Friday, February 01, 2008

West Africa is infuriating, invigorating, ridiculous, hilarious, confusing and many other things too. It is never ever boring.
One entertaining and somewhat unsettling habit in Mali relates to names and nicknames:
We have one Papa and two Babas at the hotel (both Papa and Baba are of course short for father). Petit Baba is about ten years old and only Papa the chef is old enough to have proved himself worthy of his name. I asked the name of a pretty young girl who comes to the hotel selling bananas, a niece of Papa’s, and I was told she was called ‘La Vieille’(the old one). Similarly Baba the waiter has a brother of tender age called ‘Vieux’. So why have they all been given these ill-fitting nicknames? It turns out that the nickname does not at all relate to its bearer but to the person in whose honour they have been named. La Vieille’s real name is Aminata, and she was named after her grandmother, who is of course an old woman, at least in African terms.

The best of all is the adorable little boy above who is called ‘Ancien Combattant’, (old or former fighter/soldier) which is shortened to ‘Ancien’. His real name is Lassana, and he is named after his great uncle who was a high ranking officer in Moussa Traore’s army.


Blogger wonderlandshow said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:07 PM  
Blogger wonderlandshow said...

oh my goodness!!! i want to put him in my pocket


5:12 PM  

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