Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I am writing from an empty hotel.
January was not the catastrophy that we had envisaged: there have been plenty of hotel guests in spite of it all. But there is no denying that the reservation sheets are making for depressing reading. So what should be done? I am too far involved in Djenné just to pick up and exit when things go on a downward turn with tourism. We have to survive. But how if there are virtually no tourists any more?

I sold 6 metres of MaliMali’s 1.20 m. width hand woven cotton the other day. It is of course hand dyed and painted in a bold pattern with the local organic dyes called bogolan. At the same time, Ii is not ‘ethnic’ in the slightest. A very elegant Belgian couple bought the fabric which they were planning to have made into blinds for their Brussels apartment.
Is this the way forward? I have not had the time to concentrate on MaliMali’s export. We have only sold things to passing hotel guests. Nevertheless, I remember our little feature in the World of Interiors in 2007, after which we were more of less inundated with requests for fabric – I must have had close to a hundred emails wanting to buy MaliMali fabric… but we did not yet have a studio, we did not weave our own fabric then, we were not at all ready. Now we have two great weaving looms, we have four people working in the studio, we could have many more. We have a website: www.malimali.org (such as it is).
As I lay awake the other night I turned over an idea in embyo: MaliMali should show at an International furnishing fabrics expo….I have begun to cast around for funding – more of this later , inshallah…

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is the exhortation on Yours Truly’s attempt at an Arabic manuscript…
(Do not fear, I am not putting this forward as a model of excellence! )
The colours brought here by Boubakar Sadek , the Timbuktu calligrapher, are imported and in my opinion far too harsh. I would like us to plan another seminar quite soon, using only the inks and colours that can be derived from nature here around Djenné. This is after all how it used to be done, with great success.

Nevertheless, the bright colours are much appreciated by the participants. Here is some more of their work. I rather like the rabbit, which apparently illustrates a poem about just that: a rabbit. It is hard to know how to proceed now. I am hoping to rekindle the fine work that was once produced here. I do not want us to produce kitsch. We want to set up a calligraphy studio at the Djenne Manuscript Library and hope to sell some of the work to tourists. I think I know what they want. Do I enter the stage and tell people here what to do? In my opinion the work is very rough. On the other hand, some of it has a naïve charm. Perhaps it should not be measured and perfectly symmetrical? I do not know. Their ancestors managed to do it, so why not they? Hmmm, let’s wait and see.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The calligraphy workshop is now in full swing.

I had decided not to get involved in who was to benefit from this seminar, but to step aside and let the dreaded library management committee choose the 20 participants. They surprised me by including two girls, which is rather a step forward in Djenné terms! Most of the participants come from Djenné Koran schools, either pupils or Koran masters.

These two were my favourites so far.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why so quiet on the Djenne front ?
Nothing sinister, just very busy! Amongst other things, I have been escorting a Swedish journalist around for a few days. He is making an article about moi and my life here in Djenne for a Swedish Sunday supplement.
Ah, fame at last!

The Harmattan is sweeping around the hotel with chilly winds from the north, depositing desert sand on every available surface. We have a few guests at the hotel, but it is too cold to eat in the garden at night, so we wrap up and have dinner under the hangar for these few remaining chilly days. I enjoy this period: it will soon pass and the temperature will soar into the thirties again in February.
Tomorrow the calligrapher Boubakar Sadek will arrive from Timbuktu to begin a week’s seminar/conference at the Djenne Manuscript Library. This event will lead into this year’s Calligraphy Competition, which will take place during the week of Maoloud (the birth and circumcision of the Prophet) in the first week of February.
It is not so much that we think that Djenné needs to learn calligraphy from Timbuktu- Djenné has been practicing this art for at least as many centuries as her famous desert 'twin sister'. But the quality of the work is not as good as it was a hundred years ago. Timbuktu has of course had a lot of international interest and sponsorship for many aspects of their manuscripts, including the calligraphy, and Sadek has been able to make the most of these opportunities, making calligraphy his carreer. We are hoping he will be able to inspire some of this spirit of enterprise here.
The picture above shows some of last year's entries from the Djenné Calligraphy competition. Hotel Djenne Djenno is sponsoring this event again for it's second year.
Pictures to follow soon!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Another of Birgit's pictures of 'the unknown bird', since this morning I found a
the following email message from a birdlover who thinks he has indentifired it:

"Dear,Sophie,I believe the bird is a male sunbird in eclipse , probably a beautiful long-tailed sunbird as described in the script in collins book . best wishes john"

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu ( Uraegintus Bengalus ) wishes you a Happy New Year from Hotel Djenne Djenno’s garden.

Another stunning but unknown bird, not listed in Collins’ Birds of Western and Central Africa takes a sip of water from the bird baths that Birgit instigated a few years ago. It is perhaps because of these that Djenne Djenno’s garden has become a haven for birds. Birgit spends hours sitting quietly under the Flamboyant tree waiting for photo opportunities.
Birgit is gone until next year. Keita is in Segou. I sat all alone on my sunset terrace last night, and had dinner in the garden alone, still surrounded by the twinkling Christmas fairy lights in the trees. I was not sad exactly but invaded by a sense of nostalgia and feeling a little reluctant to begin the new year …