I’m in rural villages south of Bamako 1-2 times/week, where agriculture is king, extended families keep mud-brick homes in welcoming enclosures, and aged chiefs rule the roost. Of all the things to appreciate about these villages,* I get the biggest thrill from the fantastic design–of homes, shared spaces, meeting places, etc.–that abounds, sometimes running a common thread through the region, and other times rendering unique a particular locale. The materials are relatively standard, but creativity is not lacking; function and form are perfectly served. Here’s a start: Working arbors and trellises: To train gourds, grape vines, and other edibles… …to give shade to livestock, and keep a house front cool. Door and window detail: And stenciling, just for the sake of beauty (or so I was told)…. More to come–there’s always more. *The second-best aspect might be the village names, mouthy, ping-ponging, and overflowing with vowels: Ouelessebougou, Tinkele, Bananzole, Marako, Tounoufou, Bagayokobougou, and on and on.
Last week we had an important, VIP-level meeting. The kind for which preparations are endless, and staff wrings its collective hands, and fingers are crossed that it goes off well. Fortunately, we had two advantages right off the bat: this Very Important Meeting was held under a most perfect tree (a good omen), and the welcoming committee was enthusiastic: Thus the meeting commenced in great form and style, with a masterful emcee. And it continued with a walk to see Important Things. Admittedly, a long walk. And a very hot one, under an African sun. Maybe a little too long. But there was a point, and there were no complaints. No whiners in this bunch. They were on Official Business. So we continued. This was the point: And after many questions and inspections, even the skeptics were convinced. And thus the meeting was a resounding, if sweaty, success.