Some time has now passed since my last footsteps in Africa yet the one man travel plan lives on as I try to write up my experiences and hone my travel writing talents with the aim of publishing and funding more odessies of curiosity.

As well as the writing side I am organsing exhibitions of photgraphs and paintings from my trip, partly for their asthetic beauty and partly so I can share and hopefully inform people about some lesser known parts of the world.

And then there is always the next trip... the journey never ends.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Dogon

A sketch of fairy tale topped grain stores tumbling

the escarpment face to the desert below

How do I describe this wonder world, the isolated and unique Dogon country in southern Mali? To start there is no division here between man and nature; here they are one and the same. The Dogon villages are unobtrusive in the landscape.

In contrast to modern cities where man is at war with his environment , obliterating all traces of the world of animal and vegetable for one of concrete and steel, the villages of the Dogon are at peace with the land and are still very much at home in it as they have been for nine hundred years. The environment looks to me beautiful but a tad hostile.

The nearest travel hub for the more remote parts of Dogon country is the Town of Bandiagara. The journey from Timbuktu to Bandiagara was a long one waking and leaving at the cold dark crack of dawn and arriving at night. Luckily for me I met a friendly young French couple during this epic and tiring journey. They were heading for the famous Dogon village of Sangha High on the Bandiagara plateau. Emanuel was taking his girlfriend their back to the village he had visited nearly ten years ago.

Emanuel had visited Dogon country to help build a school. During this time he met an interesting French man by the name of Alan who had decided on a decidedly different and difficult course for his life than most.

Alan was a self made chemist and by all accounts rich man, living a comfortable life in Paris. However in achieving a little prosperity he found himself restless and dissatisfied. So one day he told bemused friends and family that he had to leave, that he didn’t know why but it had to be Africa and he wasn’t coming back.

He now lives with his wife and child as a prominent member of the community. He has helped to set up a medical centre in the village of Sangha and has very much made himself at home. He also made Emanuel, his girlfriend and I feel at home for a few too short days.

Whilst in Dogon country we embarked on a 4 day walk, but here in the hot rocky wilds of Mali a walk can feel more like a punishing odyssey into the unknown. I enjoyed walking over the rocky sides of the escarpment through organic architecture, despite the increadable heat. The paths of lose stone winding up and down steep slopes through pointy straw roofed store houses and the amorphous shaped homes. All the while I trailed behind my new found French friends and our Dogon guide as I struggled to film and photograph whilst not being left behind.

This resulted in me practically sprinting the course of an already arduous hike across rough terrain and in stifling dry heat. At one point losing them as we walked through a village, I hastened forward (I was worried that without a guide I would walk into a sacred area and accidentally commit some heinous sacrilegious crime) and unwittingly stumbled into a field of shit. Dodging my way through this mine field I almost walked into a woman busy making a contribution of her own. Politley ducking past I pressed on just catching a sight of my disapearing friends. unscathed I duly noted to myself the dangers of falling behind.

Other worldly sunset in Dogon land The rounded roof tops of a Dogon village

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