Friday, May 30, 2008

My stay in the ravishing Swedish countryside has come to an end, and my return to Mali draws nearer. One day before leaving, my mother and I wore our regional costumes. This is quite normal in this part of Sweden, and we wore it for a church service. It does of course make us quite exotic in the eyes of foreign visitors. It is quite fun to be a tourist attraction and to understand what it is like to be ‘on the other side’ as it were.
Once an American tourist approached us, beaming, and said very slowly and loudly: ‘Do you understand English?’ My mother and I beamed back, and I said, slowly and with some apparent difficulty: ‘Yes, a little’. ‘Do you always dress like this?’ enquired the American. I lied of course.

Some of the creations which will be available in the Hotel Djenne Djenno shop in the coming tourist season: yes, yes, I know the hats are un peu de trop , but it doesn’t all have to be worn at the same time…

I had brought some dyed fabric and some river mud with me from the Bani- the tributary to the Niger which flows past Djenne. My mother and I painted and washed the fabric in a very different water…I have now entrusted my mother with a scientific commission: Is it possible to paint with Swedish mud, or does it have to be with mud from the Niger or the Bani? She will try it on the remaining bits of fabric and report her findings.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I fuss and worry a bit, without reason as it turns out, about how my staff is getting on at the hotel without me. Just to be on the safe side I asked one or two of our rare low-season guests to write me a word and let me know how their stay had been, and if they had any comments to make. Two persons kindly wrote back and said that the staff and service had been impeccable. One of them also added a few tips on how we might improve the hotel. This gentleman lives and works in Bamako, and his comments made me realize what a metropolis Bamako is in comparison to Djenne. If you venture this way, intrepid traveller, you are in AFRICA. You are in LA BROUSSE.
First,he wrote, it would be better when we have electricity- (yes, indeed, the day we can switch off the generator will be one for celebration!)
Second, it would be a good idea to have wire-less internet connection- it is a standard feature now in good hotels. (Yes, yes, pleeeeese! if only! We struggle with the water supply!)
Third, it was suggested we would benefit from glass window panes to keep the dust out. (Hotel Djenne Djenno is built in traditional Djenne style. We would be the only building in Djenne to have glass window panes. I am too much of a purist to let a bit of dust bother me. Besides, Ali cleans every day)
Forth, a small fridge in the room would be appreciated. (Good idea for the suites, yes.)
Fifth, there was no towel rail!
(But there are hooks for the towels! They are made from cow horns, though...)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What could this elegant trio possibly have to do with Djenne?
My pal Andrew Kerr-Jarrett, a seasoned Mali veteran, is seen flanked by his sisters Isabel and Sarah at his niece's recent Yorkshire wedding. And what is he wearing: A MaliMali waistcoat, the likes of which will soon be found in the Hotel Djenne Djenno shop!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Still in Sweden- the sun is shining again.
Thinking of Djenne and looking through the picture archives. I have been wanting to put this picture in for a long time, but have found no reason. So here it is, apropos rien:
Monsieur Toure was the first person to have a motorcycle (vespa?)in Djenne in 1967. He is still riding the same bike!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Well, the snow was fun as long as it lasted, now back to more serious matters…
Such as making samples for MaliMali, the new Djenne craft venture. Here we see MNL (Mothers New Lover) in a bogolan dressing gown which will be sold in the Hotel Djenne Djenno shop in the new season.

I have also cobbled together, with the help of my mother and her hand weaving loom, a first attempt at something to save Djenne from its plastic bag problem. Could we weave something out of the rubbish? I need to make new chairs for my new restaurant. They need to have seats…. and perhaps I could weave the fabric out of plastic bags? Hmmm..let’s see…

Saturday, May 17, 2008

One of the only regrets I have about living in Africa is the fact that I may never get to experience a proper Swedish winter again. Christmas is firmly a Djenne fixture in the agenda, and the whole winter is of course high-season in tourism terms.
I am now staying for a few weeks with my mother and her new lover (see entry May 7 2007).
And what outlandish spectacle presented itself to us when we got up this morning?
A wholly unseasonable snow landscape, worthy of the finest Christmas card!

