Monday, July 30, 2012

Impressive performances
first by Prime Minister Cheik Modibo Diarra (above)who gave a spirited and convincing televised address to the Malian people on Saturday night, defending his government's first 100 days in power, in the face of demands for his resignation from the members of the ancien regime, the old political elite who have much to fear from his promised rigorous investigations of previous wrong doings and mismanagement of government funds under ATT.
Sunday night it was the turn of interim President Diakounda Traore to address the nation, once more taking the helm after returning from his hospital treatment in France. He rose to the occasion which demanded a delicate balancing act to try and pacify the squabbling factions in this troubled nation's domestic leadership crisis in order to be able to address, finally, the burning issue of the North...there is some hope that he might be on the road to success. No time alas to enter into details.. much to do- next time I write I will be in Djenne again, inshallah!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spent the day at the Artisanat again, where Adama and I created these sandals- they are flatter than the ones from the other day, and very simple- just three big knots per sandal!

And here is Adama preparing the skins for tomorrow's sandals: the same as above, but in these colours- we will add a lime variation too!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Still in Bamako, working on the MaliMali website and developing new products. I spent today with a very nice cobbler called Adama at the Artisanat at the Bamako Central Market, a sorry place at the moment with virtually no customers.

I have a lovely necklace which is just a confusion of leather threads and beads hanging off it. It is Malian, but I don’t know where it is made. I bought it in Djenne, where I was told it came from the bush- this is definitely not true. It is too sophisticated and not a traditional Malian necklace.

I have had an idea that it would work for shoes, so today Adama and I tried it out! It worked extremely well, and the wedge healed shoes are quite chic even before the beads have been put on, I think, non?
But watch this space again- soon the beaded version will appear!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Herons in a Balanzan Tree by the Bani.

So, what happened?
Hasseye Traore called and told me his choice was the girl. Therefore my choice would decide the outcome.
I chickened out.
I decided that there was enough money in the kit for both to come, since we had made some savings in various ways.So Mohammed will come in August, and Fatou will come in September. Then we will decide who will stay!

Hasseye Traore, Samake and I went on a mission this morning for The Djenne Manuscript Library. We need to recruit a new person for the last year of the British Library Project. This person will be doing digitization work, but will also need to have a really profound knowledge of Arabic and to have a very high level of general eduction. This person could one day be the Director of the Library, and since we hope the Djenne Manuscript Library will become one of the main centres of not only Malian, but West African manuscripts, this position could become a very important one. So, where did we go to find such a person?
We went to Samake's Alma Mater, the Ecole Normale Superieure in Bamako, and to the Arabic Department, more specifically. (For the non-French, I must explain that this is a post-graduate institution, and normally the pride of any educational system which models itself on the French.)
Here three young canditates who had just graduated awaited us to be interviewed. They were exceptional all three: the only reason that one of them was dropped was that he lacked English.
The remaining two were both so good that we have not yet decided- each of us three has gone our different ways to try and reach a decision by the evening.
Let me present the two:
Nnmber one is a girl! Just this fact is very interesting for a deeply traditional place like Djenne, of course. She speaks fluent English as well as Arabic and French of course. She knows Excel and that will be helpful to me, since she can help with the filling in of information for London. Her father is high up in the High Islamic Council of Bamako, which impressed Hasseye Traore. She is however a modern and fashionable young woman and did not even wear Hijab.
As she left we were all seduced by her and certain she would be the one. But number two arrived, and he was just as qualified as the girl! His English is perfect, his Arabic too. A tall, super thin Fulani, his main attribute apart from being academically flawless, was his great boyish enthusiasm. He somehow awakened my mothering instincts, and I can't bear the idea that he will be disappointed! Oh dear, what a dilemma, what to do!
Samake has already decided. For him it is the boy. He thinks he will integrate easier with the team. I am waiting for the phonecall from Hasseye Traore- if he too choses the boy, it is decided. But if he choses the girl, it is my decision that counts... And if that is the case, I really don't know what to do! I have a feeling that Hasseye will chose the girl. Why? Because he said that 'a girl would be easier to manage!' Now, in this case, the young lady in question did not seem to me to be someone one could just 'manage' quite simply! Anyway, I am waiting for his call, and the three candidates are waiting too, for my call which I promised would come today!
Watch this space!
News by the evening!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Spent the morning in the Djenne Manuscript Library, where the team is progressing to schedule in the British Libary project.
Leaving for Bamako tomorrow, where I will try and work on finalizing the MaliMali online shop website, courtesy of better internet connection.
I have steered clear of any political commentary so far, and have kept my head down trying to find a solution for our little team here in Mali- salvation through bogolan!
But of course, the situation in Mali is dire, and getting worse every day the north is left alone. I have Australian friends who have sent me articles, and today my dear friend Giulietta sent me the following link/

