Well, instead of the present being a time of solitary reflection during the sad wrapping-up of my Djenné life, these months are proving to be so jam-packed with important events that I have had not a second to spare... One major event is rapidly followed by the next, all deserving of proper entries in this journal! So I will just sketch out briefly here all the things that have happened and are happening:
The manuscript library has had a visit in January from two intrepid specialists who do not worry in the slightest about travel warnings: Michaelle Biddle from the Wesleyan University in New England came to talk to Saadou about watermarks and to teach the library staff how to separate pages that have become glued together. She was accompanied by Maria Luisa, our Italian conservator.
Then came my old friends, a rather glamorous trio of adventurers I call the three Musqueteers: Nicholas Mellor,(centre of the toubabs) visionary and entrepreneur with the cutest accent anglais and Anthony Sattin, (right) distinguished writer from England with le charmant Axel Charles-Messance, the French drone pilot and film maker I call TinTin. They were here on a mission to teach local people to fly drones over the World Heritage Sites in order to preserve cultural heritage in endangered areas of political unrest. Theirs is a pilot project only at this stage, but with the potential to be used as a model for other areas around the world. Alas we didn’t get very far- that is to say, the Prefect (highest authority in Djenné) said NON. A proper high level authorisation was needed to fly drones in the current climate of heightened security. However, they managed to teach three local people and make a small film: The rest will hopefully follow in March when they return armed with the proper authorizations.
And what happened next? We moved swiftly on to the visit from Keita’s family from Bamako and Segou for the ceremony to Keita’s memory; a Fatia or a reading of the Koran with all the Grand Marabouts de Djenné, organized on our land by the library staff: Yelpha and Garba etc. Everyone who had known Keita was invited and it was a solemn and moving occasion: our old friend Dr.Guida Landouré came all the way by local bus from Bamako just to be present. Keita's sister Djenneba to the right below; and centre front Keita's good friend Bamoye who has featured in this journal in the past: see 'Bamoye's Guitar' in the blogsearch above.
With all these people in Djenné from Keita’s family we decided to have a party at night, and Maman took advantage of the party in order to celebrate his wedding to Oumou. They have been married for years and have a little daughter called Sophie already, but this was, in keeping with Malian traditions, the second part of the wedding, the part in La Mairie.
Keita’s best friends were invited to this dinner and we had the Balafon orchestra from Souala village who had not been here for years: a fun evening with much dancing from Maman of course, and Papa, as usual when he had finished in the kitchen. Almost like old times... Hans, my Swedish Dutch friend who comes every year happened to be passing through with his Lettish friend Maris, thus adding to the festive atmosphere. And as if this was not enough, there was also Dr. Faira and the Cataract operation team, who joined the evenings dinner and fun.
The following day, at the Djenné hospital, came the inauguration ceremony for our fifth free cataract campaign for a hundred people given by MaliMali and sponsored this year entirely through my cousin Pelle Kronqvist and Nanni his wife. This year the operations were given in memory of Keita, his family was present at the inaugurations ceremony and a minute’s silence was observed. ( Keita's first wife Mai third from right, and his daughter Nene with me below)
And then came Timbuktu... I had been invited to represent the Djenné Manuscript library at a conference held by UNESCO on the pillage of World Heritage archaeological sites and the illicit trafficking of cultural objects – including the danger to manuscripts etc. So I went off happily in a UN plane for five days in Timbuktu where after the conference we were regaled by the crepissage of the 14th century Djingareber Mosque- a very different affair from that of Djenné’s mosque, but with its own quite particular charm.