Tuesday, March 31, 2009

At 9 pm on the 26th of March, as I was preparing my suitcase at Ann’s in order to depart from Bamako and from Keita’s life the following morning, there was a movement at the door.
Two tall, elderly gentlemen entered, dressed in long embroidered ‘bou-bous’. It was clear by their solemn bearing that their visit was of a ceremonial nature. It was Dr. Keita, a retired military doctor at Kati, the oldest male member of Keita’s immediate family. He introduced the other old man as ‘un homme de caste, un forgeron’. It was the Keita family griot, or the ‘minstrel’, what Mungo Park called a ‘singing man’, the emissary of tidings. In this case his errand was to ask me (in the absence of any father or any other relations) if I was prepared to marry Keita.
I said yes, they could leave with a cautious acceptance, but with the condition that I saw Keita the following day to talk to him directly.
So I went to Kati again. Keita was still very weak and was not able to talk very much. But what he did say convinced me that he had finally realized that it was not going to be possible to wait with our marriage until he got better: that day may be very far off, or indeed it may never come. He had understood that he was about to lose me.

The marriage took place at Ann’s last Sunday the 29th of March, with the Imam of Kati as the celebrant. Keita’s immediate family was present and very few others. The loveliest wedding gift was that Ace had travelled through the night on the bus from Djenne just to be there: lovely loyal Ace who had at first fought for my just being able to see Keita at all in the Djenne hospital, then worked tirelessly behind the scenes in order to prepare the way for our wedding.
Keita and I remained in our room during the ceremony- the couple is not present. The family griot represented my father. This detail moved me, because my father Sten died before I was born, and until this day he had never been represented in any event in my life before.
After the ceremony the bride goes to greet the guests, and that is what I did, dressed in the white wedding outfit that had been presented to me by Djenneba and Lun, a female cousin who was acting as matron of honour.
When the guests left Keita remained with me at Ann’s. The following morning I left for Segou at day break to greet his mother, sister and two little boys, on my way back to Djenne to put things at the hotel in order before my trip to Europe.


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