms, it’s difficult to determine the origins of the scars she bears on her chest.

Building a House in Africa

West Africa - Building with mud and clay

The architecture of Africa is exceptionally diverse and has regional preferences for a wide range of materials—North Africa for stone and rammed earth, Horn of Africa for drystone and mortar, West Africa for mud, Central Africa for thatch/wood and more perishable materials, Southeast and Southern Africa for stone and thatch/wood. Earthen homes are naturally insulated, cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Bringing in the Catch

West Africa - fishermen pulling in the nets

Roughly nine months of the year, leaving out rainy season, the owner of a net and canoe may employ a crew for beach seine fishing, drawing a long rope and net to share where they form a funnel.

West African Traditional Weaving

West Africa - strip weaving cloth

Strip weaving is a craft found throughout West Africa. The kente cloth of Ghana is perhaps the most well known. Some research suggests that strip weaving in Africa was being done as early as the 11th century.

West African woman with head scarf

A head tie is a women’s cloth headscarf. To the Akan people of Ghana, it’s called a duku and is often worn on a Sunday by Christian women. Ghanaians also tie the headgear with the traditional kente or any piece of cloth.

Gathering Wood

West Africa - Women carrying wood for cooking

An estimated 2.5 to 3 billion people still cook their food over open fires or on rudimentary stoves. This requires a lot of wood. The most basic and widely used type of cooking device is the wood-fueled three-stone fire. A cook will arrange three stones to make a stand for a cooking pot. The main concern with the use of crude biomass cooking stoves is their destructive influence on human welfare and natural resources. For three-stone fires, thermal efficiency is as low as 10 to 15%. In other words: 85 to 90% of the energy content in the wood is lost as heat to the environment outside the cooking pot.

Preparing Food

West Africa bean pods

In the past, bean pods actually contained a string, or fibrous strand, running the length of the pod, removed before cooking or made edible by cutting the pod into segments. The first stringless bean was bred in 1894 by Calvin Keeney. Greens beans have two major groups: bush beans do not require supports, whereas pole beans are a climbing vine.

West Africa separating beans from shells for cooking

West Africans make a traditional dish called kara: mashed black-eyed beans mixed with a little salt, onions and peppers, and then fried. But first, you have to get the beans out of their shells. Beating the beans loosens them from their shells. They then dump the beaten beans from a high, handheld basket to let the chaff blow away.

A Game of Draughts

Men playing Ghanaian checkers

A Ghanaian draughts (checkers) game features a 10×10 board—Canadian boards are 12×12 and Jamaican boards are 8×8. The last person to have a single piece, whether a pawn or a king, loses the game.

A Better World for African Children

African mother and child

One study indicates the increased possession and use of bed nets in the Republic of Benin led to a decrease of about 21 percent in infant mortality for children under five years of age. Medical delivery, antenatal care and vaccinations may also contribute to the decline in childhood mortality.

Beauty in Every Shade

West African girl

Human beings have significantly less melanin in the palms of their hands and soles of their feet. The difference is less evident in Asians and Caucasians. Beauty comes in every shade.

God is doing amazing things in West Africa. Watch the Joy Springs video.

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