Monday, April 12, 2010

Maman helps Alison Neville wash her bogolan at the Bani crossing;

Back in the searing heat of Djenné, where the thermometer shows 35° in my room and the air conditioner has broken down due to fluctuating electricity supply. But I survive with a fan strategically placed by the foot of the bed, and by taking frequent showers during the night. Most of the guest accommodation is still OK, but we are awaiting the new Djenné municipal generators with bated breath hoping that their imminent arrival will inaugurate a new era when our continuing electricity problems will finally become a distant memory….
There are still some stray tourists making their way to Djenné, but very few by now. I will leave for Bamako and on to Europe in a couple of weeks. But there are all sorts of domestic problems to resolve before leaving.
Maman, the manager of the MaliMali studio and shop, has been moping around looking less than his usual sparkling self recently. He came to see me yesterday and asked me to help him in a delicate situation which has developed.
Maman is twenty years old. He has a girlfriend in Djenné, but he does not want to get married yet to anybody. His mother has other ideas. She has decided, with the rest of the family, that he is going to marry his cousin, a young girl from his village. She has asked him to make the necessary arrangements so that the cola nuts may be exchanged.
The ceremony of the exchange of cola nuts means that the two families have come to an agreement and that the marriage will go ahead. Maman will have to find the money for the wedding, since he is the only one earning any money. He has explained that he does not want to marry yet, that he can’t afford it, and that he can’t look after a wife in Djenné. This has fallen on deaf ears.
“Do you want to marry her?’I asked him. ‘Do you have any feelings for her?’ He seemed to have no opinions on this matter- my question is a very toubab thing to ask, I realized. ‘She is OK, I don’t mind her’, he replied. ‘My mother has said that I have to marry her, and then later I can marry whoever I like as a second wife’. But Maman doesn’t feel ready to get married to anyone yet, and that is the problem, not so much the family’s choice of bride for him.
‘But why don’t you just say no?’ I asked again in my naïve toubab way. This, as I understood after calling Keita to ask his opinion, would not be an option. Although Maman doesn’t want to get married, and although he is the one who is going to have to pay for it all, he has no say in the matter! Keita said that if he refuses he will most probably be hated by everyone in his village. The only option open to him is negotiation in Keita’s opinion.
‘Could I try and talk to your mother?’ I suggested. He accepted my offer so this coming Wednesday he will bring her and I will see what I can do. Before this meeting Maman and I will have to get together to discuss strategy. It seems to me that the financial side must carry some weight? I mean if I refuse to lend him the money he can’t get married, can he? Then I, rather than Maman, will become the culprit, removing any blame from him? Report to follow…..but meanwhile any advice gratefully accepted.


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