Monday, February 29, 2016
Thursday, February 25, 2016
A Working Class Hero is Something to Be
Let's drink to the hard working people
Let's drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Let's drink to the salt of the earth
Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth
(from Beggars Banquet )
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Spirit of Enterprise
The cosmic malfunction which has hovered over the Indian medicine delivery has finally been unblocked and I have had confirmation this afternoon that the drug is winging its way to Bamako courtesy of FEDEX. Hopefully it will be arriving about the same time as Keita and I do so he can start his treatment.
I am celebrating this breakthrough by showing a funny picture from happier times here in Djenné: it is a sign that I painted many years ago and put up in the centre of Djenné to advertise trips with Max and the beautiful carriage I had specially made and installed with sunshade and cushioned seats for tourist trips to Diabolo and Sirimo and other villages in the surrounding country side. I used to ride with Napoleon or Maobi and we would have picnics under a great tree somewhere on the plains.
It was only yesterday that I noticed that some enterprising competitor for similar trips has exchanged the hotel telephone number in the bottom left hand corner for his own! Oh, well, that was a long time ago- such trips have not been on the agenda here for years..
Oh, and there is some development on the goat front. Boubakar and I caught two of the little pests today munching away at the millet in Petit Bandit's stable while he was lying down on his hay having his afternoon nap apparently oblivious to the fact that his provisions were being depleated! We tied them up in the garden again, but this time our neighbour did not turn up straight away... The goats were bleating away under the flambuoyant tree until well after dinner when Andrea and I had repaired to my place to watch a film. Then he dared coming and just walked into the garden and untied them said Boubakar indignantly when he came to knock on my door to report the incident.
It has to be said, it is impossible to imagine a guardian less suited to inspire fear and trembling than Boubakar...
Monday, February 15, 2016
P.S. Some nail biting time later: having overcome a sporadically malfunctioning internet connection I have now managed to send off the missing identification to India. I would like to sit down on my sunset terrace with a large glass of whisky and ice, but of course I can't. It is lent and I am cutting out alcohol- is there going to be no end of today's trials?
Still no confirmation from India that the medicine has left. It is now well past Indian closing hours and it must mean that it has not left. Why? Keita is sounding bad on the phone although as always he keeps up a positive front: 'ça va. ça commence à aller'...
I keep working in the studio in order to have something to do.
Monday, February 08, 2016
A Great Sunday
We had been forewarned on Saturday that the minister of Culture and Tourism was to make a brief visit to Djenné and that she wanted to look in at the library. This in itself is quite a triumph, considering that the manuscript library is still in a prolonged feud with the Imam of Djenné and hence with the local authorities, and any previous ministerial visits had studiously ignored our existence, guided by the local authorities. Nevertheless we now have a powerful ally in the National Director of Heritage – Lassana Cissé- who may be unaware of any of these local problems: he had spoken glowingly about us and the minister insisted on a library visit. She turned out to be a charming and utterly cultivated woman of the type that one meets occasionally in Bamako and sees on the
television but very rarely in the provinces.
She wanted to know what I was doing in Djenné and spoke to me in perfect English having apparently been educated in Canada. I was then interviewed by the Malian TV team which formed part of her entourage on her request. It should be on tonight... I didn’t really expect that and I would have preferred the others to speak about the library- it looks better. But Babou was not there, he was otherwise occupied with a family wedding and that moves us on to the best part of the day: the big wedding and fatia in the Sakore Quarter of Djenné. Babou had made sure that I was invited to the fatia of the Tenentao family which was held in connection with his wedding.
I was not really that keen, feeling even lazier in the afternoon after the morning’s excitement at the library. However, it is a rare honour to be invited to such an event so I felt I should make an appearance. I did not regret it. A fatia in the Sankoré district of town is a squashed-in affair, much more intimate than the previous fatias I have attended: the event was held in one of the tiny streets with an awning spread across it and the men who take part in the Koran chanting take up most of the space, all dressed in
their most gorgeous boubous,
flanked by the little boys, some of them beautifully dressed like little princes.
When a dignitary arrived he was shown a place by one of the Tenentao family.
As usual I allowed myself to enter into a gentle trance-like state, enjoying the monotone but charming sound of the chanting and feeling how very powerfully such an event binds the community together and forms its very identity. I also reflected that this is the real Malian Islam: far, far from the rigours of the extremist views of those who occupied the north and who are still a threat here. They would not approve of the unveiled women and this melodious and joyous way of declaiming the Koran.
Having stayed for some time at the melodious fatia I decided to take my leave but it was impossible to leave where I had entered so I found myself at first in the back road which was lined with women who had not been lucky enough to find a space under the awning.
Then I lost my way in the labyrinth which is the heart of Djenné...
but soon I came upon these five friends by the signpost for the sacred well of Wangara,
and just next to them sat Babou resplendent in white boubou in front of his house which boasts this sacred well in its courtyard.
He is a direct descendant of the Moroccans who conquered Djenné in 1594. Legend has it that the sacred well can communicate with another well in Timbuktu. Some marabouts have told me that during the Jihadist occupation of the north the well was used for this purpose...
The whole of the ancient Sankore Quarter seemed like an enchanted place last night towards sunset: around every corner I turned I saw a view even more wondrous than the last, with everyone enjoying the soft evening sitting on mats in the street talking laughing and drinking sweet tea.
Finally I arrived at the space which opens out enough for motorcycles to be parked and here I took my leave, passing by the market place where the women from the villages had already arrived with their calabashes ready for today’s market.