Friday, February 28, 2014
First of all we sold Max last year in January. It was a decision arrived at for practical and economic reasons- there were no more tourists and I could no longer afford to keep him. Pudiogou stayed until March, and then suddenly he announced that his mother had called him to his Dogon village: he was to take his sister who suffered from mental illness to a traditional healer far into the bush. I did not deal with his request for leave very well: I was very upset to lose him. ‘But how long is this going to take? ’ I asked, unreasonably. ‘You can’t just leave me like this!’ But of course he could. ‘I will be back when my sister is well again’ he assured me. But I continued being unreasonable, and said what I now regret: ‘But you owe us money!’ You can’t just leave like this!’ He said I would get the money he owed me. But of course that was not the point...
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Friday, February 14, 2014
The advice of my Godmother
He was asking me to finance a hangar, (a sun-roof) for the public readings of the Koran that his family hosts. Until now they have been hiring tarpaulins to stretch across the place where the men gather for the Fatias, which is the normal way to do it here. The letter contained a detailed estimate for the cost : in the region of 1000E. I read the letter and said I would think about it and talk to Keita. At least that is one thing I have learned here : it is better to say ‘I will think about it’ than NO….
Since then I have been mulling this over. I think that my presence at some of the the Fatias of Maoloud make some people believe I have converted to Islam. This is certainly not the case. I like to take part in the traditional celebrations of my adopted mud city, but as an observer : I enjoy it as a cultural experience. I am of course for an entente cordiale between the religions of Djenné, but that is just it : the 30 or so Christians who live in Djenné are not allowed to build a church here. They meet at Pasteur Felix’s home on Sundays. If a Christian dies here they are not allowed to be buried in the city of Djenné. During the worst part of the recent crisis there was an emergency food delivery for refugees from the north as well as for the poorest among the Djenne population. This was carried out by the NGO the Catholic Relief Service (CRS). We have just had one of the managers of the CRS staying at the hotel- an interesting, preppy young ex- Peace Corps American . He told me that during this emergency relief to Djenné, it had come to light that the Imam had removed any Christians from the list of those who were about to benefit from this emergency relief.
Saturday, February 08, 2014
The Art of Letter Writing
with Jeremy Dell, PHD student with the university of Pennsylvania who just spent a couple of weeks here. He is our first research student since Ariela Marcus Sells (from Stanford) in 2012, just before the Coup d’Etat. He found plenty of interesting stuff, such as a 18th century Kitab Tarsil, a ‘how-to’ guide to letter writing, with examples such as : from a ruler to another ruler, from a father to a son; from a son to a father; from a servant to a master etc.
Predictably, I wanted to know girly things like ‘were there any love letter examples?’ but there were not, alas. Then I realized that it would not have been any point at the time since virtually no girls in this area knew how to read or write...
Thursday, February 06, 2014
The Colour of Mud
I love the colour of February in Djenné: everything is the colour of mud in different hues and in different consistencies. There is the hard cracked mud of the surface of the buildings; the powdery mud of the dust clouds kicked up by passing herds of cattle, football players or my funny little horse frollicking in the distance; there is the mud dust that settles on all the vegetation in the Djenné Djenno garden, producing pastel dust colours. And of course I have spent all day painting with mud in my studio!