Thursday, February 10, 2011

I am in Bamako on a whistle stop tour, having flown in from Timbuktu yesterday morning. I am gathering information for the final application to the British Library which has to be in by the 25th of this month.

No more smelly old overcrowded Mali buses for me, I have decided, seduced by the glamour of the little propeller plane which brought me here. It contained only extremely beautiful and exotic people. There were at least 5 Tuareg women of outstanding beauty on the plane, bedecked with enormous quantities of 23 carat gold in their hair, in their ears, on their fingers: in short on more or less every piece of their exposed persons. There must be an up market Tuareg wedding in Bamako, I decided. That was not all. A couple of Bambara or perhaps Malenke ladies who were equally stunning albeit in a different way got on in Mopti. Malian elite women spend all their time preening themselves. Their function in life is to be gorgeous. These two must have got up at three o clock in the morning to have achieved the shiny perfection they displayed. They wore gold high heeled shoes, thickly embroidered rich bazin outfits. Their long nails were intrically painted. Elaborate hair headpieces adorned the back of their perfect heads in perfectly symmetrical arrangements. They fluttered their false eyelashes as they perused fashion magazines which contained beauty tips from the Ivory Coast and the latest in Senegalese hairstyles. I know because I spied on them, hypnotized, doing my utmost to check out what they were reading… These sorts of African women do not exist in Djenné. They never smile. They cultivate a studied hauteur. They never pay for anything. They never pick anything up if it falls. They never open a door. They just stand there until someone understands what they need. Then they proceed like great ships without any acknowledgements. They are Queens.

The men were glamorous too, in flowing boubous. They included one minister, which is why the plane was three hours late I expect…

More about my real mission here later. It is going well, I have achieved plenty, including securing the academic sponsors I need for the BL application. I am leaving for Djenne again on Saturday morning. Keita is leaving Tunis finally on Sunday, and will soon be in Djenne, hopefully to start living more or less normally again, including starting work again after two years of illness.


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