I first published this journal on
of July 2006, although the first entries relates to my
arrival in Djenné in April that spring at the height of the Great Heat- I
that the taxi brousse in which I
arrived from the Carrefour
Bani under its own steam while the passengers waded across.
That is the only time that ever happened.
It was a soft
starlit evening with a heady fragrance in the warm air – I remember it
well. I had come with the intention of beginning a new life.
And so I did.
This Djenné life of mine has been
an enchanted adventure. On the eight of November that year, when the hotel and
garden was taking shape with lightning speed in a flurry of creative energy I wrote:
“Happiness is an unstable
element, both perilous and perishable. It often comes disguised and then it is
not recognized until it has already left. Very rarely it makes itself known
when it is actually present. It is timid too, and the very fact that it is
recognized makes it flee, because immediately one notices that one is happy one
is also aware that it cannot last, so the realization is accompanied with a
sense of melancholy.
Yesterday I looked at all the workers finishing the hotel; at Baba's Great
Gate, at my dyed fabrics drying in the hot African sun, at my little banana
plantation which is beginning to flourish and realized that this is a dream
that is coming true in front of my eyes, and that whatever happens next, right
now at least I am very happy”.
And against all odds happiness
continued: even when Keita’s illness had declared itself and when our life
became shaped by the struggle against his cancer we were happy. Sometimes I
think our common fight for his survival was even an ingredient in our
happiness... We lived our enchanted life throughout the Malian crisis when the
Jihadists occupied the North and when the hotel guests stopped coming, nothing
seemed to remove the certainty I had
that this place, this age- old Djenné, was the place I was supposed to be.
But now it is over and this must
be the beginning of the end. It may be quite a long end: no decisions have been
made yet about when I will leave but I just know that it is over. There are
many things that are not yet ripe and must be given their time: I still need to
see the projects out at the Djenne Manuscript Library, but something has
happened down there which I find symbolic in the mood of heightened sensitivity
in which I find myself: we have finally run out of manuscripts. The
digitization workers have had nothing to do for the last week. I am sure that
we will find some more with some effort and we will go out into the villages
again to muster enough to continue for the last year. The project finishes in
October 2017, but nevertheless it seems like a hint that I have done my bit...
But what will happen to the thirteen people that are now working there with the
digitization project and the new conservation
and cataloguing project for the University of Hamburg which will also
stop end October 2017? I cannot really feel responsible for them but I do. It
is I who found the funding for these projects and it is not certain by any
means that they will find funding after
the projects finish.
And what about my staff at the
hotel? And MaliMali? Altogether there
are another 11 people which, added to the 13 at the library makes 24 people who
rely on income which will disappear with my departure.
I must leave nevertheless, and maybe sooner than
planned: my health is not so good and I need a heart operation- nothing very
complicated but it needs to be done. The future’s uncertain and the end is always
near, to quote the divine Jim Morrison
A picture from the golden time...