Saturday, March 30, 2013

Murky Waters

Last night's communique on Malian ORTM TV  from the Malian defence minister General Yamoussa Camara in translation:
The Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs informs national and international opinion that on  the March 20, 2013  the village of Bougoumi in the area of Tenenkou, Mopti region, was attacked by armed men belonging to the MNLA. The casualties are particularly heavy:  twenty dead and missing from the local population.
In addition to the killings, rapes were committed, people robbed of their property, two pick-up trucks were taken.
The Minister bows to the memory of the dead and expresses its deepest sympathy to their families. He asked the people to remain calm and reassured them  that actions are underway to search the areas better and to secure it from harm of  terrorist groups.
The Minister invites people to be vigilant and to report any infiltration of suspects as soon as possible to the nearest army unit.
Armed forces and their allies take all measures to ensure the safety of persons and property.
Bamako March 29, 2013

This communiqué has been ignored by the international press apart from the Chinese News agency  Xinhua  which reports it almost word  for word.  Their report appeared on MaliJet, a daily online news channel.
It has caused a storm on the comments page of MaliJet.
One of the moderate comments:
Mr. Minister,  it is not by saying untruths that problems will be solved.
The MNLA is in Kidal, Tessalit Aguelhoc, but certainly not in Mopti, Sévaré Kona. These are soldiers of the MUJAO in flight who are attacking the people of this region.
You will complain that the international press are defending the MNLA. But if you accuse wrongly you reinforce the enemy.  Send your failures from Kati to secure the area.
Indeed to accuse the MNLA of this attack seems to have been rather a clumsy anti-MNLA propaganda tactic, which has back-fired to the extent that no one is now even interested in the fact that 20 innocent people have been slaughtered. That the atrocity took place is not contested. But by whom?
I spoke to the staff at the Library this morning. They think the attack was made as a reprisal for the arrest of two armed Touareg fighters who were denounced by the population of Tenenkou  and arrested by the Malian Army in the beginning of March and transported to Bamako.  According to the population they may have been MNLA. When the population finds an armed Touareg, they believe he is a member of the MNLA. And as one commentator put it in the comments page of Malijet:
AQUMIMUJAOALQUAIDAMNLA c’est la même chose!!!
The worrying thing is that no one representing the international press seems to want to touch this story. On the other hand they are very keen to report anything suggesting that the Malian Army is involved in reprisals and atrocities. Malians feel keenly that he international opinion is biased against them in favour of the MNLA.
But certainly, the defense minister does himself and Mali no favours by claiming this massacre was perpetuated by the MNLA, when it is difficult or indeed impossible to prove it.

(Addition a couple of hours later: Keita just arrived and an argument erupted. 'Why don't you believe what the defense minister says?' Keita , always loyal to the Malian army, wants to know. 'If he says it was the MNLA there is no reason to disbelieve him. They have taken 10 days before they reported this event. That is probably because they have conducted investigations before pronouncing on it'. )
Who knows? But the question remains: do the slaughtered civilians in Bougoumi really care if they were killed by the MUJAO, the ANSAR DINE or the MNLA?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Attack on Tenenkou?

A bizarre short bulletin in tonight's ORTM Journal - the Malian TV Evening News- stated that the MNLA has attacked the town of Tenenkou - about 80 k from Djenne and about the same distance from Mopti- and caused more than 20 fatal casualties as well as carried off several vehicles. There is as yet nothing else about this event elsewhere.
It is the unfortunate characteristic of Malian TV that it does not have the means to do instant coverage of an event like this. Therefore we are now watching pre-recorded programmes about the war, rather than an event that may be unfolding as I write this.
But tomorrow this news item may no longer exist- it has happened before. We just spoke to our journalist friend Levy who confirmed having seen it too.

What is certain is that the  news agency ABC , through their Ouagadougou staff,  announced yesterday that the MNLA has 'designated a governor of Kidal'. This was reported quite seriously as if the MNLA had the right to appoint governors! Once again,  it would be helpful if it was understood that the MNLA does NOT have a mandate to speak for the Touareg people, a large number of whom do not want independence from Mali!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Malimali fashion show pics finally!

The Australian TV crew has just left Djenne.
As hoped they managed to extract some pictures from from their film footage of the MaliMali fashion show at the Villa Soudan ...
The Cow Dress with its chiffon scarf

The Giraffe fabric  finally appeared in the shape of  the MaliMali classic coat dress, and it is super chic- should be worn with black high heels...
for more pics see!/pages/Malimali/511764442199529

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Aussies are here!

