Sunday, November 30, 2008

The long-awaited MALI MALI shop has finally opened at Hotel Djenne Djenno. Here we have my staff, Marriatt and Mamma (Mamma is the boy!)He is a recent accountancy graduate from Djenne, and she is still studying, so working part time only. There is only one thing one can study here in Djenne if one wants to go on to further education. There is accountancy or nothing, whatever one's aptitudes.! Djenne is therefore overrun with accountants, and even Dembele, my bogolan assistant, is an accountancy student.
They are now going to be putting their accountancy knowledge to some use hopefully, when the money starts to roll in for our new association MALIMALI.
This is what is says on the blurb we give out in the shop:


MaliMali is a new association, formed with the aim of developing the arts and crafts of Djenne; creating work opportunities for the population and, through the profits made in this shop as well as through other sources, sustaining several projects in and around Djenne in the areas of education, health and environment, for example:

• MaliMali sponsors adult evening literacy classes in Djenne
• MaliMali finances a programme of Trachoma operations in the villages in and around Djenne with health workers from the Djenne Centre de Sante de Reference (Trachoma is a potentially very serious eye disease which can easily be treated through a simple operation and anti-biotics)
• MaliMali is sponsoring a scheme aiming to clean up Djenne: old plastic bags are bought for 50 francs a kilo. A small portion of these plastic bags are used to create merchandise for this shop.

You are invited to help us, either by buying something from this shop or by becoming member of MaliMali:

Price of membership non-national: 10000FCFA
Price of membership Malian: 500FCFA

The bogolan textiles of these clothes are all made in the MaliMali studio just around the corner. Why not pay us a visit- You are very welcome!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The hotel has been overrun by Belgians recently. It is funny, I don't think I had ever met a Belgian before in my previous life, and now they are everywhere, and that is on the whole a pleasant thing. We have Pierre for instance, who made me laugh this morning. He has three uncles in Belgium who have never left their little village in the Ardennes. He has been trying to entice them to come travelling for many years, but no, the uncles refuse to budge. So he has now taken matters into his own hands, and the uncles have been on a journey around Mali, in a manner of speaking... This collection (which comprises more than fifty pictures) is going to be an eightieth birthday present for the most senior of the Uncles when Pierre arrives back in the Ardennes...

The Belgian Uncles travelled far and wide,

They visited the Dogon Country of course,

They were seen lurking in a banana grove,

and finally the Belgian Uncles arrived at Djenne Djenno!

Monday, November 17, 2008

This heavenly automobile,(a Citroen Light 15 I think it is called?) driven, appropriately, by two jolly Frenchmen, turned up towards sunset one night recently. It has travelled from Cape Town and encountered no mechanical problems whatsoever. I took full advantage of its decorative value. It got special dispensation and was allowed to park where no other vehicules park, under the palm tree in full view of the dining tables of course..

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Since most of the visitors to Mali are French, it is essential to be listed in the French travellers' guides, of which there are two: Le Guide Routard and Le Petit Fute.
And finally, nous voici dans Le Guide Routard!
And what does it say? Well, we are found on a page removed from the rest of the hotels, under the heading 'Le plus Chic' de Djenne! And our cuisine is recommended. This is what is says, more or less, after the preamble about prices of rooms and exact position:
'Sophie, a Swedish woman, fell in love with Africa and has built a hotel in the local style; the only hotel situated outside the town. The rooms are not very large but decorated with taste. Swimming pool is planned. Bicycle hire. Beautiful view from the terrace of the bar from where one can order a drink before sitting down for dinner (yes, we do recommend the food too) A good address.'

Not bad, and the first fruits arrived yesterday in the form of a French couple in a Landrover on a trip around Africa.

