Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Mali

I hear vague rumours that it is cold elsewhere. Here it is a solid twenty-something, the kind of air which makes one think twice about which piece of clothing to perspire through today. Despite that, every now and then you see someone in a puffy coat and/or knitted hat. As if it is officially cold under 32 degrees. Solstice has no meaning here but is another subtile hint that there is something out there beyond Mali.

We spend Christmas Eve mostly zonked out at the Bla Bla Club in Badalabougou, a district in Bamako. People on the street in white cotton beards sell festive hats and plastic Christmas'y toys. We have been playing Santa Claus to ourselves all day, my friends mailing out boxes of merchandise and me, a box packed with a balanfon, mosquito net, and a small slab of Timbuktu salt.

We meet up with our now former driver to go to see a concert - "Nuit des Stars". The ticket says that it starts at 8, but they only start warming up at about 9:30. We are impressed with their warm-up and are ourselves warmed up. It reminds me of exhibitions of sketches and how beautiful practice can be. But there are few in the audience, and proportionally a large number of Red Cross and security personnel. The musicians at about 10:15 stop, and instead of being treated to some fabulous mystery band, they leave as they can't play for so few people. We leave in the small kerfuffle that follows, and retreat for ice cream at Patisserie Amandine.

Today has been a do-nothing day. I received a book from my travelling friends on the Dogon mythology. It is really very fascinating. I like the idea that the combination of the sounds of words, and the words themselves make up a parole. That fire, air, and earth are found in speech - and for me these are warmth, humility, and depth. And water - the fluidness of it all. Speech and textile are compatriots and find definition in each other. Scarf-songs and shirt-speeches.

We are off for a sunset something at Hotel Mandelay - the something being whatever we can afford. We have the odd inverse problem in having inaccessible finances - me having traveller's cheques I have yet to crack open and they having cards that don't work here. For us, banks are bingo halls where we try our luck every so often. Luckily they are open a few hours on Satuday and Sunday for weekend fun.

Looking forward to Damascus, am there on the 30th after a day and a bit in Tunis.

Eid Milaad Mjaid / Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Femmes Farafina

Happy Islamic New Year! It was yesterday but I am online just now. Currently at Hotel Ya Pas de Problème in Mopti, after a few days in the Dogon Country, Mali.

One of the things my friends from are doing here is visiting various women's cooperatives. It's been great seeking these places out and buying products that help literacy, recyling, and other initiatives. We visited a centre this morning here in Mopti that supports young unmarried mothers. We are going back tonight, to pick up an outfit I've ordered made-to-measure, as well as dinner.

Other cooperatives we've visited en route include:
Gafreh in Bobo, Burkina Faso - woven products from recycled bags.
Nammoi in Gorom-Gorom, Burkina Faso - artisinal products, with profits going to help combat illiteracy, among other things.

And of course back in Damascus, there's Anat, where I picked up a nice shawl a few weeks ago. They train women in the indigenous art of textiles.

Tomorrow, off to Djenné ...

Friday, December 4, 2009


First full day in Bamako, off to Burkina tomorrow. We are a group of 4 who have hired a 4WD and will be in Burkina for 2 weeks, and back in Mali for 2 weeks. Two are shopping for .
Received a care package from my brother, who sent it to Finland to a friend in Brussels, now here. Arrival a story I will have to recount later. Today saw the photographic exhibition Rencontres de Bamako at both the cultural centre as well as at the museum. Have just spent some time at the antiques market, and am currently being bit by mosquitoes at a cyber cafe.