Wednesday, October 22, 2014


 This morning while I was having breakfast in the garden Ace came to inform me that the second wife of my friend Haidara, the last horseman of Djenne,  had died during the night. Ace was on his way from the cemetery, where she had just been buried. So I donned my headscarf and ventured  into the maze of narrow mud alleyways which meander in between the ancient two storey mud houses of the Konofia neighbourhood of Djenne until I arrived at Haidara’s house to present my condolences according  to  the custom of Djenne.  He sat cross legged on a mat in his vestibule, the hallway that separates the courtyard from the street in a  traditional Djenne house, welcoming the steady stream of people who filed past giving their condolences: Ala Ka Hine A la, Ala Ka Dayoro suma...(may God have mercy on her soul, May God grant her a sweet resting place) I took my place in the file and also said the same words, but I stayed a little longer and Haidara’s other two wives showed me the beautiful baby boy that  their ‘sister’ had given birth to with a caesarion four days ago. She had come back from the hospital but something had clearly gone wrong in the aftermath of the operation...Haidara seemed calm and unruffled and he even smiled when he saw me- but I have lived in Djenne long enough now to understand that people’s  calm acceptance of death here does not mean they do not grieve.


Blogger mary said...

What a poignant tale. Beautifully told with so much simplicity but a depth of understanding and feeling.So tragic.
Ebola? Malaria? Perinatal care? Where should international money be directed?

9:59 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Thank you Mary- The Djenne hospital can normally deal fairly well with simple operations like a straight forward caesarion, an appendicitis etc. I am not sure what happened here- have asked Keita to find out today at the hospital. But yes, indeed much more is needed in all the areas you mention!

10:05 AM  
Blogger David said...

Seconded, Mary. Is there a well-kept graveyard in Djenne? Do they regularly visit and commune with their dead?

I know it's statistically a shock when the ebola virus reaches Mali - but I still fail to see why it was such huge news yesterday. The World Service discusses nothing else. So we know it's serious, but malaria kills thousands more every day and there's no cure. I suppose it's the filmic insidious nature of it that makes the public flesh creep. It won't be a crisis here, but I just hope everything is done to keep it at bay there.

10:15 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

No David, I don't think the people go to the cemetery to commune with their dead- and yes indeed, it is bad news that Ebola has finally reached us- let's hope the Malian health system is going to cope- it is generally speaking in better shape than its equivalents in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. This was almost inevitable- but let's pray it can be contained like in Nigeria and in Senegal.

6:38 PM  

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