Sunday, January 27, 2008

A couple of people have written to me, wondering what is going on. Am I OK? Why so quiet on the Djenne front?
Am I OK?
I don’t know.
I know that Africa is very hard, and Africa is rough- Africa wears one down like the dripping of water slowly hollows a stone- there is no escape. I see people coming here, all glowing with ideas and ideals and good intentions like I was two years ago.

But it is now that the chaff is sifted from the wheat- two years into the wearing-down process.

My friends Neville and Birgit left this morning- last night we took a pirogue (a canoe or sort of gondola) trip around Djenné. I was vaguely investigating whether it might be a good idea to offer tourists at the hotel. It most definitely isn’t. Djenné is not only the most beautiful city of the Sahel- and I believe that is true- but it is also undoubtedly the filthiest. Djenné, seen from a pirogue, is quite literally a gigantic heap of rubbish. This gem of a town sits on enormous mounds of old plastic bags- the scourge of Africa.
Some do-gooding tubabs are trying to set up schemes to make things out of the old plastic bags in an attempt to clean the rubbish up by paying people by the kilo for bringing it in.
But as a clear thinking Frenchman quite sensibly pointed out, that just compounds the problem, and gives no incentive to stop throwing bags out, quite the contrary.

I have a very exciting scheme bubbling, -about which more later if I can muster the strength- and it needs the support of the town of Djenné, and perhaps the donation of some land. I therefore had to write a letter to Monsieur le Maire of Djenné the other day.
Keita read it first and said: if you need the support of the town of Djenné for your idea you need to offer something to interest them- such as for instance 20% of the proceeds of your scheme to go to the cleaning up of the town of Djenné. I immediately thought it was a very good idea- and it is, in order to get the support I need. But it won’t be successful. The cleaning up of Djenné - or of any town- can only be accomplished when the people of Djenné sees the rubbish which surrounds them. Until then do-gooding toubabs will be knocking their heads against the wall.
But then we realized something as we glided gently past the filth, piloted by our two gondoliers, sipping our sunset cocktails: The rubbish mountains of Djenné, however disgusting, are of course not even a fraction as harmful as the amount of rubbish our toubab nations spew out every day, so who the hell are we to get on our high horses, just because it spoils the aesthetics of our sunset cocktail experience???


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