Monday, April 06, 2009

While one’s world crumbles around one, it is always a good idea to keep at least one foot in every day activities and even to embark on some new ones. I therefore decided to arrange the long awaited weaving course in the MaliMali studio while I was back in Djenne. A weaver came from Segou and will stay for a whole month to instruct my three students: Maman the MaliMali ‘manager’, a young woman called Baji and my old friend the weaver Boubakar, who is a master weaver already, but who weaves only on the narrow width traditionally used here. Now he will be able to weave up to 1m 50 on my new loom.
I would have liked to have some more people- a few of the traditional Djenne weavers for instance. One of them came along but when he found out he would not be paid for the time he spent learning, but would only be given lunch, he decided to give it a miss.

I had decided, on principle, that I didn’t want to pay the students. There are too many freebies given in Africa , and it has created a situation in Djenne where people won’t even sweep their own streets because they are waiting for some toubab to come and pay for them to do it.
There are professional fee-takers here- people who find out what the next paid event is and who go along to make up the audience and be paid the 1500 fcfa or so (twice the amount of a labourer’s day wage) The event may be an Aids awareness film. There are enormous amounts of money pumped into Aids awareness. These films are always interesting and just a tiny bit erotic- girl meets boy etc. So there are plenty of people willing to go and be paid to watch a bit of mild titillation. Whether this has even the smallest effect on their sexual behaviour is of course impossible to say.

I naively hoped that my weaving course would have some students even in the absence of money.
I am in Bamako again now, and just had a drink with Ace at Amandine’s (he, as you may recall, was dispatched with the ailing generator part again). He explained that it really IS necessary to pay the Djenne weavers at least something- they just can’t afford to come for a month otherwise- they have families to feed. This put a new light on things. Somewhat shamed, I decided to root around in the coffers and see what we can do- at least the day- wage of a labourer should be possible.


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