The ABC TV Crew has arrived from Timbuktu- they decided not to heed the advice to leave given to other journalist like the Swedes last week, and remained in Timbuktu to film in the aftermath of the suicide bomb attack.  They will now include MaliMali in their programme, and also do something about the Manuscript library. Today it was the studio, and here is David the cameraman with  Chine his Malian assistant.


I got excited about the presenter Eric's great Aussie hat, so I borrowed it and here I am with Dembele, explaing bogolan techniques to our friends Down Under...
The Camera man David has kindly prepared some stills from the fashion show, so watch this space...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dewey Webster's Djenne

Feeling a bit peeky today and spending some time in my rooms in front of the fan with relatively good internet connection. I found something splendid at
If you have never been to Djenne, or even if you have, take a look at these excellent pictures which takes you right into the heart and soul of Djenne- including Hotel Djenne Djenno. Webster  had been given the same information that all guides give: ie. the number of crenelations on the rooftop of a Djenne house indicates the number of children of the house owners. He had therefore assumed that the owners of this house were particularly fecund. But of course it is the Djenne Manuscript Library!
And on a less joyous note, the suicide car bomb attack on Timbuktu a couple of days ago made it necessary for my new friends from the Swedish TV 4  crew to be evacuated by UN plane from Timbuktu- they are now in Sevare waiting for their vehicle to arrive from Timbuktu. This does not bode well for the future. Timbuktu had been safe everyone thought. It was Gao that bore the brunt of the terrorists' new tactic: suicide bombings. The military presence in Timbuktu had been relatively low, but is now bound to increase again...

Friday, March 22, 2013


It says ‘Express’ on the little red sticker visible in the top right hand corner of this envelope. That may be slightly misleading as a description. On 16th of December my cousin Pelle wrote: “Here comes your Donald Duck, maybe a little late”... The Swedish Postal advice had given the official date for Christmas posting for Mali as 15th of December.   It arrived today. The Postman delivered it in person, very excited. I think it is the only thing that has arrived to the Djenne post office in a few weeks...
And for non-Swedes, an explanation may be necessary: The entire Swedish Nation watches one hour of Donald Duck and other Walt Disney cartoons about 4pm on Christmas Eve, before opening the Christmas presents. This is something that makes me feel nostalgic every year, and I try and watch some Walt Disney – whatever I can get hold of. It is not the same thing however and my cousin Pelle kindly recorded  the real thing for me Christmas 2011.
Funnily enough, the Swedish film crew and I had a conversation about this very thing (obviously an important part of the National Psyche) and they told me that nowadays it is the old people that watch the Walt Disney films while the children run around making a nuisance of themselves, no longer interested in such things... It confirms my belief that my generation- say roughly people aged 52-72- is right in all things. We were young at the right time and we are getting old at the right time too, for even those that are young now envy us.


My Generation

I went to a fabulous party in London in January at my friend Lucy’s place with people of My Generation. There was a guitar available and one stray young person  who may have been in his early thirties started playing. Everyone got their I-phones out and found the lyrics to Suzanne Takes Me  Down and other Leonard Cohen songs and our young guitarist knew them all.  “Why don’t you play us some of the music from your youth?” we asked.   He told us that there was simply no comparison and he had no wish to play Oasis...

I have no fear of Old Age because I know that in a decade or two the Old Age Pensioners Homes will be THE place to be: the corridors will be alive with the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, the Doors and Led Zeppelin. The nurses and carers will be trying in vain to make us reduce the volume, just like our parents did in our youth.
But of course, we have always been right.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Still in a spin after last week’s excitement in Bamako. Carin, the Swedish ambassador, just called me from Burkina Faso and we had a dissection of the fashion show and the evening and both felt it had been a success. She had opened a bottle of champagne in celebration on Thursday night after it was all finished and everyone had left except the ‘inner circle’ which included Sylvie and Jimmy of the Villa Soudan, Amede of La Maison Rouge and Keita down from Segou for the event.  Then Carin too went home because of pressing engagements the following morning. But we carried on opening more champagne. My last memory was of saying goodbye to Carin.  The rest of the evening had to be pieced back together the following morning with Keita’s help. He had never seen me in this state before, which is not surprising since I believe I was about 18 last time it happened. I jumped into the swimming pool twice with my Giraffe dress on. Otherwise I was apparently a happy drunk, just laughing a smiling and not doing anything too obnoxious at least...Keita was nevertheless very ashamed of me. He has now forgiven and forgotten Alhamdilullah, and what remains is that in the earlier and important  part of the evening he was  proud of me he says...
Because of total lack of pictures, I have felt unable to make a proper report. Next Monday the Australian TV crew is arriving in Djenne- I have high hopes of being able to extract some stills from their material. Life is not quite back to normal, because there has also been a sudden influx of hotel guests here, including the Swedish TV 4 channel who decided to do a detour from their planned trip which was to go to Timbuktu only to include their country woman in Djenne in their Mali reportage. Here they are, interviewing Baba about how it feels to have been switched from being a waiter to being a bogolan worker.

