Friday, October 28, 2011

Much is happening, and much is about to happen.
I have been too busy to write, but that is not the only reason- I find to my frustration that for once I cannot really talk about what is going on. Too much is at stake. The manuscript project may fail for reasons too complicated and delicate to go into. Bear with me.
Meanwhile there are some hotel guests here, although most people in tourism are suffering badly because of the irresponsible stance of the foreign diplomatic corps and their Mali 'high risk' warnings. I finally got a most unsatisfactory response to my hand delivered letter of complaint to the British Embassy from Nick Griffith, the British ambassador. He just reiterated the same nonsense you find on the foreign office website, and does not reply to my query of how it is possible to put the whole of Mali on red alert when nothing has ever happened in any tourist areas!
More soon...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I am passing the afternoon in Paradise. Or more specifically in that little enclave of paradise which contains the Hotel Amitie poolside in Bamako. I have just had a club sandwich and an ice cold beer in a frozen glass. Then I went for a blissful swim in what is definitely Bamako’s best pool. When I arrived back to my sun chair a complete stranger had sent me over a plateful of fruit with compliments and his phone number! I am of course a girl from the bush and ill used to such gallantry these days… I am soaking it up like a sponge.
The Hotel Amitie is one of several Libyan owned luxury hotels in Bamako. It is quieter here than normal. The future of these Libyan strong holds in Mali is of course uncertain.
I am not here just to lie by the poolside however- far from it. This morning I criss-crossed Bamako’s central market on a successful hunt for air conditioners and bathroom equipment for the two new rooms which will shortly make Hotel Djenne Djenno into a 14 room hotel.
And tonight I am going with my Belgian friend Ann to a place called Campement Kangaba, a hotel in the bush about 45 min. drive from Bamako, where we are seeing Afel Boucoum and Habib! Both are bright stars on the firmament of Malian music, but Habib is perhaps now, with Salif Keita, the most celebrated living musician in Mali.

The concert was pure joy. A friendly and intimate venue with no more than 150 people perhaps, milling about having drinks and food. The village kids were invited for free and got up and danced on the stage with Habib who were enjoying himself thoroughly. We were right in front of the stage and enjoying every minute.

Habib is a consummate performer and entertainer, and it was the best live concert I can remember since the early nineties and some awesome Pixies concerts in London....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Historic day today. Let me present
That is to say Endangered Archives Programme, Bibliotheque Manuscrits Djenne, Collection Maiga, Manuscript no 1, Prieres du Prophet (Prayers of the Prophet), page 1.

The Dogotige (village chief) of Djenne signed the first in a long series of ownership agreements we have prepared. This enables us to start working on his collection of manuscripts in the Djenne Manuscript Library.And here are Samba and Hussein doing just that on our brand new digitisation units, in our lovely air conditioned work room.

This beautiful manuscript (an incomplete Koran) which I have already showed once, has attracted the attention of Dr. Dmitry Bondarev of SOAS, my academic sponsor for the project. He says that if it is indeed copied in Djenne it would be quite a story. He and others say it is from the Maghreb. The people in Djenne assures me that it is copied here. The clue may be that it belongs to a Djenne family which traces their ancestry to the Moroccan invasion here in the 16th century. They are adamant it is copied here. The yellow segments are written in saffron! This is still done sometimes here in Djenne, and Samba Landoure, a member of the dreaded library management committee, tells me he knows how to prepare this saffron ink!
It appears that Djenne is renowned for preparing the best calligraphy ink in Mali, and that often the scribes of Timbuktu bought their ink here. Next time we do the Calligraphy competition we will insist on traditional inks, last time some people used biros!

Finally, today is also historic in that I am about to go on my first ride on my new horse . He is still a Horse With No Name (isn’t that part of some famous lyrics?. He has been rather neglected since he arrived in the middle of all the commotion of last week.. But Yee Ha! Here goes!

Later on: he is a fun little horse. He is no Maobi, but perhaps that is just as well... I will be able to go on rides on my own with out worrying about coming across loose horses. He is not a fighter, and has made friends with Max already. Here we are returning.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Alas! I mislaid my camera in all the commotion, and the promised pictures from the historic event: the first ever fashion show in Djenne, were taken by Papa our chef on his telephone.. Nevertheless, the fashionshow was a triumph! So much so that the Danish Embassy, who had taken the hotel over, and on whose request the fashion show was held, have invited the whole team down to repeat the show in Bamako at the embassy in the near future, possibly in connection with the Danes taking over the presidency of the European Union in January. More about this later of course, should this come to fruition...
It has been a mad week, with much fun, some of it involving the said Danes. On Thursday night I and Mory Cisse, the Prefect of Djenne, trundled off to Mopti in his air conditioned 4x4 from the prefecture. Travelling with the prefect is much recommended. The 'bac' (ferry) stands to attention, waiting for one, and the journey takes a fraction of the time. We two made up the Djenne delegation, invited to a cocktail party held by the Danish Embassy at La Maison Rouge. The Danes have been escorting a group of important Danish government people around Mali, showing the many different projects that the Danes support.
I was very excited, since I never ever get the opportunity to wear my high healed shoes.
Menwhile, at the manuscript library, the work room is up and running, a pleasant place to be now with the air conditioning running and all the computers and cameras in place. We are beginning the real work tomorrow, the workers having been taught the intricacies of the digitisation techniques. More soon..

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

My new horse and Pudiogou arrived this morning, exhausted but otherwise in good shape. I gave Pudg the day off and my new little horse grazed happily and calmly next to the bogolan studio all day while we were working. Tonight he refused to enter his new stable, however. I don't think he has ever been in a stable before...

But the arrival of my horse is only one in a multitude of events that are happening or about to happen: tonight our training staff for the library project are arriving from Timbuktu, starting work early tomorrow morning, a critical phase which needs much supervision and involvement on my part. But meanwhile, on Sunday we are having a Fashion Show at the hotel! The guests - a group who are taking the whole hotel over- have requested a MaliMali fashion show.
This is not entirely unknown territory for me, having once been a catwalk model myself, and later a fashion designer. I have decided that we are not only going to have young and slender girls, but have invited this lady to join as a model, since she bears physical resemblance to one of the guests that has requestred the show. More of this with pictures of course....