Wednesday 5 January
The intermittent internet connection means I may post these notes intermittently. As anticipated I have not slept more than a couple hours a night since Sunday so I am very sleepy, but otherwise well and already eating fruits and meat stews over rice and will very soon be drinking almost nothing but water and ginger juice. I could wander for weeks just photographing "le tissue" (the fabric).
The weather is lovely - low 90s I think. It is now 7:14 pm in Bamako. The sun has set. I will hear the evening call to prayers above the sounds of motorbikes and men chatting for the next several minutes. Kalifa and his lovely 2.5 year old son picked me up from the airport and helped me get settled at the Hotel Colibris. Nouhoum Simaga manages the hotel and I have a lovely room just off the main entrance courtyard.
Thursday 6 January
Visiting with Coumba Toure and her project participants at the Ashoka Center in Kati. Met her husband Idrissa Ba, a graphic designer/artist, and several dynamic women from rural villages around Mali.
After the Kati visit I met Kalifa at the National Museum, which though closed, is surrounded by a beautiful park where down-scaled replicas of Mali's important architectural structures have been built. Miniatures really are wonderful; they allow you a big view, a larger context in which to regard the works of the human mind and hand. For many people these replicas may be their only look at these important representations of the region's architectural heritage.
Friday 7 January
- Breakfast with Madani at the Hotel Colibris. Colibris is French for humming bird. He said we would leave for Segou in the morning rather than that afternoon, giving me another whole day. Aminata joined us for a few minutes, then Madani left.
- Went with Aminata to see her children who live in their father's house. 2 children were at school, her 6 year old daughter, Ayisha, was ill and in bed, very weak – Aminata thinks it is malaria, again, and she is very worried. We took photos of her, two women: one was an elder reading the Qu'ran, the other seemed to be the caregiver – an auntie I think – with a tiny girl about 2 years old. We went then, to her house, where she showed me her Hagge English Learning Center and met her mother, younger sister, the new young man who cleans the house. She rents a Her mother is tall, strikingly beautiful woman. Aminata is not feeling very well and admitted to being a little bored, having become accustomed to life in DC – where she worked long, full time hours and then went home and slept. In Mali you just don't work like that and she's self-employed and taking care of family. It's a little different.
- Visited Dr. Abdoulaye Sylla at his Tereba Togola Center – met with him and his staff and collaborative partners in theatre, festivals, visual arts. It is a much needed program, and step by step growing to become a kind of children's museum with community services. It serves a poor neighborhood with a high population of young children. Their artist gave me a bracelet just as we were leaving.
- Lunch with Kalifa/Ami and Madani went off to another appointment and Kalifa took me and Ami to the Grande Marchee to buy fabric. It was curb to curb people, stalls, goods, carts, and the fabric shopping took only about 15 minutes – Ami's quick and I was counting on it. Then we wandered more of the market and toured the Artisan's market in the Rose Marchee – famous piece of Bamako architecture full of craftsmen (men mostly) of leather, silver, gold, carved goods to wear, decorate and display. Wonderful things. A pair of handmade, made to fit leather sandals started at about $75/pair (will have to wait for the next ship). Back in the car, Ami informed me that she saw I was being followed by a “vagabond” waiting for his chance to either pick my pocket (purse) or pour acid onto it so that it would slowly grow a hole or fall from my shoulder. But she caught him with her eyes and he backed off. Kalifa bought poids de terre (peas of the earth) which are small, crunchy, a little juicy and sweet like jicama – a snack. Back to their house for dinner with Madani, then off to the hotel for the night. (in retrospect, I should have bought those sandals while I had the chance)