Friday, August 22, 2014

An Ordinary African Day...

always offers a cavalcade of funny, beautiful,  moving and utterly disgusting  events which produces a potpourri of everchanging  emotions. And no emotion ever stays around for very long either , because one  crashes headlong  into a new and overwhelming  one which is waiting just around the corner.  That is why  my frame of mind yesterday afternoon and evening  was so unusual and noteworhty: I was  actually bored, and it was a new and novel sensation. Keita is in Segou. I am suffering from a cold and the hotel is of course empty. There is  noone to chat to for my sunset drink, and I am having dinner alone in front of the TV watching Malian evening news: and as anyone who has lived in Mali knows that has to rank among the most boring TV imaginable.  Last night I looked through my DVD collection and realized I had seen it all.  With an uneasy sensation of guilt I started rewatching Downton Abbey from the beginning.  

But this morning I was thrust into normal Africa once more, when boredom does not enter the  equation.  I am working on the new collection of fabrics and garments which must go up on the malimali website soon to generate some more sales. The mornings are full and mostly jolly and all the staff are in the studio: dyeing, weaving, painting and sewing.  Today Alpha made a dress from our new Cassava print. I told him to make the sort of dress that the women from the bush wear. He did not need a pattern, and here it is, worn by  Niamoy, standing by the Cassava plant. I am pleased with the fabric although  I am only a little worried that the pattern looks like marijuana leaves? The dress was made for Aissata, our old friend in Diabolo where Dembele and I intended to return later in the morning.

But first there was some work to be done in the studio. However, something was disturbing me: I had seen a dead sheep about 20 yards behind my house and I had wondered when the smell would hit. And this morning it did, with a change of wind direction. There was a strong smell of cadavre and I dispatched Ace and Boubakar to sort it out: they buried the sheep. Maman and Dembele thought I was fussing over nothing.

An old  Bozo woman arrived at the studio and said something in Bambara about water. I thought she was thirsty and wanted to drink some water so I told her to go and see Boubakar the guardian . But no, she was asking for some money for the “water sacrifice”. I was in the middle of cutting a new pattern and only mildly interested in ancient African traditions and whatever this might mean, so I did not  really take any notice  and continued working. But she did not leave. Apparently I give her some money every year, or so Maman told me.  “But what for” I asked irritably. “What sort of sacrifice, and most importantly, how much money am I supposed to give towards it?” Maman told me in all seriousness that of course I must give some money: everyone in Djenné does. It is necessary to appease the spirits in the river every year, and to this end there is a yearly sacrifice performed by the Bozos. ‘If this is not done terrible things will happen and many people will drown in the coming year.” This sounded like blackmail to me, but since I was told 500CFA would be sufficient I decided to stop whining and handed the coin over and the Bozo woman went on her way.


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