|A Kpan bench of the Ede
A Kpan, essentially a wooden plank 5 to 15 meter long, 70 to 90 cm wide, and 8cm thick, takes up to 11 to 13 days to make. The home owner prepares meals for all the villagers during this period. Before chopping down a tree, the villagers bring home a piece of the bark and ask the genies for permission. On the day they chop down the tree, the village may not have a funeral.
Village chief Ae Hao says “Before cutting down the tree, 3 young males and females wearing traditional costumes dance around the tree while a shaman performs a ritual.”
The shaman makes the first cut. Then 7 strong men take turns chopping the tree before other villagers can help. The home owner and the shaman walk on the tree 7 times to chase away bad spirits. The 7 selected men then fashion the log into a boat-shaped Kpan bench.
The Kpan is brought home to the same welcoming ceremony used for a family member. Patriarch Ade Vui of Puor hamlet in Dak Lak province says a Kpan has a soul just like person. The villagers must prepare a bed and clothes for it.
“The women prepare blankets and brocade clothing while the men prepare loin-cloths and shirts to cover the Kpan. They drink wine to welcome the Kpan as a new family member.”
Family members stand on two sides of the house and greet the Kpan with applause. The shaman places a spearhead on one end of the Kpan to chase away evil spirits.
Patriarch Ae Vui said “When they bring the Kpan home, the shaman dances with a spearhead and shield to drive away evil spirits. People play special musical instruments for this ritual and prepare a buffalo as offering for the ancestors and a large jar of wine for the Kpan.”
The Kpan is placed on the western side of the house. No one is allowed to sit on it before the shaman, holding the owner’s hand, has him walk on it 3 times to affirm his ownership. To the accompaniment of gongs, the shaman performs a ritual to inform the genies that the Kpan has a master.
Patriarch Ae Hao said “The shaman calls the names of all the genies of water, mountains, and trees and the souls of all ancestors to witness the ceremony. He asks them for prosperity, sufficiency, and bumper crops. The owner's relatives who don’t attend the Kpan ceremony risk bad luck.”
Following the ritual there is a feast which must include jars of wine. The Ede consider the Kpan bench a symbol of friendship. When people sit on it, hatred and social gaps disappear, and only positive feelings remain.