Sunday, August 07, 2016

Ten Years After.

 I first published this journal on the 7th  of July 2006, although the first entries relates to my arrival in Djenné in April that spring at the height of the Great Heat- I record  that the taxi brousse in which I arrived from the Carrefour  crossed the Bani under its own steam while the passengers waded across.  That is the only time that ever happened.  It was a soft  starlit evening with a heady fragrance in the warm air – I remember it well. I had come with the intention of beginning a new life.  And so I did.

This Djenné life of mine has been an enchanted adventure. On the eight of November that year, when the hotel and garden was taking shape with lightning speed in a flurry of creative energy I wrote:
“Happiness is an unstable element, both perilous and perishable. It often comes disguised and then it is not recognized until it has already left. Very rarely it makes itself known when it is actually present. It is timid too, and the very fact that it is recognized makes it flee, because immediately one notices that one is happy one is also aware that it cannot last, so the realization is accompanied with a sense of melancholy.
Yesterday I looked at all the workers finishing the hotel; at Baba's Great Gate, at my dyed fabrics drying in the hot African sun, at my little banana plantation which is beginning to flourish and realized that this is a dream that is coming true in front of my eyes, and that whatever happens next, right now at least I am very happy”.
And against all odds happiness continued: even when Keita’s illness had declared itself and when our life became shaped by the struggle against his cancer we were happy. Sometimes I think our common fight for his survival was even an ingredient in our happiness... We lived our enchanted life throughout the Malian crisis when the Jihadists occupied the North and when the hotel guests stopped coming, nothing seemed to remove  the certainty I had that this place, this age- old Djenné,  was the place I was supposed to be.
But now it is over and this must be the beginning of the end. It may be quite a long end: no decisions have been made yet about when I will leave but I just know that it is over. There are many things that are not yet ripe and must be given their time: I still need to see the projects out at the Djenne Manuscript Library, but something has happened down there which I find symbolic in the mood of heightened sensitivity in which I find myself: we have finally run out of manuscripts. The digitization workers have had nothing to do for the last week. I am sure that we will find some more with some effort and we will go out into the villages again to muster enough to continue for the last year. The project finishes in October 2017, but nevertheless it seems like a hint that I have done my bit... But what will happen to the thirteen people that are now working there with the digitization project and the new conservation  and cataloguing project for the University of Hamburg which will also stop end October 2017? I cannot really feel responsible for them but I do. It is I who found the funding for these projects and it is not certain by any means that they will find funding  after the projects finish.
And what about my staff at the hotel?  And MaliMali? Altogether there are another 11 people which, added to the 13 at the library makes 24 people who rely on income which will disappear with my departure.  
I must leave nevertheless, and maybe sooner than planned: my health is not so good and I need a heart operation- nothing very complicated but it needs to be done.  The future’s uncertain and the end is always near,  to quote the divine  Jim Morrison  (Roadhouse Blues)
 A picture from the golden time...


Blogger Tabor said...

I will miss visiting this exotic land and seeing it through your eyes. You stuck it out and accomplished so much and will have so many memories.

12:57 PM  
Blogger David said...

Jedes Ding hat seiner Zeit, zs the Marschallin sings. And yet so long as you're there you continue to open our eyes to new and surprising aspects of Malian life - it must surprise you how much there's still to discover. And how real you make it, reminding us that the essentials of existence are the same everywhere, even if life is too cheap in Mali. Anyway, your health must come first. In the meantime I look forward to a good many more posts...

6:03 PM  
Blogger jm.herraiz said...

It´s sad to think that the Djenné Djenno won´t exist any more, but I guess life is that way. "All things must pass, a sunrise does not last all morning..." said the meditative George Harrison. Besides, health comes first. Well ahead of melancholy.

3:57 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

thank you all for your support and wise comments. Today something else happened which makes things even more clear: I am leaving..see new blog entry.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Susan Scheid said...

This is a beautiful elegy to your time in Mali. But now, yes, health comes first. Your writings preserve the experience for the world, and in that way, the journey continues on.

9:05 PM  

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