I seem to have acquired a rebellious teen age daughter. Fatumata and I have actually known each other since my very beginning in Djenne, two years ago. We have quite a history, which includes being ‘rivals‘- that is to say Fatumata was very angry with me, and very jealous when I disappeared to the bar of the Campement Hotel two years ago with the Algerian poet she had considered her own catch. The said poet told her gently that she was too young to drink in bars and that she should go home to bed.
(I quote from blog entry 2nd May 2006: Yesterday I spent some time with a French/Algerian poet and author who was out here doing research on a 15th c. Algerian scholar and builder of great mosques. We ended up at the Campement at night drinking lots of beer- the staff, normally so friendly towards me had suddenly become decidedly frosty. I realize they thought I was cheating on Keita, and it was not the done thing for me to be seen with the toubab. But I really enjoyed myself and I realize how much I enjoy the company of people from my own culture now and then. -although in this case the man was three quarter Algerian. But, like Vikram, he has transcended the confines of his own culture through a western education. )
Anyway, since then my relationship with the young Fatumata, which seems to be Bambara for Lolita, has been rocky.
Of course, I was once a very rebellious teenager. Whatever my mother said was naturally rejected as a matter of course and even of honour. Since I never had any children of my own, I thought I might have escaped the irksome situation of having to cope with a hormone propelled little replica of myself at fourteen, but here it is, the situation has presented itself, and I have acquired a teenage daughter.
Tourists can do a lot of harm without realizing it. Fatumata is about fourteen years old, but she can’t read or write. She is supposed to go to school, but turns up rarely, because she is too busy hanging out with tourists. She says she is a ‘guide’, and she wants to take tourists around Djenne to earn money. She is a beautiful precocious teenager, and all she wants is for tourists to buy her Coca Cola, give her credits for her mobile phone and give her money. People are stupid enough to think that by giving her money they are doing something good. In fact they are ruining her life. Why bother to go to school and learn to read and write when she could be gainfully employed hanging out with tourists? Why bother to actually learn anything? It isn’t necessary, just looking cute is going to give her plenty of money. Every time I see her surrounded by the well-meaning but wholly misguided tourists I am enraged and I have started to feel responsible for this little brat for some reason. It is not her fault, after all. Especially since she is an orphan and lives with an old uncle who takes minimal care of her.
Enter Sophie, stage left.
Oh, Gawd. What have I let myself in for??
I have invited her to come and be a bogolan apprentice. I want her off the streets, I want her to learn something and to go to school in the mornings. If she does that, she can come here in the afternoon, and we will make her some clothes even, from the fabric she makes. She started off quite well yesterday, and today she showed that she has got quite a good hand and line if she only applies herself a bit. But weekend is creeping up on us and weekend=tourists.
She said : tomorrow it is Sunday- I have to go and see the tourists, I have to earn some money by guiding them. I said: OK, I will be your client tomorrow, you can take me around Djenne and show me what you know. She doesn’t want to- she knows that I am going to be trop exigeante.
So things have come to a little crisis. I said she had to be here tomorrow morning at ten, and forget her tourists to finish her bogolan, which she started very well this morning. Will she turn up???