All posts tagged: urban Africa

on listening

In some neighborhoods of Bamako, houses and their yards are enclosed by high walls; some are grey cement, some are painted, and others have wild and intrepid foliage spilling over their tops. A single wall separates one house from another, obscuring the view but not much else.  From my kitchen, I can just see over the wall and into the next door courtyard. On the other side lives a large family whose patriarch is very old, very loud, and more or less unhinged. He usually wears purple bazin, he doesn’t see well–perhaps at all–and occasionally he shakes, a shock running through his body from hand to foot, or head to knee. But this isn’t about what’s to see; it’s about what the wall can’t keep out: the sounds this old man makes, to an audience he alone perceives, and extra loudly when the rain comes. Most of what he says is incoherent, but there is one word that pierces the verbal fog with thunderous effect: Allah. It comes down heavy, and urgent: Allah. Sometimes the word punctuates his …