Wednesday, September 24, 2008


THE PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY OF DEATH IN THE MIND OF SOMEBODY LIVING.
It is the title of Damian Hirst’s famous memento mori, rather than the actual shark in formaldehyde, which is the real masterpiece I believe.

Hama, the fourteen year old son of my balafon player, is seen here to the left of the picture. He came here almost every Sunday or Monday during the last season with his brother and his father, and together they made a very good percussion trio. They had been practicing and putting together a lot of new material for the new season, and were to start on Sunday the 12th of October.
But Hama fell ill about a week ago. He had apparently suffered from typhoid fever some time ago, and his intestine had been perforated, one of the side effects typhoid often brings. He was very strong, and had somehow been able to survive and even continue as usual for some time, but finally he worsened and was taken to Djenne hospital where he was operated on two days ago. He developed septicemia, and died this morning at three am at the hospital.
I had been to visit him twice. I can still feel the heat of his skin, when I stroked his forehead- he was burning. I even got into an argument with Keita about it: ‘What is going on? I demanded to know. Why doesn’t anyone do anything? Keita told me not to meddle: he was ‘under observation’, and any treatment given was decided by the physician in chief, who eventually executed the operation. I am not suggesting that he was not given correct treatment. I am simply being toubab about it. I mean death is just everywhere here!
Until I came to Mali death was something that happened to other people. I could count the deaths I had known on one hand: my best friend Jan who drowned when I was five, my school friend Kjelle who died when I was about 30 and then my beloved grandmother, who passed away 13 years ago. That is about it.

But this little drummer boy- I find it impossible to comprehend that the hot skin that I touched two days ago is now already cold and buried. The physical impossibility of death in the mind of somebody living. Yes, you are damn right Damian.

1 Comments:

Blogger david said...

Oh, this is so sad, Sophie, and the sincerity of what you write as presumably it pours out of you right now is the best possible tribute.

Actually, we are in the midst of death and illness here too - it comes in spades in the middle years - but I understand, life there is cheaper. Just out of curiosity, what is the average life expectancy for Malian men and women?

9:46 AM  

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