Thursday, October 16, 2014


I was woken by drumming in the first light of dawn. There are often sounds drifting across the water which separates us from the island city of Djenne, but these are normally either the chanting of sacred texts from the Koran schools at certain times of the year, especially at Maoloud, the festival which celebrated the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, or else the flutes from a Fulani wedding which can go on for several days. Both these sounds are a part of my soundtrack for what I consider the essence of Djenne . There is not normally any drumming though, so I shook Keita awake to ask him what was happening. ‘Oh, it is Tabawoi today’ said Keita and  turned over and went back to sleep.
A little later we went up on my roof to picture the first canoes  leaving  town. This year the Tabawoi (so called in Djenne only), the traditional festival at the end of the rainy season which is celebrated all over Mali, had a different flavour. The festival is normally a competition in two parts between the youths of the different neighbourhood of the town: first thing in the morning they all leave by canoe from all the different ‘ports’ of Djenne to go to the bush and hunt for wild life. In the afternoon they return with the day’s hunting trophys.  Other years I have seen snakes and iguanas, bush rats and the occasional small deer  displayed proudly on poles from the canoes  on their return from their hunting trip. The successful hunters will  parade their bounty in front of the dignitaries and all of Djenne’s population who congregate in the afternoon on the Djenne side of the river for the second part of the day’s competition: the canoe (pirogue) races.
 This year there has been a televised message from the government: No hunting is allowed. There were to be no killing of wild animals in the bush because of the risk of ebola from bush meat. And indeed the message was adhered to: I saw no one displaying anything on the pirogues  at least, and everyone I spoke to said that people had stopped eating bush meat anyway for this very reason.

This evening I decided to sit on the roof of my house instead of the sunset terrace- it gave me a privileged front row view of the last races  which continued  as long as there was light, making Tabawoi a spectacle from sunrise to sunset.


Blogger David said...

Two questions: does Tabawoi mean anything in translation? And what, in, fact, was displayed on the poles? Golly, though, this not quite everyday beauty must make you think, yes, this is partly why I'm here.

8:48 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

'Rabbit Hunt' apparently...
Today there were only flags on the poles, but, as I said, normally all sorts of small wild life. Indeed, these sorts of days are quite precious and make me feel so privileged to live here- Djenne is still as exotic to me as the first day I arrived.

10:46 PM  
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5:02 AM  
Blogger mary said...

Indeed a privilege to watch such a spectacle. What will happen to people's nutrition and the wildlife balance if there is to be no hunting because of ebola fears?

4:32 PM  

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