Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Cavalcade



Well, instead of the present being a time of solitary reflection during the sad wrapping-up of my Djenné life, these months are proving to be so jam-packed with  important events that I have had not a second to spare... One major event is rapidly followed by the next, all deserving of proper entries in this journal! So I will just sketch out briefly here all the things that have happened and are happening:


The manuscript library has had a visit in January from two intrepid specialists who do not worry in the slightest about travel warnings: Michaelle Biddle from the Wesleyan University in New England came to talk to Saadou about watermarks and to teach the library staff how to separate pages that have become glued together. She was accompanied by Maria Luisa, our Italian conservator.

Then came my old friends, a rather glamorous trio of adventurers I call the three Musqueteers: Nicholas Mellor,(centre of the toubabs) visionary and entrepreneur  with the cutest  accent anglais  and Anthony Sattin, (right) distinguished writer from England with le charmant Axel Charles-Messance,  the French drone pilot and film maker  I call TinTin. They were here on a mission to teach local people to fly drones over the World Heritage Sites in order to preserve cultural heritage in endangered areas of political unrest. Theirs is a pilot project only at this stage, but with the potential to be used as a model for other areas around the world. Alas we didn’t get very far- that is to say, the Prefect (highest authority in Djenné) said NON. A proper high level authorisation was needed to fly drones in the current climate of heightened security. However, they managed to teach three local people and make a small film: The rest will hopefully follow in March when they return armed with the proper authorizations.

And what happened next? We moved swiftly on to the visit from Keita’s family from Bamako and Segou for the ceremony to Keita’s memory; a Fatia or a reading of the Koran with all the Grand Marabouts de Djenné, organized on our land by the library staff: Yelpha and Garba etc. Everyone who had known Keita was invited and it was a solemn and moving occasion: our old friend Dr.Guida Landouré came all the way by local bus from Bamako just to be present. Keita's sister Djenneba to the right below; and centre front Keita's good friend Bamoye who has featured in this journal in the past: see 'Bamoye's Guitar' in the blogsearch above.

With all these people  in Djenné from Keita’s family we decided to have a party at night, and Maman took advantage of the party in order to celebrate his wedding to Oumou. They have been married for years and have a little daughter called Sophie already, but this was, in keeping with Malian traditions,  the second part of the wedding, the part in La Mairie.


Keita’s best friends were invited to this dinner and we had the Balafon orchestra from Souala village who had not been here for years: a fun evening with much dancing from Maman of course, and Papa, as usual when he had finished in the kitchen. Almost like old times... Hans, my Swedish Dutch friend who comes every year happened to be passing through with his Lettish  friend Maris, thus adding to the festive atmosphere. And as if this was not enough, there was also Dr. Faira and the Cataract operation team, who joined the evenings dinner and fun.


The following day, at the Djenné hospital, came the inauguration ceremony for our fifth free cataract campaign for a hundred people given by MaliMali and sponsored this year entirely through my cousin Pelle Kronqvist and Nanni his wife. This year the operations were given in memory of Keita, his family was present at the inaugurations ceremony and a minute’s silence was observed. ( Keita's first wife Mai third from right, and his daughter Nene with me below)


And then came Timbuktu... I had been invited to represent the Djenné Manuscript library at a conference held by UNESCO on the pillage of World Heritage archaeological sites and the illicit trafficking of cultural objects – including the danger to manuscripts etc. So I went off happily in a UN plane for five days in Timbuktu where after the conference we were regaled by the crepissage of the 14th century  Djingareber Mosque- a very different affair from that of Djenné’s mosque, but with its own quite particular charm.
I was also invited to dinner by the wife of Saadou Traoré (our new manuscript expert in Djenné) at his old house in the back streets of Timbuktu behind the Djingareber one night. Madame Traoré sent her nephew with a little motor bike to pick me up at nightfall at the Auberge du Desert where I was staying. Only a motorbike is able to get through the small sandy alley ways of Timbuktu: the following morning I received a telling off by UNESCO and UN personnel who were absolutely horrified that I had been riding around Timbuktu on the back of a local’s motorcycle, and had returned back way after the kerfew... I was not aware that there was a kerfew even!

Returned happily to Djenné yesterday and having a few days to recover from all this excitement before leaving for Bamako on the bus on Saturday morning. I am meeting a Swedish Documentary film crew who are going to spend ten days with me: making a film about me and my life! Oh dear. I am going to have to be fascinating for ten days in a row...

15 Comments:

Blogger David said...

Seems a bit like a g rather satisfyindrawing-together of threads here. Life is rarely tidy but this looks as if you may be resolving the dilemmas. See you here soon.

11:43 PM  
Blogger David said...

Damn, couldn't really see what I was typing. You get the gist.

11:44 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Yes David, but there are so many worries though, poor old Boubakar the gardener for instance...

10:57 AM  
Blogger David said...

What about Boubakar? Not mentioned above, unless I'm reading carelessly. Did Maman and his wife name their daughter Sophie in your honour? And good old Guida, such a friend. Shall never forget his Malian banquet here...

12:03 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

I am worried about Boubakar because he is old and if the hotel had been running properly I would have been able to give him a pension so that he could retire. Maman and Oumou named their daughter Sophie as a compliment to me, but no doubt also with the hope that I might take an interest in her in the future... I have not so far I am afraid. There is Keita's children first...Guida is great, indeed! He sent over a young nephew with about a gallon of freshly milked cows milk to the hotel the evening of the Fatia, a traditional gift here amongst the Fulani and the Diawando, Guida's tribe, a sort of Fulani sub division.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Patrick El-Cheikh said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Patrick El-Cheikh said...

It's going to be so exciting to see what our team is going to find out about your life in Djenne and Mali in general! We are ready :-)

9:38 PM  
Blogger Pascal et Monique said...

And we are excited about the film to come! Your life, Sophie, is not just another life! Tu as su rendre ta vie exceptionnelle, rassemble tes forces pour continuer!

10:12 AM  
Blogger David said...

A ten-part series, perhaps? You could become as famous as Agnetha and Anni-Frid...

10:17 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Thank you Patrick, you are from the film team? Looking forward to meeting you too! Pascal et Monique: merci et a bientot à Lyon inshallah! And David, I rather missed out on those famous Swedes I'm afraid I was far away in the highlands of Papua New Guinea in their heyday...

3:59 PM  
Blogger David said...

Plenty of DVDs to watch in your Djenne Djenno fastness, though; they've not stood the test of time well. Whereas the songs, of course, are forever. Nice that you can namedrop about Papua, though. Was that the coffee plantation time?

8:07 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Was that name dropping? if you say so. I was in Papua on a tea plantation with my first English husband. But we used to go to to a coffee plantation, ULYA, and that remains one of the wonders of my world...more about that another time.

11:41 PM  
Blogger gardenia said...

Lovely to see a photo of Keita's daughter Sophie. How many children did Keita have and how old are they now? Do you see them much?

10:38 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Hello Gardenia! Just saw your comment.
Oh, that garden at ULYA!
Keita's eldest son Moussa in fifteen, then comes Lassina, his thirteen year old son and Néné his eight year old daughter.
I do see them- perhaps once a month and they spend some of their school holidays here in Djenné.

11:16 PM  
Blogger gardenia said...

Thanks Sophie! Yes the garden at Ulya ... but your garden here looks really beautiful too! I would love to visit!

11:49 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home