Pastor Cutsau came to my room a few days ago to get me to come see rice being winnowed. I asked if it was okay for me to take a picture, and he assured me it was. Guinea-Bissau is part of the “rice coast” area of West Africa. Several years ago when Lynn and I were working on learning to speak Kriol, our language tutor Joel told us a story, which we recorded, wrote down and studied, about how rice is grown here. (See a 2012 blog post called Looking Back on Three Weeks in Guinea-Bissau.) It was good both for language learning and for learning about the culture. The subject of growing rice came up again this week when we were working on the translation of Matthew 3:12, His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. I asked again about their vocabulary having to do with separating the grain from the chaff, and I learned the word buanta, which means winnow: to remove (as chaff) by a current of air; to get rid of (something undesirable or unwanted). Except they don’t use a winnowing fork here. The rice is held up in a bowl (kabas) and slowly poured out such that the wind can blow away the chaff (paja). A day after we discussed this vocabulary in going through the Gospel of Matthew in Kriol, I got to see this being done, and take a picture. Actually, the serious buanta had already taken place elsewhere, and this was a secondary buanta before cooking the rice for us. Rice is the main part of every meal here.
Two weeks ago when I first arrived on this trip, I caught the 1½ hour ride from the capital Bissau with Joel, and we stopped in a town half-way along the route to Lendem where we have been staying and working. Joel said he was hungry, and a woman was selling some kind of cooked root, which she skinned and quartered for Joel to eat.
Guessing that maybe this was yam, I asked Joel what this thing was called that he was eating: Es i ke kusa ku bu na kume? (See 2012 blog post Es i ke?) He answered nyami. This would be the West African origin of the Gullah word for “to eat,” nyam.