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.
Many Good Things come from the fruit of the néré tree, and earlier this week I had a taste of one. In the village of N’korobougou, around 9am, children pranced and flopped about, munching on bright yellow balls nearly the size of their heads. I needed an explanation, and a bite. Turns out the balls were made from the sandy, bright yellow pulp of néré tree pods. The pulp is extracted, sifted, cooked with water and salt, and packed into tight balls that keep for days and days. A bit like a savory rice crispy treat, made of cornflakes. Excellent, really excellent. A sticks-to-the-ribs sort of breakfast, apparently also good for warding off malaria and bacterial infections. I suggested a touch of honey, but I was not taken seriously by the powers cooks-that-be.
Weekend errands; ceylon tea and (real!) mayonnaise; indefatigable blooms Open houses with 100+ rural farmer invitees, endlessly colorful work… and inspired, inspiring field visits.
Fresh cow’s milk, offered as a gift in a Ouelessebougou village, south of Bamako.
Been considering the union of people, together. and the union of the self’s many parts, together. On getting it together, on having it together, on what It could be, and why It is apart in the first place. I don’t think Together means order, or simplicity, or rightness. Together means all the parts and pieces–all the elements–are live and in color. they inhabit the same space, the same person, though they’re probably not cohesive, nor pristine, nor even in the proper order. Together can be funky; it can even be ugly. But having It Together means everybody’s present and awake–every character flaw, every failure, each grace and potential. And getting it together means that our motley crew of faults and best intentions start heading in the same direction, and doing it on purpose. Togetherness isn’t an elusive, static perfection. It’s a raucous and colorful ensemble, maybe a bit ragtag, and it carries the promise of a messy, forward march in good company. Tinkele Village, south of Bamako
I wonder whether with years, decisions come easier. Either because one becomes more decisive, or because the outcome matters less. In Sanancoro-Djitoumou commune, Mali. Photo credit to Youssouf Sidibé, Technicien Agricole, Field Agent, and clearly a decent photographer!