The failure to react to this situation is going to cost the West dearly. The Ecowas and the international community are fiddling about, complaining, frankly without cause, about the Malian domestic government situation, and what they conceive is the lack of democratically elected government after the coup.
This is both wrong and irrelevant in the present over all situation. Mali now has a legal interim government, with a President and a Prime Minister. This interim government has been put in place according to the Malian constitution.
There are factions from ATT's old government and representatives of political parties who are complaining that they have no place in this interim government. The International community , and above all Ecowas, are taking these complaints seriously, and this is how everything is breaking down in Mali's domestic affairs! These political parties will once more have their place and their say, once the north has been liberated and elections can be organized. This is not the moment to for party politics! This southern government is legal. For goodness sake, someone, please come and help Mali to liberate the north before something worse than 9/11 happens!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just over one week in Djenne: what is happening?
I am keeping my head down, only thinking of work, in the shape of textile experiments. I cannot bear to raise my gaze on the reality around me. Oh, it is not that there is obvious suffering here, visible as one enters Djenne. No, the young men continue their late afternoon football in front of my sunset view of the Mosque, the Monday market, with its horse drawn carts brimming over with produce from the surrounding villages takes place as usual. But it does not bear to scratch the surface. The most dreadful fact is possibly that large shipments of grain destined for the refugees from the north and for the poor of Djenne, delivered here as donations from the Red Cross and a Catholic aid organization the name of which now escapes me, has quite simply been confiscated by a faction in the Djenne authorities and sold on to a rich merchant here. This is common knowledge in Djenne, everyone knows who is responsible, but no one does anything about it. ‘But why?’ I wail, ‘You have to denounce the guilty ones, you have to gather witnesses and proof and , if necessary, take it to Bamako and the Ministry of the Interior!’ ‘Ah, yes, of course we should...’ Yes of course you are right ...’ but the fact is that no one will do anything about it. The poor have no faith in the authorities, and who can blame them after all?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

So I keep my head down. Kadidja (left)is here from the villages. She is an Indigo dyer, and she is giving us three days of Indigo workshop. That includes the hotel staff too, because we are all working for MaliMali now.
Indigo is a wonderful, bubbling, elemental thing to discover!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Birgit's picture of Fatou.
My friend David expessed that it was sad to hear that our lovely Fatou has left, in his comment on the last entry. He also mentioned having heard that the Djenne population supports Ansar Dine, recently made known to the world as the iconoclast Islamists of Timbuktu, so I will repeat here what I wrote in the comments:

Ah, David, yes, how sad to see Fatou leave!
About Ansar Dine, it appears that this movement has existed a long time in Mali, under the leadership of its charismatic preacher founder Ousman Sherif Haidara, who lives and operates in Bamako. But the Ansar Dine that he represents is not the same Jihadist movement as in Timbuktu. He has denounced publicly and energetically the developments in Timbuktu, and he does not preach Sharia law for Mali, but seems, according to Keita and all accounts, to be rather a positive force.
But who knows?
The plot is thickening by the day!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

A heavily protected Hotel Djenne Djenno opened up its gates again last night to a delegation from the Dutch Embassy and the aid organisation CARE Mali.
Papa and Fatou produced their venerable Boeuf Keita ,while Baba served Cocktails Djenne Djenno on the terrace, and the griots sang once more, just as if everything was back to normal. But it was Fatou's last night here: our very first employee is leaving for Sikasso. 'My husband has decided I must go and stay with him now for security reasons' she told me. How sad to see Fatou go! I remember December 2006, when she and I went shopping in the Djenne market together even before the hotel opened. (See blog entry).
The Djenne situation is still more or less unknown to me since have not even had time to go into town yet! More soon..

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Gateux be! Namasa be! Sogo be!
(cakes for sale! Bananas for Sale! Meat for sale!)
Anyone who has travelled on a Mali bus has heard this call, when the bus stops and a crowd of insistant young merchants swarm into the bus with an assortment of goods they hope to shift in the minute or so the bus stops. Bananas, cooked sweet potatoes, little packets of roasted mutton wrapped in paper from old ciment bags and many other commodities.

I travelled north yesterday.
A Malian landscape, lush and green by the early rains, passed by my Segou-bound Bittar bus.
Now I am sitting in the garden of l’Idependance Hotel in Segou, waiting for Keita to turn up with Ace and the car journey further north to Djenne. I have spoken to Baba at the hotel. It is the first of July, and the staff are all back again, awaiting our arrival tonight.
What will we find in Djenne? What will the future bring?
As I write this, the Islamists are desecrating the tombs of the saints in Timbuktu. It is against their form of Islam to worship at the tomb of the deceased, and like the iconoclasts of the reformation they are removing what offends their particular belief. These shrines in the ancient city of Timbuktu are protected by Unesco World heritage, just like the city of Djenne. What does this protection mean?