Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Of course we left Kankan in haste and returned to Mali and to Kangaba for this precious and rare ceremony.
It rained during the night- a heavy long rain accompanied by a violent tempest with great fork lightning. Rains are unusual in April in Mali. It was seen as a sign of good fortune and boded well for the ceremony, although the rain had destroyed some of the mud plastering which had taken place during the day. However, according to the old Manding sages, the fact that the mud had descended from the Kaba was not due to the fact of the rain, but rather the young maidens and young men that had carried out the plastering had proved themselves to be lacking in the following: the Kaba must be plastered by young girls who are still maidens, and young men who are legitimate: born within wedlock.
The following day there was a rapid hunt around town for new girls, and those that carried out the replastering this time had not even reached puberty, just to be certain….

Photography is not allowed at the Kaba-Blo, so alas I cannot show any images. All telephones must be turned off. The spectators are kept at bay while the locals carry out their age –old ceremony with little regard for the assembled crowd which included many great Malinke politicians and Bamako dignitaries, as well as Habib Koite, himself a griot and musician of international fame. The Kaba hut itself is sitting in a large compound by two ancient and large Silk Cotton Trees.

A group of ceremonial hunters and local griots walk around the hut, chanting melodious incantations. Eventually the grass roof is raised and slowly placed on the hut, during much drumming and chanting. Legend has it that the roof will raise up and place itself by its own accord.

And that was about it! Was it worth the hurried return from Guinea?
We were all a little disappointed but for different reasons: I because I couldn’t see or hear very well, and Keita and the others because they didn’t think that anything magical had actually happened!
This is an interesting difference between Africans and Toubabs; Africans actually believe in Magic, while Toubabs are keen on these traditional events because they are charming and uphold traditions which may otherwise be lost….

And what about poor Mali itself? I have left until end June, I am writing this in the comfort of Bloomsbury, London,…


Blogger Pascal et Monique said...

Happy to read you finally reached a safe place.
Now... what about coming to Lyon? Till then enjoy peace and comfort... Monique and Pascal

10:26 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Would love to come to Lyon! It would be towards end May. Will email

10:46 PM  
Blogger Susan Scheid said...

I had just been wondering when we might hear from you again, and here you are, safe and sound. So good to see. Amusing about the Kaba-Blo, now subject, like so much else, to the need to turn off cell phones. (Not to mention finding proper maidens!) Your experience of it reminds me--though this is not nearly so farflung--of our visit to New Orleans two years ago. We had the great luck to go to a parade that was ordinarily held the week before our arrival (it's called Super Sunday), but had been postponed due to rain. We spent our entire time trying to figure out where to stand so we could get a good view of the parade's start. We never did; indeed, so far as we could tell, the parade never formed up, but consisted of people dressed in incredible feathered gear simply milling about.

1:19 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Ah, New Orleans! That is another place of magic...but always unpredictable of course

1:22 PM  
Blogger Susan Scheid said...

Isn't it though? And perhaps that's part of its magic. I don't wish to burden you with links, but, now that you're back where there is a firm internet connection, you might enjoy this: here

(My former blog. It includes photos of that feather-filled parade . . .)

2:20 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

I have sent the link to your blog onto a great friend and fellow fan and aficionado of all things New Orleans, Cressida Bell. Oh, the food! and Ah! the Fun! and Oh, the music! and Ah!the dancing!

6:57 PM  
Blogger Susan Scheid said...

Ah, and Oh, indeed! And here's a small world thing: for Christmas, my sister sent me a gift certificate from a certain studio that I think you know quite well. I am now the proud owner of two Cressida Bell pillow slips. One of our cats, whose name just happens to be Mrs. Dalloway, very much likes sleeping between the two pillows with those lovely covers. I don't think there are even six degrees of separation in the world, do you?

3:06 AM  
Blogger mary said...

Pleased that you have arrived safely in London, as planned. Hope that reports from Mali are not too dire. We hear from our guide in Djenne, Mamadou Keita (any relation to your Keita?)who sounds fairly sad and struggling with no guiding to buy millet or rice. Is there any way we can help him? Enjoy the west and we look forward to hearing more from you.Mary

7:25 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Dear Mary,
Yes I know Mamadou Keita, the guide in Djenne. He is not a relation of my Keita's, just from the same tribe, the Malinke.
Indeed it is tough times for all those who survived by tourism in Djenne and elsewhere in Mali. Tourism will not pick up for a long time, even under the best of circumstances. People will have to return to the ancient ways of life again: agriculture, fishing or animal husbandry- but this year of course the harvest was bad too...I dread to think what I will find when I return to Djenne at the end of June.
How can you help? You could perhaps send him something- I believe Western Union is working again in Djenne.

2:22 PM  
Blogger mary said...

Thanks for this. Sadly WU not working in Djenne but in Mopti so I can sort that easily. A drop in the ocean in the current crisis but at least it is a little help for one family. Hope that the Health farm revives your spirits.

9:18 AM  

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