Monday, October 21, 2013


The Dogotige (Village Chief), M. Maiga, of Djenne died yesterday.
I had visited him for the first time in 2008. He had not been acting as chief for a few years, since he had become increasingly frail.
Djenne must be the most traditional town in Mali. Here Africa works as it did centuries ago, and the power of the village chief is considerable. The French had of course introduced other institutions such as the Mairie and the Prefecture, but these additional powers have only confused things in my opinion. The Village chief and his eleven town councillors, elected from the various neighbourhoods of Djenne would probably run the place better without the interference.
Monsieur Maiga  was buried yesterday at 16h. Many visitors came from the neighbouring villages and from all over the country to accompany him to his last resting place. They gathered at the place in front of the Great Mosque to which the body was  brought and prayers were  said before proceeding to the  cemetery.
I went to the ancient family house of the Maigas to pay my respects towards dusk with Levy, my journalist friend. The place in front of the house was covered with mats on which sat all the notables of Djenne. I had put a scarf over my head and went to greet the brothers and sons of the Chief one by one with the traditional words:
Ala ka Hine A La – May God have mercy on his soul
Ala Ka a Dayoro Suma_ May God grant him a sweet resting place.
To which the reply is Amina. The words are repeated over and over as one move through the crowd like a comforting mantra. I went inside the house too where the women were sitting and moved slowly through their number, with the same message and the same reply.
As Levy and I left the small square in front of the village chief’s house the notables of Djenne were turning towards Mecca and prayed together in the last rays of the setting sun.


Blogger David said...

Admirably restrained description, Sophie. You bring it all alive with few words.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Susan Scheid said...

A lovely tribute, Sophie.

8:44 PM  

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