Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Last Time

Sometimes we are not aware when something happens for the last time. Circumstances change without our intervention; we take leave of someone quite casually and we don’t know that we will never see them again;  decisions are made over which we have no power which have  sudden and deep consequences in  our lives. But a few times  only  there is a conscious choice to end something of major importance.  Last night when I was sitting with my sunset cocktail over- looking the mosque, I knew that this daily ritual was happening for the very last time. I was regaled with a blue cloudless sky and a clear  sunset and I hung on to the very last dying ember of light as it descended on the horizon to the right of the Great Mosque. Then I had dinner on the roof alone under a clear bejewelled Malian sky.

The night before was the final party: a ‘family affair’ for those that have served at the hotel: a lovely evening complete  with Diao, our faithful Fulani  milkman who arrived  with his son; our griots came and sang mine and Keita’s praises.

They  sang of those that have gone, of Beigna and Pudiogou and of Fatou, but also of Papa, Baba and Maman, and of course of the lovely Elisabet, my film-making cousin.  

We feasted on the goat that we bought in Madiama market a few days ago, and Papa was respendent in his white hatted chef outfit.

For days the contents of the hotel have been quietly leaving.  Mattress by mattress, air conditioner by air conditioner, the hotel has trickled away until it stood quite bare, and only Maman, Baba and Papa were left this morning, dividing the last spoils between themselves. There has been a change of state: this hotel which I created no longer exists.

December 12, 2006:
“Tomorrow it will be just a week before Hotel Djenné Djenno is officially open. In two weeks time my Christmas guests will already be leaving. But today the site was still just as usual, full of workmen, and full of wheel barrows and mud. But the clearing up has begun. Something major is about to happen- a change of state.
In just over a week I will no longer be building a hotel, it will actually exist, and I will be running a hotel. My reality is about to change. Today I looked at all the space of the hotel which is about to be born. I thought of all the unknown things which will happen in this space, and which are now resting here like embryos. It is all about to begin to unfold. I thought of all the people who will one day come here, and laugh, have fun and make love here, although today they don’t even know it. And yet, by some mysterious workings they will come here ...
So Maestro, soon soon, let the play begin..”

And it did, and the players were many. And last night they all finally left the stage, sweeping the floor with their feathered  hats as they took  their final bow...

 ( this is the last message from Djenne Djenno. There will be more about other places and other adventures, inshallah.   Should you wish to follow me there, please look in here now and then. You will be directed to another blog  soon.  Thank you to all you who have looked in over these 11 years and followed my life and adventures in Djenné. It has been, so far, the best years of my life.)


Blogger mary said...

As ever, you write so beautifully and with such poignancy as the doors close on a wonderful chapter of your life ready for the next delights to unfurl. There will be many major changes in Mali, in Britain, in the world that are to happen in the near future and so also will there be unexpected and often delightful changes in your life that I am sure you will continue to grasp and embrace. We will miss reading about DjenneDjenno but are ever grateful for having stayed there. Thanks you.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Tabor said...

I enjoyed your adventure. It was like Flame Trees of Thicka, but reality in spades. Our world is at the edge of shaking its mighty shoulders and we will have to be patient with all that settles eventually.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

Your closing words are beautiful and poignant. I am so grateful to have been able to be part of this journey, even in a tiny way. I wish you a gorgeous new chapter to your life, and look forward to your bringing us the news.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Andy Rayner said...

I read every post on this blog.... It seams my chapter might be over in Mali as well. Our Organization asked me to close up shop, and we gave away everything we own went away on push cards over a week. We felt it too. Thank you for living your story online. Mali and Sikasso region were our best and most deeply rich experiences in all of West Africa. Best wishes for what is next. Andy Rayner.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Pascal et Monique said...

So sad! So sad! I'm not like you, I can't find words! We just hope we will be able to follow you in your for sure exciting new life.
And you know, you have friends in Lyon. We wait for your visit... And if we can't get in touch with you now, you know how to contact us.
We wish you all the best and we hope you will soon write the first page of your new life.
Monique and Pascal

8:11 PM  
Blogger David said...

I wish Ingmar Bergman were still around to provide you with a cinematic epilogue delivered by a fine Swedish actor, maybe Prospero's 'Our revels now are ended'? But I was thinking only today of when we climbed the Malvern Hills, and you said, I'd like a little hotel somewhere, maybe southern India, with a terrace where I can serve sunset cocktails', and I said, 'oh, for God's sake, just admire the view', which was so rude. And I am rebuked because as usual you carried out what you imagined. Maybe if health permits you can yet do it again in somewhere easier on your constitution...

