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WWB Weekend: Grammar(s) of Easter

By Susan Harris

Spring continues apace: we’ve barely caught our breath after Nowruz and Easter is upon us. Before we don our bonnets and highstep off to the parade, we’ll warm up with two Paschal celebrations from the archives. Set in an immigrant community in Bologna, Gabriella Ghermandi's “Easter Lunch” finds an Ethiopian teen, Alem, inviting her new Italian boyfriend to the title feast. She does so with some trepidation: her grandmother has screened her previous suitors by serving fiercely spiced cuisine—“A man who cannot resist something hot on his tongue will not be able to resist the spicy character of an Ethiopian woman,” she serenely tells the protesting girl—and none has survived the first course. But the new beau manipulates his injera with the ease of an Addis Abeban and responds to the main dish (“a mouthful of flaming hell,” in Alem’s gasping description) by requesting a second helping. When Alem’s grandmother, overcome with delight and emotion, gazes at him and murmurs, “You have a thousand shades of green in your eyes, just like Alem’s father," we can envision many celebrations to come.

A less successful cultural intersection informs Akinwumi Isola’s sly “Grammar of Easter (You Don’t Say That in English).” In a Nigerian village caught between traditional religion and new Christian beliefs, a white evangelist appears at a primary school to preach the importance of Easter. Unaware that his cherubic audience knows next to no English, he attempts to lead them in prayer, only to become more and more frustrated by their apparent refusal to follow directions. Their cheerful inability to repeat his unintelligible declamations, and his flustered approach to this subversion of his authority, suggest that language is far from the only barrier facing him.

Photo: Injera during Easter time (Lalibela, Ethiopia), by Maurice Chédel (Wikimedia Commons).

Published Mar 25, 2016   Copyright 2016 Susan Harris

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