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MALI CALLING (?) A Traveler’s Impressions of a Former Empire – FrontPageAfrica

Colorful handmade flowerpots typical to Mali.

Edging in the direction of the town of Bamako in Mali from the Aeroport Worldwide President Modibo Keita – Senou, one is greeted by the standard view of West Africa – oncoming automobiles, while different velocity by, the over 5 meters tall aluminum road mild poles, (if it’s early morning, or night time time, the light from these poles are an awesome sight to behold!), at times there are small thickets right here and there partially concealing superbly handmade clay pots with pure flowers in them.


Story and photographs by Leslie Lumeh, [email protected]


At times you will notice a figure or more properly attired in colorful boubou. They could be on their approach to are likely to a enterprise or see a family member; some may be walking while others could also be gently and fashionably peddling their well-aged bicycles. For a moment, there’s nothing to point that you are within the center of the Sahara Desert!

The primary entrance to the SegouArts pageant village.

Then the Bamako skyline will seem within the distance.  Now the architecture and monuments will remind you that you are in great former Mali Empire. There isn’t any mistake about this. The house of the good Soundiata Keita! You’ll get this felling regardless of your nation of origin. And this is the aim of this article – the best way Mali speaks to and welcomes the world.

As somebody coming to Mali for the primary time (I don’t need to use the word visitor, as a result of in Mali you’re thought-about one of its type). You will head to your lodge, which you might have booked nicely prematurely, or to a pal’s. In my case it is a lodge and this is my second time right here. Because of the organizers of “Le Festival su le Niger” for having put all into correct place for me in addition to different invited artists to this nice cultural event! The staffs at the lodge, the providers they offer, meals, and so on. are distinctive.

I will be unable to take you round Bamako as a result of I’m
heading to the historical town of Segou the subsequent morning.

It’s three-and-half hours drive on the well-paved asphalt
street from Bamako to Segou. However you will not necessarily get bored of this lengthy
journey. Your diver will doubtless be entertaining you with traditional Malian
music, at the similar time telling you a historical past concerning the music and the musician.
The driving force not a griot, but in Mali everyone seems to be related not directly and know
a nice deal about each other – and this connection stretches to the individuals of
coastal West Africa – from Senegal to Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra
Leone, to Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana (the previous Gold Coast), Togo, Benin (former
Kingdom of Dahomey) and my very own nation – the Pepper or Grain Coast, now
Liberia.

Malian lady promoting fruit and veggies on the outskirt of Bamako

In most of these nations, the pronunciation and which means of some of the natural parts of nature are very similar to that of the widely-spoken Bambara language of Mali. Water, for example is ‘djii’ in Bambara, the Mende tribe  – a sub language of Mande – of Sierra Leone and Liberia check with water as ‘jeyii’, the earth is ‘dougoukolo’ and in Mende it’s ‘duweh’, air is seek advice from as ‘fehfehyi’ in Mende and it’s ‘fiyen’ in Bambara’.

As we depart Bamako with its historic buildings behind us,
we at the moment are heading into the clear open so far as the eyes can see. That is the
Sahara Desert punctuated with iconic baobab timber of the area visibly
imposing their large presence among tens of millions of different shorter timber. I have seen
the baobab timber earlier than in Senegal, but these shorter timber, no. “quels arbres sont ceux?” I asked our driver in
my limited French.
“They are Shea Butter trees.” He answered
in good French. I have seen Shea Butter earlier than, but not the tree. Seeing a
Shea Butter tree is a uncommon experience I can’t overlook.

In each main town along the best way to Segou, fruits and
vegetables sellers will swarm the automotive saying their produce within the Bamara
language translated
right here into French, il
y a de l’ananas, de l’orange, de belles mangues, j’ai du maïs frais ici, des
arachides sucrées, and so forth. they’ll converse Bamara to you as a result of to
them you’re just one of their type. 

Ahead in the distance, herdsmen with their cattle will
emerge crossing the street with all the convenience on the planet. Why will they be in a
rush? There isn’t a need for that. In Mali, simply know what you need to do and go
ahead to do it rightly. That’s all that matters. Plan and do the appropriate factor.

For a long whereas we are driving in absolute silence. And I
was getting uncomfortable with it. I have to interrupt the silence by asking
clever questions.

Apart from the driving force and myself, there are two different individuals in the automotive. They are from Cameroon. By means of my questions, I got here to know that one is a writer and the opposite a veteran on African musical instruments. Like myself, this is the second time the Cameroonian writer is coming to Segou, he was here simply two years in the past. For the instrumentalist, a much older man, he’s a freshman to Mali. We have now instinctively given him the courtesy to journey in the front with the driving force while I share the back seat with the writer.