11:05 PM  
Blogger gardenia said...

I wish you all the very best Sophie as you embark on your new chapter. What an amazing experience you have had in Mali! Thank you for this blog it has been inspiring on so many levels, much more than you probably realise.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Biggles said...

As ever, utterly beautiful, from beginning to end, metaphorical and actual. This blog was and remains tangible evidence of a life being well lived. So here, with much love, I raise a sunset glass "to the next great adventure". xxx

11:46 PM  
Blogger Gilliane said...

Sophie, Djenne was enriched by your presence and your diary it brought it to life for me, thank you. What’s more, your words immortalise the extraordinary time you spent there. Here’s to happy times ahead!

7:59 AM  
Blogger Pascale said...

Sophie, I have not missed one single post!! so sad for the hotel and for mali.
i wish you all the best for the next chapter of your life!
greetings from luxembourg

4:09 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Dear Friends,
Thank you all for your lovely messages. You were all part of the adventure too, because I always felt somehow that I was not alone and that you were all there cheering me on in joyful times and commiserating when things did not go my way. So, without you all perhaps I would not have tried so hard. I mean, noone whould have known, would they? But you were there and you spurred me on to write and try to put some order into things so THANK YOU All!

8:21 PM  
Blogger Rory said...

What a moving farewell to the wonderful achievement that was your Djenne hotel. We loved following your inspiring adventures in Mali. Wishing you lots of luck for whatever comes next. Come and see us soon, lots of love xxx

1:03 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great adventure to read from Mali.


9:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nice Post!! I enjoyed your adventure. Thanks for sharing this with us.
Hotel In Sint Maarten

6:45 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

So sad to know there will never be an 'encore' for our stay in 2007. Of course I understand that you have to move on; I hope the future brings you beautiful adventures!

10:08 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Agnes, so glad you wrote! Thank you for your message. Can you please email me via or if you have my private address? Sophie

7:47 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Putting this in for my friend Pia who had some technical problems with leaving a comment:

Dearest Sophie,

What a great great adventure! It is so sad to see it end but what an extraordinary amount which happened because of you: the hotel, the textile studio, the library project and the many encounters and events including, of course, meeting the lovely Keita.

I will never forget arriving at Djenne with Andrew in early 2007, one year after we had all been there on our trip together.It was late in the evening and dark outside. Where, the previous year, there had been nothing - just a vast expanse of open land - we suddenly made out the silhouette of this magnificent mud castle. As we approached, the great gate opened and the handsome Benja appeared, dressed in a long purple gown and majestically holding a lantern.

Unbelievable ! And that was only the beginning…

What was Djenne’s gain these past ten years was our loss. We look forward to having you back in London.

Pia Xxx

1:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Sophie, this is Kate, former Peace Corps volunteer in Senossa and a semi-regular visitor to the Hotel Djenne Djenno from 2007-2009. I still remember watching the US election in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president from one of your hotel rooms--it was an absolute luxury for us, and a night of great celebration! I'll never forget it.
Our last contact was 3+ years ago, when my husband & I made a donation to Mali Mali in lieu of our wedding favors. Just wanted you to know that I've read your blog faithfully all these years and will greatly miss your posts from Djenne. It's an amazing place and I've been glad to live vicariously through you in the 8 years since I left! Very best wishes as you move on to your next phase of life.

11:02 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Dear Kate,
what a night that was! I remember it so well too...It is of course described
here on the blog.
How nice that you have followed our adventures- Thank you! Sophie

5:29 PM  
Blogger larrymuffin said...

My best wishes to you, thank you for your blog from Mali, I truly enjoyed it. I hope that the future brings you many good things.
Hope to hear from you again one day maybe through a new blog or our mutual friend David N.

2:45 AM  
Blogger Kim Hart said...

A little bit of my heart broke off when I saw 'Ferme' painted over the Djenne Djenno sign, though I know this can only be but a fraction of what you must have felt Sophie. Eagerly looking forward to every new blog post now a thing of the past, we massively wish you well in your new endeavours - and look forward to reading the new blog! Thank you for more than 10 years of engrossing writing as you shared your life with us, especially those like me and Tim who were lucky enough to have been part of it for a tiny fraction of time when you found a ‘room in the inn’ for us on Christmas Eve 2006 (forgive the biblical turn of phrase, but it felt mightily biblical at the time...). Bonne chance!

12:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You live great dream, Sophie. Quite a scenario for movie!

8:24 PM  

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