||Some relatives of Dramé (shades), and me (white) in their yard in
Sikasso. They were gathered for a family funeral ceremony. Grief was
shown mainly around personal condolences and tears in the private, darkened
widow's room. But the maraboud's benedictions and the
griot's sung-spoken eulogy during the
subsequent feast lent the atmosphere of a great send-off.
||Bandiagara. "Le vieux", "The Old Man" standing in our living room.
Moctar Tall is Madani's son, here clean and well-dressed for the
photograph. I was given the same name as he has; we both shared the name
of the village chief, derived from the name of the prophet Mohammed.
||Bandiagara. Aba lived in the Tall family concession, part of the
family that shared the yard "because of God". Their residence here was
a kindness from a brother of Gogo's husband to them.
||Bandiagara. Mah Diabaté, "Djeli Mah", is a griotte, a
singer-storyteller, who performed in Bandiagara. She and her band spent
an afternoon getting ready for the show, eating, and chatting in our
concession. Part of the show was for people to get up and dance with her,
and contribute to the band.
||Bandiagara. Ousmane Ouologem lived across the street from us in the same
concession as Fanta's family. I did not learn enough Dogon to earn his
trust more than to take this picture, which his mother allowed. His
necklace and leather-bound charms include Islamic and animist protections.
His melancholy expression and swollen feet are classic signs of
kwashiorkor, "wet" malnutrition: caused by protein deficiency.
||Bandiagara. Anna, a sister of Madani, nine months pregnant and dressed in
her best boubou. She came to stay in Bandiagara to have the baby, while
her husband's next military stationing was made final. The nearest
medical facility to her village was a ten-kilometre moped ride. She's
carrying a meal Gogo prepared for some visiting relatives in town. (Later
news in a letter: the baby boy was baptised "Madani").
||Bandiagara. Ibrahim N'Daye, also known as Ibou, carving ebony. His tools
include small wood and iron adzes, discarded dentist's implements and
jackknives. On the over-turned tree trunk to Ibou's left is a carving he
made for me to give to my father. It is of the late, great Bassoumanna
Sikosso, Mali's national griot: "the lion of Mali".
||Nohma weaves cotton strands into thread, to be woven in turn into
clothing and blankets. Cotton is a major crop in Mali, and is an
important feature of cultural identity of the Dogon of the fifth
region. The Dogon liken their language and culture to an
interconnected net of knots and strands: "dogo so salukobou." Cotton
is a long plant fibre, well-suited to weaving, and serves to protect
each Dogon for a lifetime: from a new-born's swaddling to the
funeral shroud. Cotton brings unity and order, braids together
races, peoples, sexes.