Sunday, September 20, 2009

(I have tried for 4 days to understand how to put a picture up using the computer at this Gran Canaria resort, and now, towards the end of my stay, I give up and just publish anyway, without the lovely picture of me, my mum and MNL by the pool.)

Or so one is told from an early age. But why not? I ask myself as I am sitting in Madrid airport waiting for my flight to Gran Canaria. Most generalizations turn out to be spot on, in my experience. Just take this airport for instance, it reflects my preconceptions of Spain perfectly: it is grandiose, elegant and serious to the point of being just a little lugubrious. The airport is surrounded by the hills of Madrid, somewhere upon which must nestle the grand and serious El Escorial, full of all its austere portaits of sad looking Infantas.
And just take that Texan who stayed at the hotel a couple of weeks ago: He behaved just like the Texans of my imagination, in fact he was a cartoon Texan. He actually walked like John Wayne. He ran a successful accountancy firm in Dallas, and one of his hobbies was to take photographs, which he used to produce yearly almanachs which he distributes as gifts to his clients, actual or potential. Every year there is a new theme to the almanach; last year for instance it was the ‘Man-made Wonders of the World’. This theme had him flying around the World taking pictures of the Pyramids, Stone Henge and the Sydney Opera House etc.
The theme for 2010 is ‘The Wonders of Africa’, which includes the Mosque of Djenne of course. The night before the Monday market day he discussed his plans with me over dinner, showing me the pictures he had already taken that day as preliminary research. He pointed at a wall in front of the mosque: ‘I am going to hire some people to stand over here ‘ he confided. I explained that there would be no need to hire people to stand there, they would do so quite naturally. ‘Ah, but they won’t be authentic -looking’, he said. He meant that they were going to be wearing jeans and T-shirts, thus spoiling the illusion of a perfect fairy tale Djenne. ‘They have to look traditional’. He was intending to hire a group of people which he would style in what he believed to be ‘authentic’ clothing. This would include a couple of Fulani women with the big gold earrings one used to see around here about twenty years ago. After Djenne he was flying on to Timbuktu, where he had hired 25 Touaregs on 25 camels who would parade past on a big sand dune, while he took pictures of them from a helicopter which he had hired.

I was in awe of his childlike enthusiasm and his firm belief that he had the capacity to change the world around him to conform to his ideas of what he wanted it to be, regardless of what it is actually like. But I suppose he was just living out his own generalizations…

The above musings were penned on my way to Gran Canaria, where I am now staying for a week with my mother and MNL. I fled, as I said, last week when I was informed that Keita’s other wife is coming to live in Djenne. I saw him and the rest of the family in Bamako for a difficult day or so before leaving. Things have now calmed down. I understand that Keita does not want Mai to come to Djenne either, but neither he nor I can prevent her if she insists, it is her right. So of course, what one cannot change one has to accept. I will go back to Djenne. I will have to be back to pay my staff at the end of the month, as well as to put everything in order for the tourist season which gets into swing by mid October. But before that I am enjoying some quiet and sun next to my mother and MNL hoping to gather some energy, wisdom and calm to sustain me in the stormy times which are no doubt around the corner…


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