Thursday, July 13, 2006

5 April pm.

The ‘bogolan’ bed linen experiment is progressing. Kansaye is quite sensible in many ways despite occasional lapses, and he talked me through what he thought I ought to do: I have to try and source the cotton in Mali- I should go to the large cotton factory in Segou and see for myself. Of course the best thing would be for the whole product to be of Malian make. Cotton is produced here in some quantity. Whether the quality is good enough and it is produced wide enough remains to be seen.
I see a dilemma looming here: the ‘bogolan’ dying and printing method is always done only on locally hand woven strips of rather roughly textured cotton. Noone ever questions the quality of the hand woven strips- clearly they are what they are- interesting as local handicraft. As far a my proposed bedlinen project goes, while the dying and printing itself can have irregularities which will add to the charm of the finished product, the quality of the actual cloth cannot be anything but perfectly smooth in order to be competitive on a European Market. The cotton has to be produced in a modern factory, while the printing and dying can be done in a traditional way.
Well, more or less… Having spent the last three days on my hands and knees crawling around on Pama’s mud floor kitchen/studio/ shop/ goat pen learning the ‘bogolan’ technique I cannot but think that I would quite like to have a table on which to prepare the designs, another on which to print them, a proper brush rather than an old tooth brush with which to paint on the mud; a clean place to hang the fabrics to dry rather than spreading them on the mud roof, well, in other words I think I have come over all European again. So what do I do? I could actually install myself a little ‘bogolan’ factory right at my flat if I wanted and simply employ one or two local helpers. There is a large flat empty roof for drying; there is a well in the court yard and a tap just outside, my terrace is large and could house a couple of work tables- in fact it is perfect for a little sample factory. This has to be done tactfully though. I don’t want to look as if I am snubbing Pama, the acknowledged ’bogolan’ queen of Djenne. The fact is that some of her patterns are good, but mostly the Bogolan of Djenne is not outstanding and, to be frank, the patterns I am producing are better. So, what to do? I need her help in obtaining the raw materials, and want her blessing on the project- she has to be involved somehow. But perhaps if I choose a couple of her designs and ask her to produce them for me on the cotton I give her? Hmmm….lets see.

6 April
Well, there are some developments, certainly. Yesterday was most educational. Having written the above I had a visit from Marechal. I showed him my photographs of the Bogolan efforts, and explained that I had spent some time with Pama. He exclaimed: ‘but that woman is not Pama!’ It now appears that my ‘Bogolan Queen of Djenne’ is an impostor! I have been taught by Pama’s rival, the second wife of a local gentleman by the name of Bobo Traure, to whom they are in fact both married. He seems to have a predilection for ‘bogolan’ artists, because each of his 3 wives run their own bogolan establishment and Pama, his first wife, is the most celebrated.
So what on earth is going on??? This is one of those AFRICAN moments: is someone having me on? Who exactly? My friend Sory is probably not culpable. He is the one who accompanied me to the false Pama. He had told me that he didn’t know her but that he would bring me to her house. He thought he was bringing me to Pama’s, but got it wrong. Now, exactly what happened after that will probably remain shrouded in mystery. He asked if she was Pama, and she replied in the affirmative, smiling. I asked Sory to act as interpreter, which he did- but how well? How much did she understand? I said I had heard she was the president of the women’s co-operative, which included the market gardens as well as all the bogolan work. She smiled and said yes - indeed she smiles and says yes to everything I ask. But is she lying or just not quite understanding what I mean? I am angry. But what to do? Apart from lying to me she has treated me well and has worked with me, she has taught me most of the technical procedure for the dying and printing, and she gave lunch to both me and Sory yesterday. I will need to give her something. But how much? And do I continue and finish the work with her now, this afternoon? Posted by Picasa


Post a Comment

<< Home