Friday, November 14, 2008

For readers of this blog, this should perhaps not cause too much of a surprise, because it is not the first time our troublesome barman has been sacked and later returned. (For those less aquanited with Djenne Djenno life, look up Beigna in the blog search above)
He is seen above in the picture taken last year when Malick Sidibé came to photograph the hotel.
Beigna is now back after nearly four months in the wilderness, when as usual more or less the whole of Djenne filed before me pleading for mercy and begging me to take him back. I refused steadfastly. Officials from the Djenne workers union came twice to try and reason with me, but I refused. I had followed all the steps in the cumbersome bureaucracy required in order to sack someone and all was in order. I did not need to take him back.
But here he is again. So what happened exactly? I heard stories of him sitting forlornly in the courtyard at Chez Baba's with the guides. I saw him once when he himself came back to plead with me. I refused, but I noticed that his teeth were getting disoloured from smoking too much. Then three days ago I needed something that only Beigna knew about. I told Baba to call Beigna on his mobile phone- Baba said that Beigna no longer had a telephone. I think it was this fact that finally did the trick and softened me. For the young handsome stroppy Beigna to no longer to have a mobile phone would be deeply humiliating. His girlfriend had left him too I found out from Kaita- she was no longer interested in someone without money or even a mobile phone.
Then I remembered all the good qualities he possesses: I remembered the times he pursued a guide through town and collared him in front of the Mosque for non-payment of a beer, his scrupulous honesty, his charm and of course his beauty- when he and Baba are dressed in their Fulani boubous and flit in and out amongst the dining tables they are not only efficient as a team but charming to behold.
So Keita and I had a talk. He thought about it over night, and called me in the morning- yes, he agreed, we should take Beigna back. So here he is, and probably he will remain with us until the end- but who knows?

And finally, I have become a proper Djenne inhabitant, because I have done something I should have done two and a half years ago: I have paid my respects to the Dogotige (Village Chief)of Djenne. Monsieur Maiga received me graciously and he was forgiving towards me, considering that he has been aware of the existance of Hotel Djenne Djenno since its beginning. The title of Dogotige is heriditary and wields considerable power still on some levels in the civic life of Djenne. In the little square in front of the ancient Maiga family house the Dogotige assembles his chiefs from the ten districts or neighbourhoods of Djenne to deliberate and make decisions concerning the town.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Here are the Peace Corps girls on Election night- finally managed it!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The internet connections of Djenne have been on strike- I have wanted to give news of the American election night for days now, but even today I canot seem to post a picture.
Anyway, Hotel Djenne Djenno had three different television areas running- there was France 24 giving French coverage in the bar, there was BBC World in the Kasonge with four American Peace Corps girls and me, there was Spanish coverage in the Peulh suite. People wandered about, fell asleep a bit and woke up again. Huge cheers from the Kasonge when Pennsylvania and Ohio were taken by Obama. By the time Obama gave his acceptance speech I am afraid I had fallen asleep, and so had many others. But a lone Italian woman in the bar cried with joy and embraced Adama, the new night watchman, who cried a bit too apparently.
In the morning there was joy amongst all staff. My plumber was here from Mopti. He commented that he thought nooone could say any longer that black people were held down by whites in America- Obama had achieved the ultimate and was going to become the most powerful person on earth. There also seemed to be huge joy in the idea that there would be Farafin children running up and down the corridors of the White House with their new puppydog...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The other momentous event was on a less global scale, but no less joyful: my cousin Pelle arrived from Sweden with his wife Nanni to celebrate his 60th birthday at Djenne Djenno. Here he is with his birthday present: two sheep for his birthday dinner that night when about 50 people turned up for our buffet dinner followed by dancing. There were the hunters of Djenne and Diabolo circling around the tables and shooting blanks and fun was had by all I hope!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Taking advantage of the last calm before the storm: we are waiting for an invasion of The Beast, (the full hotel).
Noone would believe it: an eerie calm reigns- all the rooms are in order, the only sounds are the chirping of birds in the flamboyant tree. Everyone is arriving from Bamako towards sunset, just in time for a sunset cocktail. This is also the evening when the angry Spaniards will arrive for their complientary Djenne Djenno cocktail on the roof. (See blog entitled On Human Frailty and error below).
La patronne herself has noowhere to sleep tonight. So I will sleep under the stars, which is no great hardship really.
A few days ago there was an Englishman here researching what remains of the once great West African equestrian culture. When the great battles of Sundiatta Keita's empire and the early Malian kingdoms were faught, this was done by cavallery. All across the Sahel, and much further south into Cameroon and Nigeria, the great plains of West Africa were ruled from horseback.
I called for my old friend Haidera, one of the last horsemen of Djenne of course, and he arrived resplendent on the no less magnificent Xaloc...