“What sort of writing do you do? Fictional, research,
historic?” I requested after a long silence. I didn’t need to overwhelm him with
questions. Perhaps he was not all in favour of talking.

“My current work is a dictionary of artistic terminologies.”
He answered.

“Do you have a copy that I can see?” I requested once more after
one other long interval.

He promptly took it out from a bag he carries subsequent to him on
the seat. “Le manuel lexical des arts de la culture
et du tourisme” or “The Lexical
Guide of the Arts of Tradition and Tourism”. Underneath the title of the guide
was his full identify: Fernand Ghislain Ateba Ossende.

I flipped via
the pages. “This took lots of research.” I admitted. “Yes.” He agreed.

“Mes Felicitations.”
I complimented him. “However I will like to see an English model. That might be
implausible! Please think about it.” I urged him.

He promised to look
into the likelihood of getting the e-book translated into English.

I allowed one other
long second to move.

Then I tapped the
back of the entrance seat ahead of me to call the eye of the elderly
instrumentalist. He turned to me virtually directly, and before I might ask him any
query, he’s already requested me. “What art discipline are you involved in?”

“I am a painter.” I
stated and waited for more questions from him. But none got here again.

One other long
silence. Then I ventured. “So what instrument do you play at?”

“I play tons of
traditional instruments. But my focus is especially on the origin of African
musical instruments and their purposes.” He stated.  “And that is why I’m coming to Mali. I’m
following up on earlier research works accomplished by some of our colleagues from
Cameroon on conventional Malian musical devices.” He has so much authority
and confidence in his voice that I admired the best way he pronounce his Cameroonian
accented French. “Now we are contemplating establishing an office in Segou to
liaise with our Malian counterparts to consolidate our findings.”

Establishing an office in Segou. I assumed it over. Throughout my 2011 trip right here,
an African-American, Anna Edwards talked about comparable factor and as a end result of
that there’s a mirage-city-relationship between the town of Segou and the town
of Richmond, Virginia in the USA to today. Before all of that, there’s
one other American, Janet Goldner, who has made Mali a ‘second-home’ since 1995.
Janet journey to Mali yearly to interact in cultural research tasks and
collaborate with native Malian artists.

In Segou, through the pageant I’ll meet another veteran artist from Benin, Ludovic Fadairo. Fadairo spent almost 20 years in Abidjan working as a painter and artwork professor. Now he’ll tell me he too, is planning on shifting to Mali to proceed working as he strategy retirement age.

Some will assume
maybe it’s time to ‘give back’ to Mali as we do to our local communities or alma mater. However arguably this isn’t the case, because there’s
nothing that one may give back to this nice empire of historic and trendy
civilizations. On the contrary, individuals are going back to Mali to be able to achieve
extra information in the arts, literature, sciences, and so forth.

The three-and-half hour journey from Bamako to Segou has
virtually come to an.  Earlier we’ve got past
the visitors sign indicating that Segou is simply a few kilometers ahead. We’re
greeted with a number of business billboards. There are additionally different billboards
selling authorities’s effort in the direction of schooling, health and the need to work
and stay in peace. 

For a moment, I’m disoriented – this isn’t the Segou I
left some seven years in the past! There’s been large infrastructural improvement.
There’s a seemingly countless shimmering six-lane categorical street passing by way of
the city, there’s a flour-processing manufacturing unit, several new residential and
business homes. One foremost fascinating factor concerning the improvement unfolding
in this historical town is that the new buildings are certainly superior, however the
previous ones – from seven years in the past – nonetheless keep their very same look! Nothing
modifications.  That is what provides Segou its historic
essence.  Within the phrases of one of the
organizers of ‘Le Festival sur le Niger’ Attaher Maiga: “Nous ne changeons pas notre histoire. C’est à
trigger de notre histoire que le monde vient au Mali chaque fois. C’est très
essential pour nous et le monde.”

Maiga is true. The
principal entrance to Le Pageant sur le Niger in Segou continues to be the same as I left
it seven years ago!

As we enter the pageant village, puppet dancers welcome us. Once more, what a sight to behold! Mali is looking! Aw Bisimila!

You’re welcome!Concerning the writer: Leslie Lumeh is an internationally famend Liberian painter and educator. He has been featured twice on CNN African Voices, on Aljazeera and twice on Reuters Africa Journal. Since he returned to his homeland in 2005 from Cote d’ivoire, he has represented Liberia in lots of worldwide cultural events. Leslie has written many articles together with “Bravo! African Master” which spells out his stance on the now common to repatriate rare African artifacts from abroad and “The Need for an Art Institute in Liberia”. Each articles have been revealed by the Every day Observer newspaper, a paper he labored with as residence cartoonist from 2005 to 2015 when he resigned to dedicate extra time into his inventive career.  You’ll be able to see some of his portray at: www.leslielumeh.com

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