 My birthday was rather a jolly event on the 17th since the Swedish film crew were here, as well as a lone American tourist who  joined us for dinner in the garden.  Karim played his Kamale Goni and sang for us in the warm Malian night under the bright stars...

Friday, March 15, 2013


Thanks for prayers and good vibes! All went according to plan. Apart from the rather infuriating fact that I do not have a single picture to show for it! Camera forgotten. But Australian TV and Malian TV were there and therefore there will be film from which I will presumably be able to get some stills! But not yet alas.
Spent afternon at the poolside at Hotel d'Amitie.
Bus to Djenne tomorrow at 5.30...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

here we go!

Mba in Afro mode  yesterday at the fittings at villa Soudan, wearing bogolan boots for first passage.
Tomorrow report with pics will follow, inshallah.. Please send us your prayers or good vibes tonight for our fashion show!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Giraffes Galore

How long have I been ranting on about Giraffes I ask you??? There is even a picture of me in the new MaliMali Giraffe dress with Giraffe chiffon scarf from 27th of December in this very journal! And what do I find today? A brand new fashion report at Sylvie's at the Villa Soudan shows quite plainly that VALENTINO himself must have had spies hanging around Hotel Djenne Djenno, for here is his version! Outrageous.  I have a new Giraffe dress for the occasion on Thursday...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Towards Bamako

There can be nothing more delicious than breakfasting by the Bani crossing on freshly caught and deep fried fish wrapped up in paper from old cement sacs and smothered in rough  salt. And here I am with my little MaliMali team, doing just that. Djenneba is  newly recruited as my assistant (see September 1,  2011) and Dembele still with us from the beginning. Cow dresses and Giraffe hats are packed safely and stowed in the bus behind, which is just about to go on to the ferry. Note the Mali flag with the Tricolor!
Writing this 14 hours later from the Catholic guest house next to the cathedral, a convenient and above all cheap place to stay in Bamako. Have invited Father Manolo and Father Jean Pierre to the Fashion show on Thursday. They are very excited, having never been to anything like it before!

Tomorrow we will choose models and do clothes fittings etc. Dembele will be in charge of the lighting- a hand held spot light, like the last time for the Danes at the hotel- we are getting dab hands at this now!
And something quite exciting is happenng; ABC , Australian Broadcasting Commission is filming the fashion show at the Villa Soudan! Then they want to come to Djenne and film the studio and our  making of the bogolan textiles too, as well as the manuscript library- they are going to Timbuktu too, but spending quite some time in Djenne with me!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Mud Matters.

Mud, this most fundamental commodity in Djenne, has been even more than usual in evidence  today.  Not only was Pudiogou applying it to create our new COW pattern for my  creation the COW dress, to be unveiled on the 14th...
But at the hotel also, mud was being applied for our yearly ‘crepissage’ If  you look closely you will see in the centre of the picture that they are enjoying a  glass of the sweet and ubiquitous Malian tea, without which no work can be carried out here.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Bill's Well

Bill is a Djenne tourist guide who has not worked for several months. He is probably not likely to work again in his guide capacity for a long time to come either. So he decided to do something else, and has begun a small market garden. MaliMali received a donation from a kind person in Germany called Angela who said we could do something useful with the money. 

 So this is what we did: her money paid for a well to be dug for Bill (just over 200 000 FCFA:  E 310) and today it was finished! Here is Bill with his mother, young wife and daughter.


Identity Cards

People are trying various means of earning money in a hard climate. One of the least laudable is the identity card scam perpetrated by the minor officials in charge of this service which is reported from every town in Mali: It used to cost 1500 FCFA (E2.30) to get an identity card, including the pictures. Since the war started it is not possible to travel without an identity card- people have been thrown in jail or worse for not being able to prove their identity. So now the cards have increased tenfold in price (unofficially of course) and it is doubtful whether you would be able to get one for 15 000 FCFA (E23) today.