I guess it kind of apt that as Ive become progressively sick and worn down bu Africa so has my blog. In that sense its a true mirror to my experience's. I realise a sick blog is a boring one all it does is sleep all day. Thankfully as I am recovering so is my blog. I'm in new surroundings now and feel refreshed so.. witness my blog reawaken!
To get up to speed we need first to do a little time traveling to a time when I first discovered the awesome ancient wonder of Mali. My first experience of this other world that inflames the imagination was on arriving in the riverside town of Segou and specifically on reaching the seat of a past empire in Old Segou.
Old segou was the capital of a Bamana empire around 1712 which was one of the first of the Mali empires to acquire guns by trading slaves on the Gambian, Senegalese and Ghanaian coasts. The empire was superseded by the Fula empire of Masina and Segou was captured in 1861 by El Hadj Omar and its people converted to Islam.
Mali with its position near the trans Saharan caravan routes and possessing the mighty Niger river a life line in the harsh Sahel ( the name for the dry land on the edge of the desert) was the founder of many a large and prosperous empire. Though present day Old Segou seems far removed from such huge history changing forces it does connect you to a past world.
The old empire capital is now a magical village 10 kilometers from modern day Segou. When I first stepped foot in this place I was unprepared for the unfamiliar smooth lines of crumbling mud buildings that rise seamlessly from the dusty earth. The houses and mosques seem more plant like than architecture like a colony of giant fungus growths. One mosque grew a tall cactus like tower with wooden struts like spines sprouting from all angles. Another was fat and bulbous a turnip of a building the sun cracked mud giving the impression that it was set to burst at any minute.
I was feeling acute travellers euphoria, as if Id really arrived at some holy grail of discovery. We were shown a very old tree where elders sat and discussed the worlds troubles, the old palace a square structure covered in indented or raised patterns and vertical columns, and then introduced to a village elder an given a tantalising glimpse of the interior of a large family compound. Despite all this wonderment it wasn't until I first saw the river that I truly gasped in wonder. From this moment on Mali was a dream world to me. It helped raise my spirits and inspired me to step up my ambitious plans. From this point I could feel my language skills increase as did my filming and photographing skills but most importantly I learned to learn. By this I mean that I started to take something from all the people I met and to open my eyes and my mind to the world around me.
So what was this magical scene like? well I doubt I can give you an Epiphany or revelation by describing it, but maybe I can inspire your imagination by telling you of the scene that unfolded as we came out from the twisting narrow alleys of the village to the banks of the Niger. The space around us opened up accommodating several large trees, huge round green globes a top gnarled trunks. Glittering between the dark shade of the trees you could see the silver light of the river peppered with impossible green. In a hot dusty environment scenes of lush greenery and precious water beckon to you like sirens so I could feel my self being dragged along at an ever faster pace by an uncontrollable force. Coming out from the trees into the light I could see timeless images of Egyptian like zebu cattle grazing on green islands, white egrets stalked the shallows as fishing boats drifted by. Women were washing bright clothes in time honored fashion while a little up the bank the oldest mosque in the village presided over the scene nestled under the hanging tendrills and shade of a banyan tree.
Again I apologise for my sickly blog and its emancipated out put but there really is more to come.