My mother and I threw ourselves into the creative possibilities of this freak occurrence; quickly found some mid-winter clothing and soon produced a snowman (mine) out for a walk with his dog (my mothers).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A great eagle sits on one of the Djenne Djenno turrets, overseeing the building work, and his presence seems a sort of benediction...
New pictures are emerging from Djenne and the building progress is on the right track:

Finally the pattern is there, and all the beams are in place! It is now in the process of being covered with mud, although parts of the wood in the ceiling will remain uncovered. I must remember to tell Boucoum, my mud architect, to give it all a really good dose of anti termite treatment. Must get back soonest! Have booked flight back for 15th June- it seems a very long time- the HDG will be done by the time I get there, and I will have to launch myself into furnishing it with all the new ideas for chairs etc..

The bananas to the right will remain- they grow between the bar/restaurant and the kitchen, and they will be illuminated at night, to create a sort of inside/outside feel. Straight ahead the beginning of the wall is seen, it will cover the whole distance between floor and ceiling but the mud bricks will be'broken through' i.e. laid in different patterns to allow the light through.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Hangar Designed by God (HDG), with the help of a Dutch architect ran into into a spot of bother...ahem..
The roof had to be raised by 30 cm, otherwise only dwarfs would have been able to use the spiral staircase. It was all sorted before we left,so all is well, and in fact it will make the bar much more impressive, with the added height, so it was probably intended this way after all- who can understand the mysterious ways of God?

The design for the roof of the HDG, as shown on blog entry March 14th shows quite a different design to what has now been happening in Djenne. Everything on the March 14 design forms triangles, which in their turn gather together to form hexagons etc. There is nothing remotely resembling any squares, or anything at all like what is going on in the left hand corner of this picture! Of course, being unreasonable, I had an apoplectic fit and phoned Boucoum, my mud architect. He has now had the offending left hand corner remade, and is apparently in the process of having the missing coconut beams added.
You see, this new Hangar will be about the most splendid thing in this part of West Africa. Well, at least as splendid as bits of La Maison Rouge,(Nov. 4 entry) and when Amede sees it I want him to pale with envy! (Just in case you didn't know, La Maison Rouge is a knock-em-dead- hotel in Mopti, and Amede is its owner and architect and my friend. People tend to stay at Djenne Djenno first, and then they go on to his place, or vice versa. We exchange tales about troublesome hotel guests, while we cry laughing.)

The ceiling of the intended bar, all going according to plan, will have coconut beams forming the pattern in the March 14th drawing. These will be covered with mud while the smaller wood, within the triangles, will be left visible. And on the top of all this, there will be the new restaurant, where we will dine under the stars, in the new chairs I am planning to make, about which more tomorrow!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Some images have been sent of the progress on the Hangar Designed by God.(see entries around 14 March.) This picture shows a good overview of what is going on. I should of course be there because the building work it is not straight forward, and I have no right to complain if it is not done exactly how I want it if I don't oversee it...
More anon

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

On the train towards Sweden:
North Germany speeds by, with its gently rolling fields of plenty, dotted with villages where teenagers play football on greens strewn with dandelions. On the horizon the wind -power turbines wheel gently in the breeze, like giant long-limbed athletes doing slow, elegant wheelies.
And what do I do? I look at my pictures from Djenne… I left my camera in Amersfoort, true to a recent increase in scatterbrained-ness. Therefore, for the next month we shall revisit the archives… and look at things quite unrelated to the discourse at hand. Such as these young accountancy students in Djenne, for instance, who turned up one day to visit the hotel. Since I was feeling uncharacteristically friendly that day I took them on a guided tour of the hotel. They were particularly impressed with the bathrooms and intrigued by the Chaises Anglaises…

Friday, May 02, 2008

Google earth has been updated and Djenne figures, finally! A very organised guest who is staying at the hotel at this very moment send this map when he booked. Is this the correct position of the hotel? he asked. And indeed it is- if you come the normal way from the main road to Mopti you don't have to go through town before arriving however, you just turn left before crossing the bridge...

Just at this moment I am on a stop-over in Holland, in the enchanting town of Amersfoort, where these hand-looms are tucked away in storage, possibly destined for Djenne eventually, and for if all goes according to plan...