All posts tagged: West Africa

on a dance

Last weekend we rose before the sun in Bamako, hopped on a bus in the darkness of the early hours, and arrived to the town of Ségou for Mali’s annual Festival sur le Niger. The Festival is comprised of four days of musicmusicmusic derived from the smorgasbord of cultures that thrive in Mali: from the Senegalese border to deep in the Sahara desert, from Kayes to Timbuktu. And to celebrate the magic, there was dancing to delight in. Around 6:00pm on a Friday,  under a crafty pavilion, the musicians got the itch, and the dance troupe got to swinging. They swung, they swung! Until some couldn’t keep their feet on the ground, and others just could not get enough! The joy was palpable, the rhythms infections, and even the tiniest of onlookers showed great appreciation. The Festival Sur le Niger is greatly advertised throughout Mali, and event are easily found online. It’s truly an event not to be missed.

on abundance

There are times when absence marks you, when it feels like a great black hole you’ve tipped into. There are times when the lack of something in your life overwhelms. It can be anything–a lack of money or appreciation, or material goods or confidence, time or love or a loved one. You know it’s absurd to seize upon this absence, maybe even obsess over it, when the universe provides as much as it does. But there it is: you’ve got a gaping hole, and it consumes you. The other day I was talking with a friend about desire, and he posited that you can’t desire something you already have; having and desiring are mutually exclusive. So desire is not a great basis for relationships, since it vanishes once the relationship is attained. I’d include our relationships with ourselves in that calculation; desire keeps you yearning and striving, but never satisfied, and never present. Sure, desire can motivate achievements, but as someone perennially affected by Grass Is Always Greener Syndrome, I wanted to brainstorm some alternatives. What can replace it? What …

on optimism

I’ve been catching myself, lately, noticing thoughts or comments that betray frustration, negativity, disappointment, a lack of confidence. I see it, I hear it, and I don’t like it. Not liking it, of course, only furthers me down the road aways, and gives me another reason to be annoyed. The ugliness might be expected, considering the circumstances, but it’s not really acceptable, considering the circumstances. That is to say, perspective is key. The thing to admire about expats–and I use the word broadly, to include anyone who willingly lives outside their land of origin, and usually those who do so unwillingly as well–is that they’re a crafty bunch. They tend to be Make-Do Royalty, fully initiated in how to go about Doing Things Differently, Other Than Expected, or As Totally Unforeseen. They pivot, they wiggle, they patch and sew, they may squirm a bit. But their Go With The Flowabilities are unmatched by most. Ingenuity, creativity, and flexibility mark the expats I know, regardless of how close to perfection they otherwise come. They are scrappy, and I mean that …

on the colors of bazin

Bazin, in all its sartorial glory: billowing swaths of starchy, stiff fabric, to make any regular person seem instantly regal (and, in the hot season, suspiciously insulated). Bazin is an Instant-Royalty sort of trick that nudges the back of your mind with thoughts like “Where’s he going?” “Who could she be?” and “What a handsome couple they make!” I hadn’t been to a bazin atelier previously, though I’d seen the flags of fabric clipped to clotheslines and flapping in the breeze from afar. A friend asked me to take a few family photos at just such a spot; It was a brilliant idea, and played beautifully in photographs. Here are a a few, mostly from the “B-roll.” Bazin is a Malian specialty, and ateliers pop up throughout the city and on its edges, inside markets, in back alleys, and in cramped residential neighborhoods. The women who dye work hard, bent at the waist over buckets of dark liquid, creating something akin to the most impressive tie-dye job you’ve ever seen, yielding a dignified stretch of fabric with haute …

on balance

When extremes feel de rigueur, it’s a challenge to stay balanced. I want to walk life’s tightrope with confidence, as if it were a line painted on solid ground, but so often my thoughts – concerns, projections, expectations, memories – pull me in one direction, and then another, until my feet dance to the rhythms of my mind and they barely touch the ground. Yes and no, fear and courage, action and inaction, energy and exhaustion, pushing and pulling, intention and submission, giving and receiving, accepting and rejecting… But then, the extremes also feel natural, in a way that is wholly me, for better or worse. I wonder whether it’s the tension between them that keeps me upright–if not for that tension, Perhaps i’d have no momentum. Perhaps it’s the swing of the pendulum that keeps the clock ticking. It’s a bit frightening, as stillness of the mind is my ideal. But maybe i seek an unnecessary, false perfection. Perhaps movement is innate and, judgement aside, it can blossom into something steady, a thing to be counted …