Making Things with Words

One of the most interesting practices I documented in Burkina Faso is the use of arabic writing, ofter quotes from the Qur’an, to make amulets or liquid preparations to wash with. In the latter case, a sheet with arabic writing believed to be carrier of a certain power is written many times on a wooden tablet, and the ink washed away repeatedly, until it concentrates in the water used. To obtain Nasi water, as it is called, you need an expert scribe, that will not commit mistakes copying the text and knows the Qur’an and the arabic alphabet. The second option is to get hold of a similar sheet and fold it together with some ingredient, having it then sewed in leather to make an amulet, which is commonly called sebedi. Of both practices I am attracted by the use of the written word as an object carrier of power, rather than of a message.